It was a little door in an alley under a bridge that led you into a small room with six tables and an open home style kitchen. 2 women were cooking and we ate the most amazing food, a black eyed pea salad, and gizzards in some unidentifiable but delicious sauce paired with amazing wine.
Do you vacation or do you travel? Is there a difference? Is one better than the other? What is the difference? These are questions that @benton8tor and I have been chatting about recently it he gave me the idea for this post. Though we are not hardcore travelers, which is a whole other style (think Bourdain or homestays) we definitely fall into the travel rather than vacation category. Travelers tend to eschew chain restaurants, resorts, theme parks etc… Vacationers tend to seek out vacation friendly activities such as beaches, boats, swim up bars, theme parks, and ready made tours and food. Some people can fall into both categories. One is no better than the other but it is important to think about what you want before you travel so you can get the most our of your trip.
Vacation Centric Advantages
If you are on vacation you no doubt want to relax, disconnect from your everyday and have fun. That might include being taken care of or going to a relaxing vacation spot so here are the advantages
Vacationing can be much more stress free than regular travel. Whether it is to a cabin on the lake, an all inclusive resort or a theme park, vacationers usually will have there vacation mapped out for them. Little planning means more time to relax and have fun. All inclusives in particular offer you a choice of restaurants, usually child minding, choice of activities, pre arranged ours at your choice (with extra cost), non stop drinks, beautiful beaches and pools, and staff to meet your every need. It can be a great way to relax. Likewise cabin vacations come without the non stop service but provide great scenery, outdoor activities, and a calming atmosphere. My friend Jeff’s main interest are scuba diving, deep sea fishing and swimming so it is ideal for them to book all inclusives as that will ensure they get the most out of their vacation. Also for picky eaters, all inclusives can often be easier for meal times. This type of vacation can be suited for families, stressed out, people from northern climes looking for some sun and a winter break, and first timers.
Vacationers are not limited to all inclusives. Many like to travel to well known ‘safe’ locations such as London, Paris, New York, LA, Vancouver (shudder), Australia, Singapore etc… Once there they book city tours, see the main sights, eat at tourist centric restaurants a but do not venture off the main path. Again this is a good option if you haven’t traveled much as it keeps culture shock to a minimum. Also some of the mainstream sights are truly amazing such as the Tower of London. Its a great way to dip your toe into travel and much less stress free. You can also book tours and a guide will lead you through each step and book the hotels for you!
Cruises would fall into this category but in all honesty I don’t know enough or care enough to write about them. That does not mean you should write them off however. My Uncle has a fear of flying so cruises offer him a great alternative to still be able to travel.
Those who prefer vacations may be mad at me for saying this but all inclusives or sticking to tourist hot spots, you run the risk of having limited to no contact with the local culture. Pre arranged tours often give you the ‘tourist experience” not the local one. You are extremely unlikely to eat where the locals eat, come into contact with actual local customs and buy actual local goods. You are even less likely to meet locals so you leave your destination with out really experiencing the country that you visited. At my last wine club my friend Caprice was relating the time she tried paella in Mexico. My friend Aurora who is from Spain informed her she didn’t really have paella. Aurora is right. Its not to say that Caprice’s paella wasn’t tasty but it wouldn’t be authentic, for that you have to go to Spain, in particular Valencia. When @Benton8tor and I went to Kansas City we were told for true authentic BBQ, we would need to go to Slaps. We were also told Q 39 provided great BBQ but in a much more upscale setting with additional food options. For some super strange reason @benton8tor got completely out of character and decided he wanted to go to Q39 as he though Slaps looked a little too rustic. I dug in my heels and we went to Slaps. Not only was the BBQ amazing but @benton8tor was over the moon at how awesome it was. https://slapsbbqkc.com/ We did try Q39 as well and it was really good but Slaps looked and tasted more authentic and it was completely full of locals. Likewise visiting small out of the way wineries in Provence where locals show up to fill up their wine? A great way to experience Provence and its wines that you may be less likely to find in a city or on a tour.
Well the obvious one is that you are way way more likely to experience local culture if you travel rather than vacation for the reasons I just stated above. But you will likely get a richer experience and gain levels of understanding that really help you appreciate different cultures. We took a food tour in Porto that promised authentic food in places the locals frequented. It was one of the best tours I ever took. We tried so many local spots all over Porto, down little alleys and under bridges. In fact our last stop didn’t even look like a restaurant at all ( i am still not sure it was) It was a little door in an alley under a bridge that led you into a small room with six tables and an open home style kitchen. 2 women were cooking and we ate the most amazing food, a black eyed pea salad, and gizzards in some unidentifiable but delicious sauce paired with amazing wine. We met a German/ American couple on the tour and we stayed on well after the tour ended to swap expediences and give suggestions. It was amazing. Likewise in Avignon, we booked a food tour to take us where locals eat. And boy oh boy, did Avignon Gourmet Tours knock it out of the park. @benton8tor who previously wasn’t sure if he like Provencal food became an instant convert. https://www.avignongourmetours.com/ Likewise travel lets you really experience local markets. The local market in Cadenet provided us with 2 grocery bags of food at a cost of 12 euro for delicious dinner that night.
But culture is more than food, @benton8tor’s cousin Claire has provided me with my best London experiences from being fresh off the plane, she had us at an 11th century coaching inn used by pilgrims. Furthermore she introduced us to actual local pubs not owned by corporations, Chinese food in China town. She knows the local shops and can advise the best villages for local tea. Having a family members a local. Gold Having a family member like Claire, Priceless.
Likewise when you travel you are more likely to experience local culture. Cut to Ireland waling into a pub in the middle of a sing song, In Charlottetown PEI, a local musician session, and a way to avoid tolls allowed us to discover the village of Mende which is truly stunning as is Askham UK.
@benton8tor and I have had the best experiences when haven’t planned at all This past summer @benton8tor and I walked to a local winery from our gite in Roquemare. We were greeted by the son riding a tractor. He quickly called his dad who showed up with four friends, jumped out of the car led us into a large shed and set up a beautiful tasting table and provided us with some of our favourite wines and showed us a video of his horse plowing the fields and the wine he named after her. http://www.domaine-de-la-barotte.com/ Likewise , @benton8tor and I dropped off my parents in Toulouse and we decided at the spur if the moment to visit Auch, a truly beautiful town in Southern France. We had an Armagnac tasting at local shop with the sweetest most enthusiastic proprietor ever. We then set out somewhere in the French country side where the GPS stopped worked and we relied on signposts to take us to Domaine de Grande Comte which looks like an ordinary farmyard but opens up to a state of the art tasting room with an amazing host. You are unlikely to find that on a tour. https://www.domaine-grand-comte.fr/
Travelling is expensive. You will not have a good idea of all your expensive beforehand and they can creep up on you so be prepared and set a budget.
Traveling can be stressful. Planning take more time and research, meals can be disappointing, experiences lacking and it can take more time. I thought I would love Italy, turns out I didn’t but is that because I didn’t book tours? Did not trust experienced guides? did not go to the coast? If I had actually booked tours in Tuscany my experience might have been completely different. Travel rather than vacationing runs the risk of bad experiences being more likely so it can write off an entire country unfairly. Also expectations can be unrealistic, you may want a vacation like experience but travel is a risk, can be very disappointing. @benton8tor and I so sure we were going to love Shropshire in England. We ended up in Telford which is a collection of towns and very modern and sorry Telford, but very very boring. It was a disappointment. We finally ended up in Shifnel which redeemed Shropshire but with travel, you just never really know because try as you might, you aren’t an expert.
Culture Shock can be real issue traveling. Food and local customs if you are not familiar can overwhelm your experience and sour it. When traveling to Cameroon, the food was so different, and I didn’t stay at a hotel but at my guest house I had a guard with machete and the poverty we saw was heartbreaking. I loved Cameroon but it was very hard and the culture shock was immense.
So know what you want out of your experience and plan accordingly. Either way you will have a great time!