Travel Tips

The Difference Between Travel And Vacation

As you all know, we are in the middle of planning 15 months of full-time travel with our three kids aged 4, 6, and 7.

We are 5 months away from leaving and, a few days ago, I was telling my mom that I was deep into figuring out Bali, which would be our vacation during the world tour.

That started an argument, where she asked me how I could possibly not consider our world tour a 15-month vacation. She went on to asking me whether I was thinking that I would be working during those 15 months.

Keeping the blogging and social media out of the discussion (which will be work!), it made me realize that, even someone as well traveled as my mom, might not realize the difference between Travel and Vacation.

My mom told me that all of her travels had always felt like vacation, which I fully agree they might have.

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Our 15-month world tour, with 3 young children, will be far from being a long vacation, however, and this is why!

Let’s start by looking up the etymologic definition of both words:

Vacation (noun):
1) a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday
2) a part of the year, regularly set aside, when normal activities of law courts, legislatures, etc., are suspended
3) freedom or release from duty, business, or activity

Travel (verb):
1) to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship; take a trip; journey
2) to move or go from one place or point to another

You and I read many similarities, yet Vacation and Travel are far from being synonymous.

The biggest difference, as found in the dictionary, is that notion of time. While a Vacation is a period of time or part of the year; Travel understands no notion of time.

From an enjoyment perspective, a vacation is meant to release pressure, rest, and interrupt the daily grind. Travel, on the other hand, is a continuous process and rest does not appear in its function.

Now, my thoughts on why our trip is Travel, and why we are purposely incorporating Vacation time into it:

1- Expectations

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We are leaving, fully expecting hard moments. We know we will have many highs, far outweighing the lows. But the lows will hit hard. We will have times when we will question our actions. There will be times when we will long for a home and a bed to get back to. There will be times when the kids will refuse to move forward.

We are fully expecting hardships with failed accommodation bookings, we might get our things stolen, have issues with foreign customs because of the sheer amount of planning going into a trip that magnitude. There will be times we will just want to home cook the veggies we are used to, times the kids will long their cute dresses and friends, times we will want to give it all up and fly home.

Of course, those lows will be far and in between and the highs will far outweigh them, but I have never left for vacation with those thoughts… We’re in for the long run and sh** will happen and hit the fan a lot quicker than during any 2-week vacation to a destination we had 6 months to research and plan! 🙂

Vacation Expectations: we are in to resource ourselves and rest. Most of our vacations are planned (or at least heavily researched) and we fully expect to have a pleasant and easy time.

2- One-Way Tickets

This is a long-term kind of deal. We are buying one-way tickets and there is no going back. There is no limit in time – outside of the 15 months we are sort of shooting for. But we can’t really tell our friends when we will be back either. We will be moving, from one city to the next, one country to the next, one ocean to the next, without a full plan in mind, only an idea of where we might go and when we might be back. This is a blank canvas opened for adventure.

Vacation Tickets: we leave with a return ticket in hands. There is an actual end to our trip – even though we always want it to last a lot longer! 🙂

3- New Norm

Travel will become our norm, our routine. But the routine will feel very different…

Today, we wake up, drop off the kids at school, go to work, take the kids to after-school activities, do homework, make dinner, tidy up, and go to bed.

Our routine during travel, will involve waking up, homeschooling, exploring… which may include beach time, hiking, cultural activities, visiting temples, helping communities, driving, walking… and going to bed in a new bed every couple of nights.

While that might look like any other Vacation day, this is what we will be doing every. single. day – with no week day / weekend differentiator. It will be our norm and routine. And yes, we will need vacation days in between, to get us out of the routine and resting.

Vacation Norm: there is no norm, all of it is new. We are typically discovering a new area and we follow no routine. We are on vacation to discover and do things differently than we do at home.

4- Homeschooling

We will be homeschooling 3 children on the road. Elin, our youngest daughter, will need to learn her letters, sounds, and reading as we teach her Pre-K and Kindergarten material. Mark and Ava will be a bit more self-sufficient, with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade on the road.

But that doesn’t change the fact that, Christian and I will be teaching our kids school so they can come back to their age-appropriate grades when we return home. Now, try telling them that they’ll be on Vacation, and they might laugh at you!

Vacation Homeschooling: wait, what?

5- Experiences

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Every night, we will be researching what we can do the next day to teach ourselves and our children about the region we are visiting. How can we make sure that they are learning about the culture, history, geography, and geology of the towns and countries we are visiting?

The purpose of our Travels is to teach all of us about the diversity of our world and understand what makes us all unique and interesting. We will be investing time and money on experiences so we can come back smarter.

Vacation Experiences: we have always valued experiences during our vacations and use our trips to learn about the history, culture, and the people. We researched the different options before leaving and have a clear idea of what we will want to do before getting to the destination.

6- Logistics

Getting back to the basic definition of Travel: “to go from one place to another.” A big portion of our trip will involve figuring out the best and most interesting way to get from point A to point B, while keeping the travel cheap and efficient.

But a lot of it is opened and will mostly be unplanned. We will use a diversity of modes of transportation, from tuk-tuks, to scooters, taxis, Ubers, ferries, airplanes, buses, hiking, and more. The logistics will become a large part of when and how we see the world and lots of it will be figured out on the go. We will value flexibility and affordability.

Vacation Logistics: most, if not all of it, is planned in advance. Tickets are booked, seats are reserved, and we have a clear schedule in place to make sure we see what we need to see when we want to see it. With only 3 weeks of vacation per year, we typically favor comfort.

7- Close Proximity

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We are leaving, fully aware that at times, no matter how much we love each other, we will have enough of each other. We are about to set on 15 months of being together 24/7, every. single. day. There will be no day off, no time when one of us goes off to doing his/her own thing.

Christian and I have always being very close, but even in grad school, when we sat next to each other in class all day, I had my 3 to 4 hours a day of NCAA golf practice, and he was off doing his own thing.

We are embarking on 15 months together with our three children – just the 5 of us. We know that some days will get rough, though we expect those days to be far and in between. We are also very much looking forward to reconnecting and growing together. It will be a beautiful and strengthening experience but who knows… we might need to implement an hour or two a week of “alone” time! 🙂

Vacation Proximity: give me all of it and more! All in love, happy, soaking in all the fun, relaxation, and discovering together! We might even leave the kids at the resort’s kids club for a few hours and enjoy happy hour!

8- Budget

Budget, budget, budget… Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have an open checkbook and be able to indulge in the luxury of convenience, lavish restaurants, and comfy beds. But then, would we be experiencing the countries?

During travel, you typically have a reduced daily budget, coming from income you either earn while traveling, or savings you left with. You need to constantly keep yourself in check and make sure you balance out more expensive days with cheaper ones.

With a budget of $130 per day, we will be counting every dollar we spend – housing, transportation, experiences, food. There are 5 of us and it will all need to balance itself out!

Vacation Budget: everything is usually planned out. You leave with most costs pre-paid and with only a couple weeks of indulgences per year, you can splurge into some luxury and enjoy extras you don’t usually enjoy at home.

9- Vacation In Travel

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Here’s the beauty of long-term travel. If you’ve made it this far, you have a good grasp on the difference between travel and vacation. So when you travel long term with no end date, you have the liberty of scheduling vacation time during your travel. The beauty of it? You are already in beautiful regions you want to discover, and you won’t need to fly far!

All you really need to do, is change your philosophy and mindset to turn your travel into vacation.

During our 15 months, we are planning 4 weeks in Bali, right around mid-point. With a whole month on the island, we plan on staying in each home for a whole week. We will be taking things easier and slower than we will during the rest of the trip. And we will make use of the extra time to catch up on school work and blogging (not everyone’s definition of vacation, I know)!

It will be about resting and enjoying our time on the island to discover slower, go back to a restaurant we’ll like, going to bed a little later and seeping in!

If you’ve traveled long term, please pitch in on whether you feel travel is different than vacation time. And if like us, you are embarking on long term travel, please drop us a line, and let’s connect on Instagram!


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