Not a Vacation

not a vacation
Creative Commons via LensENVY

***Rant incoming I warn you!***

I don’t rant much on this blog but I cannot hold it back any longer.

I have a bone to pick with the proverbial you.

We are not going on vacation. Every time you talk about our vacation it belittles what we’re actually trying to accomplish on our trip.

I hereby will now refer to our upcoming, life changing, extended travel trip as a PILGRIMAGE. Yes, I typed that. A pilgrimage. It means that much to me. defines a pilgrimage most appropriately:

A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.

If you wish we can call it an expedition, a trek, a mission, a quest, an odyssey, or a sojourn. This is not a vacation.

While we will be spending the occasional day on the beach drinking a fruity cocktail with an umbrella in it, we will mainly be spending our time pushing our personal boundaries, studying a new language, volunteering, working on the blog, and trying to make sense of the world we live in. This is not going to be a relaxing, mind-numbing time. There will be times where I will want to give up, where I will cry, where we will question why we left everything behind.

And you know what?

I want experiences.

I want life.

I’m doing this so I can appreciate what I DO have in my life more.

88 thoughts on “Not a Vacation”

  1. Erica, It sounds like your mindset is pretty well spot on, for what is required for many months (or even years) of travel and discovery. Believe me when I say ‘it won’t be all strawberries and cream’ and there will be times when you question what the hell you are doing this for, but they will quickly pass and leave you with great and everlasting memories. Good luck to you both on your up and coming pilgrimage.

    1. @Jason: Thank you. I’ve tried to prepare mentally for the trip. To me thing is much more important than over preparing on gear. I like to confront my life changes head on!

  2. Brilliant!!!!! That’s the point I wanted to make for a long time. Totally brilliant.
    A lot of, well, most of my friends (face-to-face friends) think I’m a spoiled child because I “Travel” a lot. What the heck? And they are the ones who going on a group tour, wearing a fancy cloths and staying at a fancy hotel.

    1. @Juno: I think people don’t realize where money management can lie. I’ve had many people baffled on how we do things – it all comes down to priorities – and budget hotels. πŸ™‚

  3. YES. This still frustrates me today, and we’re staying in one place for a while. Newsflash – Rachel has an actual, real job and I am taking actual real classes. We probably do more work than that proverbial ‘you’ – and you guys will be doing more, too. It feels damn good.

    Then there’s ‘that guy’ who, after hearing where you just were, tries to tell you all the ‘facts’ about it as if you weren’t literally JUST THERE. Thanks, old high school friend, for your extensive drunk analysis of Southeast Asian society. Without you, I might have believed my first hand experiences, but you have set me straight.

    1. @Evan: I can’t even imagine the issues that come with teaching abroad. More power to Rachel – I’ve heard it can be quite stressful at times (and I know school ALWAYS is! lol).

      As for “the guy”, I’ve heard people spout off things about Japan to me when they have never been there. Just nod your head.

  4. Just tell them you’re going to South America for work. Technically it’s 100% true. πŸ™‚ It is def. a pilgrimage too. I completely agree with you. It is definitely not a vacation but it is an awesome way of life.

  5. We have been at this for over a year and a half and people very close to us *still* don’t get it. Some people are stuck inside the box and just never will.

  6. Even after nearly 5 years on the road, we still get the ‘vacation’ thing. It’s especially annoying when we rendezvous with the proverbial ‘you’ during the course of our travels and they just assume we’re on vacation and can eat heavy meals non-stop, take time off to explore their city and spend money like crazy! Ack.

    And we we shook things up and parked the RV and went to the Virgin Islands for the season, folks assume we’re on an extended break or vacation down here. Umm.. no. We’ve been pulling 80-90 hr work weeks with occasional breaks for a snorkel.

    Heck, I was even doing my full work day from Burning Man.

    For us, it’s all about a sustainable long term balance.

  7. I totally hear you, and I am not even going on a RTW trip. When I think of the word vacation, I think of sitting quietly somewhere and vegging out. Honestly, at this point in my life, I can do that on my couch. Travel does not always mean “vacation” or “checking out”. I travel to learn about how people live and about other cultures. Sadly, I think the responses you are getting are part of the underlying lack of a culture of travel in our country. Not to seem uppity, but people tend to see travel as merely for restorative purposes rather than education or spiritual reasons. Anyway, there are lots of people routing for your trip and support your reasons behind it.

    1. @Terri: While you may not be on a RTW, I still think you’re food reviews and your insightful travel posts! I think it is definitely a lifestyle.

    1. @Giulia: Somehow I keep forgetting to tag posts as holiday – a word so seldom used here.

      Kick them in the shins! (Not really, but only if you want to)

  8. I feel you on this one! There’s only one Indonesian word to describe visiting other countries on your own free will — unfortunately that word simply means ‘vacation’. It’s been extremely hard to explain to my parents that this is not a simple vacation. Not to mention the concept of long term travel is a foreign one to them. Frustrating.

    1. @Jill: I can totally imagine that it would make it difficult if there is no word for it! My mom totally doesn’t get the traveling thing. She was first generation American and spent a substantial amount of time in Mexico so is convinced it is the best and only place to live.

    2. Hahahha, jalan-jalan, Jill?
      Jalan-jalan keliling dunia ya mbak?

      I try to use the word “berkelana” now, more like wanderer. But not much associated with splurge or luxury.

      Sorry Erica, for the Indonesian language involved, but this frustrates me too!

  9. OKAY AMEN!!! I think I may be borrowing that term from you and calling mine a pilgrimage too. Most people assume the same that its going to be easy breezy when really it may not be.

    1. @Jaime: Please do! I think it makes a little more sense to some (or they think you’re a pretentious ass, but I don’t care). πŸ˜›

  10. People keep referring to our trip as a vacation. We smile politely and mock them behind their back. Unfortunately, I don’t know that some people will ever get it . . . but, as long as we do (and we enjoy ourselves), that’s all that matters.

  11. You get that all the time but regardless we’re lucky to be able to do this.

    The biggest difference I’ve noticed is cash. I live on 30 bucks a day so grand tours and fancy hotels are out of the question, reserved for those on vacation.

    1. @Ayngelina: I feel completely blessed that we do have this opportunity – something I remind myself of every day. Maybe minds will change when they see our accommodations?

  12. I completely agree with this. We’ve had so many people tell us how jealous they are that we get to vacation 24/7. It’s super awkward and I never know what to say. Well, yes.. we’re lucky and our lifestyle is awesome….. but it’s a lifestyle (that does in fact include full-time work) and not a perpetual picnic. I think sometimes people just assume we sip margaritas all day at the beach!

    Our culture really doesn’t offer any way of conceptualizing travel other than as a vacation or for business purposes. So huzzah to all us nomads for trying to change that! πŸ˜›

  13. I totally understand your rant. I left the States almost 2 years ago for a undetermined amount of time to explore the world and get to know better my place in it. It was in no means a “vacation.” I still get asked by people who just don’t get it “how much longer my holiday is going to be”. I commend you for using the word pilgrimage and I wish you all the best!

  14. Argh, totally agree with you!! I hate whenever someone asks me how my holidays (what we in Oz call vacation) were. I did NOT holiday – I was travelling. There IS a difference. Anyhoo, that was my mini rant. The Pilgrimage awaits you!!

    1. @Rebecca: Oh the wonderful holiday vs. vacation word usage. πŸ˜› I always wonder where calls what. Always feel free to rant away here – this is a rant zone!

  15. This is fucking awesome. I feel EXACTLY the same way about our trip. In fact, I hate calling it a “trip” because it is so much more that that. I love that you are calling it a pilgrimage. Bravo. You totally just put what I’ve been feeling into words.

  16. We totally agree – it’s definitely NOT a vacation, what we’re doing! In fact, sometimes we get so tired from traveling that we take a vacation from traveling!! Whereas you go on vacation to relax, traveling is actually a lot of work and can be quite stressful if you’re on a tight itinerary – figure out how to get to places, many many hours on public transport, find decent accommodation… A vacation on the other hand usually involves only one (nice!) hotel, organized transport and a lot of cocktails by the pool πŸ˜‰

    We can only recommend that you plan in some vacation time during your pilgrimage… because it can be pretty exhausting πŸ˜‰

    1. @GTG: I totally plan on having some vacation time. I haven’t “vacationed” in years! We’re so busy with culture immersion during some of our trvels that we go home more tired than we left.

  17. I haven’t taken a long term trip (yet) but I don’t even like to refer to my short 1-3 week trips as “vacation” because I don’t sit on the beach getting tan and tipsy when I travel. It’s about experiencing other cultures and getting out there and doing things. Even my short trips are a lot of work, but amazing and lots of fun, just in a different way than most people picture a vacation. I wish more people would understand that.

    1. @Ali: I’m with you on that. All our trips have only been a few weeks but we’re always so tired due to going out and doing things. There is very little down time.

  18. This is the best thing I’ve read in a long time! As in seriously I am bookmarking this page every time I need a reminder from someone that knows what it means to really LIVE. I can’t tell you enough how much I love and respect your mentality.
    – LAUREN πŸ™‚

  19. i LOVE you rant!! I’m tired of explaining this to family and friends back home. They thought we took years long luxury vacation in star hotels, tour groups, taxis, expensive restaurants, etc etc. Especially from where I came from, people are not familiar with the idea of the long term traveling, backpacking, RTW, etc. Tough to explain, and they condemn us rich.

    1. @Dina: Thank you! I love how you use the term, “condemn us rich”. It is interesting how it has a derogatory usage among travelers. I am by no means wealthy but it is interesting nonetheless.

  20. The fact that you have already discovered such a strong sense of purpose before your trip has even begun is going to make a significant difference in every adventure you undertake while on the road. It took me years to realize that I wasn’t on a vacation, but the day that I realized I was in fact on a personal pilgrimage myself, was the day that travel became my lifestyle and my education.

    And this alone has helped me overcome the struggles and extreme challenges involved with long-term travel and from reading this post, I have no doubt you’ll both have no problem overcoming those challenges as well!

    1. @Earl: Why hello there! Honestly I think that I’ve been so curious about the world for such a long time that I went into “business mode” quite quickly when it came to experiencing other cultures. Shaun and I quickly became aware how different we were every time we came back from a trip abroad. I’m just lucky that I have a partner in crime that is willing to learn about themselves like I want to.

      I had such a bad experience in the bureaucracy of the college I went to that I decided to take learning into my own hands.

  21. Try not to worry too much about the words other people use to describe you — whether it be travel or anything else. You’re defining your own purpose in life. Those people who use the words “vacation” or “tourist” to describe you and your lifestyle most likely aren’t trying to be offensive; they simply don’t understand. Outside the travelers’ circuit, the how and why of a long-term trip are actually a great mystery. Refer these people to your blog (and the blogs of other well-written travelers) and it will help educate them, maybe even inspire them to skip their yearly “vacation” and take a mind-broadening “odyssey” instead. ^^ Cheers!

    1. Odysseus: While I know they are not trying to be offensive, I guess I just want to highlight the connotations of their words. I am all about education in the travel world!

  22. This is not a vacation. If this had been an actual vacation, the rant you just read would have been been followed by instructions. How to stuff your bag full of useless crap and attempt to still convince the airline that a 40 kilo bag is “carry on”. How to return to a life you don’t like with a warm feeling that could be sunburn.

    I remember being on a cruise with a woman who was a nomad. Probably the first I had ever met. After encouraging her to splurge for something or other, she told me no, this is not a vacation, this is my life. I still remember that conversation and it helped change my mind about a lot of things.

    1. @Andrew: I think I realized I needed an extended trip when I came back from Japan after 3 weeks when I wasn’t ready and had a very severe bout of depression. We were budget traveling (well, as much as you can in Japan) and having the time of my life.

  23. Hell yeah! I kind of get the same reaction so I know exactly why you would be frustrated. Trying to desperately find an internet connection does not sound like a vacation to me.

    I love the whole pilgrimage idea, that pretty much what I’m up to as well.

    1. @Nick: “Trying to desperately find an internet connection does not sound like a vacation to me. ” makes it sounds like we’re heading out to the sticks lol! <3

  24. Ah yes, the vacation vs the traveling!
    It’s hard for people most people to understand and separate the two. We still have people referencing our year away as a vacation. As I see it, a vacation is an escape from the ordinary. If traveling is your ordinary, then it can no longer be a vacation?
    It’s like the farmer who says an office person doesn’t work hard, or the government employee that says bartending is not a real job. Life is what you make it. I would guess that most of the people who say that you are going on a vacation are actually very envious, without realizing that their word selection is somewhat condescending.
    On some level, you are on a vacation in their minds. But it’s not the act of snapping photos in a foreign land or drinking beer in the afternoon, its the liberating freedom that given yourself.

    1. @Cam: “As I see it, a vacation is an escape from the ordinary. If traveling is your ordinary, then it can no longer be a vacation?” I LOVE IT!

  25. eheh I don’t like the word “vacation” either πŸ™‚ I travel a lot and I can’t remember last time I had a holiday. The truth? I don’t really miss holidays πŸ˜‰

  26. I love this post!! We’re only two weeks into our RTW and before we left everyone was so excited for our “vacation”. This is not a vacation. I can honestly say that I am more tuned into myself, my strengths, weaknesses and goals then I ever have been. Traveling puts your behavior under a microscope. I think the biggest difference that I have learned is that the “vacationers” choose to not explore how they can improve themselves and grow. The travelers do the opposite. They put themselves in the tough situations. The situations that may bring tears, arguing with travel partners, etc and choose to grow and learn from it. I know for us, we’re doing that every day. Although we’re going to be exaughsted when we get home in two months, we will be different people- and that takes work. We could easily float through our trip stay at resorts and eat hamburgers every night- that is a vacation. Guest houses, local food, volunteering, and leaving our comfort zone is traveling.

    Thanks for letting me get in on the rant πŸ™‚

    1. @Melissa: Well, on the positive side, at least they were excited for you? I would still be annoyed lol. And please, always feel free to rant here. I love it!

  27. Your so right, it will be an experience of a lifetime. You’ll learn encounter more new situations per day than you would in a normal week, have to overcome more obstacles in a week than you do in a month, and see more amazing things in a month than you would in a normal year. You’ll get a decades worth of experiences within a year. Enjoy yourselves, but more importantly, grow!

  28. Yeah, well said. Some people back home are never going understand what or why you’re doing what you’re doing. But don’t worry, we understand. And we support you.

  29. ooooohh yeah, that one gets me too! throw in a “you’re so LUCKY” and in one fail swoop they’ve inadvertently erased all personal triumph from the equation. i love pilgrimages! cheers to that! and you know, if those you refer to have never done anything like this, then how would they really know the difference between what they do perhaps two weeks a year and this? it does LOOK the same on the surface of it. what they don’t realize is how much work it is when it’s not all bundled up in a tiny, pre-determined package. i try to think of that when i get perturbed…and i do! ha ha πŸ™‚

    1. @Lorna: I think it is just the amount of work that is looked over that bothers me. Especially when you’re selling personal items, holding garage sales, paying off credit cards, tying up loose ends, etc.

  30. What’s with all the anger? I’m tired of self-righteous pilgrims/travelers/whatever you want to call yourselves. Until I started reading travel blogs and saving money to quit my job and travel, I looked at this type of thing with awe and an “extended vacation” perspective too. Everyone leaves their country of origin for different reasons and everyone is constantly learning how, when, why, and where to travel or go to that is different from where they grew up. Give them a break and educate them on what you’re doing without getting all defensive. The rant just makes you look like you’re not all that confident about what you’re doing anyway. Don’t worry, I won’t read your blog anymore, so you don’t have to tell me to not read your blog if I don’t like what you write.

    1. @Lynn: Thank you for commenting on my blog and being honest about what you think. I always like to consider my blog an open forum. While I can’t convince you to stay, you are correct on one matter. Shaun and I are not completely confident about our upcoming trip. I have made reference to that in a few of my posts. The whole preparation process is bewildering and emotional. I didn’t mean to inspire hate but it is hard when people don’t take our lifestyle seriously. Don’t make yourself a stranger!

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