I recently returned from a trip to Punta Cana, República Dominicana, for my cousin’s wedding. Despite being an avid traveler, staying in an all-inclusive resort on the beach was new for me. Although I was in a Spanish-speaking country rich with culture and nature, I felt confined to an American bubble of English-speaking tourists and drinks by the pool. It dawned on me that I was not traveling the way I desire to; I was on vacation.
Within the resort, I found ways to discover Latin culture, such as attending a Spanish lesson with an employee named Eimee. I got to speak to her about life in Estados Unidos and República Dominicana. I even taught her the word for camarones (shrimp) in English. As an aspiring teacher of English, teaching someone a new word fills me with euphoria. I also got to spend time with family, learn dances such as the bachata and the merengue and sail on the ocean. Most importantly, this location was absolutely perfect for the wedding; an unforgettable celebration of love is even more breathtaking with the romantic backdrop of a Caribbean sunset.
I am not saying that traveling is superior to vacations, only that they are different. If neither traveling nor vacations are “better” than the other, why bother noting the difference? Each satisfies different desires. If you want to relax on the beach, enjoy time with family and friends, and sightsee a little, a vacation is for you. On the other hand, traveling includes immersion with locals, trying new foods, and learning the native language.
According to Cesare Pavese, “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.
You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
It is not where you go but how you go that determines the fine line between vacation and travel. If you’ve only experienced vacations and want to try traveling, ditch the hotels and resorts for a homestay or a hostel. Studying abroad, volunteering with Peace Corp, and Wwoofing are more affordable and globally sustainable methods of traveling than most vacations.
Vacations provide fun and comfort while traveling demands the courage to bind your heart to a foreign land. Whichever you prefer, I hope you find yourself through your journeys. In the words of Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.”