Experience the difference.
By Swetha & Sunder
Are you complacent in your day-to-day life? Do you wake up in the morning excited to start the day, or do you drag yourself out of bed and trudgingly go to work? How bad do you want to leave everything behind to see the world? Quitting your job to travel full time sounds like a dream, but nothing comes without a cost. What are you willing to sacrifice in return? Quitting your job to travel full-time may sound like the best thing in the world, and yes, it completely changed my life in so many wonderful ways, but the truth is, this lifestyle is filled with tough moments, and it’s definitely not for everyone.
Conde Nast Traveller’s June Edition has a piece by one of my all-time favourite writers, Nicole Krauss, discussing how she and her husband (acclaimed writer Jonathan Safran Foer) decided – after taking their children on trips to the Atacama Desert in Chile, Sarajevo, and even the Arctic (in utero) – to take a beach vacation to Turks and Caicos.
My favourite thought of the day on the difference between ” travelling, or even taking a trip” and “vacation:”
“I’d always been set against beach vacations; they seemed indulgent, lazy, and uneducational. It dawned on me that they were all of those things, attractively so; that a vacation was something entirely different from travelling, or even taking a trip, which is what I had been doing all these years, first on my own, and then with my family. Travelling has always been about throwing myself into the unknown—an expansive intake of experience, a bracing and heightened exposure. At the bottom of my wanderlust is the hope that, freed of the ordinary, alert and alive to even the tiniest things, what I find in that other place will be revelatory enough to change me. But vacation—that was something else entirely. To want only to rest and recuperate, to be removed from it all, to enjoy oneself effortlessly—was that really too much to ask?”
Travelling and vacationing are two completely different things. I think the difference lies in what you’re looking for.
Rithwik Shorey, a trekker and cyclist who has toured almost the whole of India opines, “I used to vacation. When I went on vacation, I was looking for a few days on the beach, mojito or coconut cocktail in hand. Relaxing. Spa days. I booked all-inclusive trips on yatra.com or goibibo.com, complete with hotel, flight and excursions because it was easier than spending hours researching and reading through reviews. I usually chose an island, somewhere with awesome weather, and didn’t feel the need to go explore the city because I was staying at an awesome resort. A vacation is very much a getaway, but I noticed that when I was on vacation, I didn’t really get away. I didn’t choose the hole in the wall local restaurant; I chose the westernised, watered down version because that restaurant had an English menu and custom cocktails. I booked round trip tickets and all my days were scheduled. I always went with someone. If there was an outlet mall within a 10-mile radius I was there.”
“When I booked my ticket to travel for the very first time, I was looking for peace, closure and adventure. I was looking to be smacked in the face with the magnitude of the world. So I didn’t make as many plans. My days weren’t fully scheduled. I walked around aimlessly without wifi for hours. My wardrobe was limited to a few changes of clothes, I did my laundry in the sink, and only brought comfortable shoes with me. I journeyed alone for the first time, and opened myself up to meeting new people in random pubs and restaurants. I slept on a now-friend but then-stranger’s couch for a night in Mumbai using Couchsurfing for the very first time. I started booking one-way tickets. I wasn’t on a beach with a coconut cocktail, but jumping across glacier chunks, wrapping my only scarf around my face to lessen the pain of massive hail in Gangotri instead.”
Tryst with travel
Says Sheela Manchanda, a Mumbai banker and an avid traveller, speaks about her tryst with travel and vacationing. “I have come to realise that travel and a vacation are two vastly different experiences. One-week getaways to sunny and often all-inclusive destinations are a wonderful way to get away from the monotony and stress of the daily grind. I’ve had many great vacations over the last decade that allowed me to recharge my batteries and thus return to the daily grind with renewed vigour. During these short breaks, the last thing I want is more stress induced by any potential hiccups in the itinerary. I want everything to be arranged for me; for my hand to be held from the airport directly to the buffet at my all-inclusive beach-side hotel. I want my daily schedule to comprise solely of swimming, lying on the beach, and generally relaxing.
Unfortunately, on such vacations, while I spend my days relaxing and sipping fruity drinks out of a coconut, the only personal insight I tend to glean is that I really enjoy lying on a beach sipping fruity drinks. Not the most earth-shattering of revelations. On the other hand, when roughing it through under-developed countries, challenges are essentially guaranteed. I’ve personally found that during these challenges – broken down buses, countless hours on painfully uncomfortable transport, extremes in climate and altitude, and the all too common illness one develops in these trying situations – I gain a tremendous amount of perspective. The more arduous the circumstance, the greater the personal insight gained.”
There’s a new trend of wanting to boast about one’s travels and describing oneself as having a case of “wanderlust”.
I think the real meaning and value of travel has been lost, however. Being a traveller does not mean expensive bikinis and rock concerts at an all-inclusive resort in Goa. If there are umbrella drinks involved, you probably went on a vacation, not on a genuine adventure.
Travel is being integrated into a culture that values diverting from the beaten path, talking to locals and exploring an area as one of a kind. Travelling means attempting to blend in and wanting to leave as an altered and more educated person.
Nothing is wrong with taking a vacation. Every so often, a voyage to a beach with clear water and air-conditioned accommodations is warranted. However, a trip that involves pool attendants and a concierge is not a cultural experience, per se.
Travelling means staying in hostels and befriending other travellers, as well as locals. It’s drinking at neighbourhood bars and dives rather than rounding the tourist club circuit. It’s straying from tourist traps and sites and, instead, searching for the more elusive history of a country and its people.
If you want to really travel, you must eat, drink and live as a local. Walk, bike and take public transportation. If there is a language barrier, learn key phrases and attempt to start and finish conversations in the native dialect. It may seem silly or arduous, but you’ll be appreciated for trying.
Real travel is not just about seeing new things, but also about seeing things with a new and refreshed perspective. It’s important to take a step back and simply enjoy the moments you spend visiting another country or place. Meditation and awareness can make a voyage incredibly fulfilling.
There are millions of reasons to travel — really travel, not just vacation — and the thrill of integration is truly worth it. Travelling is more active than it is passive and it’s a great way to recharge to return as a new you. It’s also true that a genuine traveller will make as much of an impact on the place he or she is visiting as that place will make on him or her.