A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about travel

Traveling vs. Vacationing

Traveling and being on vacation are two very different but confusingly similar things. Both are characterized by physical displacement from home and consistent use of varied forms of public transportation, usually across long distances. Both traveler and vacationer might eat new foods, take hundreds of pictures, spend money in ways she normally would not and stay in a hostel, hotel, tent or boat although she pays a mortgage or rent already somewhere else.

Aside from these very important similarities, however, traveling and vacationing have always seemed to me worlds apart. While I’ve spent a great deal of my life traveling, I’ve never made it to sipping cocktails on a cruise boat, or to any of the definition “getaways” one might take.

My family’s first travels were to national war memorials, forts, battlefields and burial grounds. After we’d exhausted all of these sights on the east coast, we moved onto the natural world, and firmly shook hands with our first park ranger, on what was to be a long journey through the U.S. national park service. None of these trips, sorry mom and dad, ever felt like vacation. While they were supremely educational, chock full o’ adventure and, at times, treacherously long, the pb&j-for-lunch, hotdog-for dinner grind, just never matched what I imagined a vacation to be.

Vacations were what other kids’ families took. They returned with purchased, paper-framed photos of their families in bright printed clothing and sunglasses, all thumbs-up on the beach. They made their marks in the hallway with peeling skin and braided hair. Meanwhile, I returned from family trips with scrapes and bug-bites, junior park ranger badges and photos of me in a tent somewhere with a scowl on my face.

So while I grieved to my parents for years that we should go on a “real” vacation someday, I pressed on to my own travels, applying for a passport my senior year of high school, and promising myself I would travel somewhere different when I turned 18. So I applied to service trips, and began a long cycle of volunteer, study, work, conference and seminar traveling, apparently in order to avoid ever having to go on vacation. Suffice it to say, I never got the itch to do a “real” spring break in college: all the other stuff was just, well, more interesting, than vacation.

So now we’re here, in our extended travel, which some people might call a vacation. But at the end of these days, we’ve never really had a chance to relax, because there’s not enough time in the day, and we never really get to indulge in cocktails or fancy dinners, because there’s not really room in the budget. Rather than spending our time at these activities, we walk miles, we pull weeds, we plant, we sit atop our backpacks in backs of pickup trucks on switchbacks through the mountains, we sleep on living room floors and eat crackers and take cold showers, because, well, it’d be no fun if it was just a vacation.

Posted by AmyERichards 21:06 Archived in Ecuador Tagged travel vacation trips family backpacking versus Comments (2)

On Movement and Migration

Finally, after much pressure, my first post to our blog!

The tides flow, the tectonic plates shift, the flowers open and close, the animals run, fly and swim in search of food, and all the while, people move about them. In so many ways, movement is the essence of life. We walk to get to where we are going. We run for freedom. We swim to see how long we can move without taking a breath. We dance to express. We play sports for competition. We stretch because our muscles demand it. We practice yoga, tai chi, chi gong, martial arts, as moving meditations for balance and health. We shovel, heave, lift, hammer, plant, deliver, sweep, scrub, polish and prepare, because we must make a living.

We migrate… when there is no other option.

For a very long time, migration was life: when staying alive meant having to follow the movement of animals, or scavenging for plants and berries until resources were exhausted.

As “civilizations” formed, we exchanged our portable lives for foundations laid in earth, for structures meant to last more than just a few nights. We grew plants and domesticated and specialized and so on. In the end, our lives became less governed by constant movement. But hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, draught, fires, scarcity, illness and wars kept us migrating, because again, we had no other choice.
Then in the 17th-20th centuries, the United States, the “New World”, became a symbol of choice and opportunity for many. People were choosing to migrate there, and in no small order. In the U.S. and every other country today, we continue to migrate, to move, whether out of necessity, or opportunities for work or a better life somewhere else. Often we migrate for the promise that the grass is greener somewhere else, whether we actually know that grass grows there at all.

So I guess I fit in here, a migratory person, sometimes missing routine, but more often feeling encumbered by the knowledge that I will be in the same place a year from now. My mind, body, and creative self, or whatever one may call it, craves movement. While it may seem like living a grass is greener life, traveling has shown me that the grass is never really greener…it’s just different. And so I will continue to wonder about and travel to see what people make of their patches of life, whatever grows there.

In 2009, when I began moving south from San Jose, Costa Rica, I met a handful of other travelers on the same route. As we neared the border of Colombia, but would have to return north for our return flight, I resolved to start there, in Colombia, a few years later, in order to see the rest of the continent. So this is what T.L. and I have done, and without a return ticket to halt our movement.

Our plan is not unique, like most migrations, we follow a route set out by thousands before us, although we are not confined to a specific path. We will bus, hike, and walk wherever we need to go, with all the things we need on our backs, again something humans have been doing for thousands of years. There is a quiet and constant beat to the traveler’s movement, TL and I have already begun to write our own rhythm atop this beat, here in Colombia.

I hope you all enjoy our story…

Posted by AmyERichards 05:27 Tagged travel movement travelers migration backpacks Comments (0)

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