It’s common to always be looking for an escape. Whether it’s a simple distraction from work like Facebook, a higher risk like alcohol or drugs for a temporary high, or a vacation from a stressful career, unfortunately, avoiding reality can only worsen your troubles. Work-life balance is ideal, but equilibrium is not static by any means. A vacation may seem like a great way to relax and unwind, but it isn’t always best, and it’s definitely different from traveling.
A “vacation” typically involves a pool, possibly a beach, with all of your needs catered to by a concierge, hitting up every tourist trap, and little regard for the local experience. Travel, on the other hand, is immersing yourself in another culture by living like a local. You can absolutely still relax while traveling, but if you travel, you learn how to get around without expecting tour guides and drivers to do the work for you. If you travel, you learn where to find the authentic food and not the version made specifically for tourists. If you travel, you may begin to learn another language, or at least the basics. If you travel, you learn about another culture and consequently, you learn about yourself.
Naturally, people don’t usually like being uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. Whether you’re visiting a new neighborhood in your city or visiting an entirely new continent, it’s hard to figure things out. You want to blend in, but you also want to enjoy yourself, and you definitely want to be safe. For many, it’s easier to avoid these obstacles and book the easiest, most convenient trip. Getting lost is a great way to learn how to get around, but that scares many people so much that they won’t even dare to explore. Comfort zones are easy, but nothing good ever came from them. Daring yourself to see more and do more is how you learn and expand your mind.
A lot of traveling lately is based on bucket lists from a Pinterest-inspired case of wanderlust. By checking an item off their list of “Cool Things I’ve Done” with an Instagram photo as proof, people feel validated, regardless of their true experience. Traveling is about seeking to empathize with others different from you by understanding their lifestyle. Even in different neighborhoods of the same city, life can be drastically different. In life, you’ll always have to collaborate with and tolerate people different from you, so empathy can only be beneficial.
I don’t prefer to vacation because personally that implies unhappiness with my reality. If you don’t like your current circumstances, running away on a vacation would not be dealing with obstacles directly. You might find yourself not wanting to return to your work, friends, family, or life in general. However, vacation is only temporary and you do have to return eventually. A relaxed state of mind often originates from daily actions rather than a getaway.
From my travels, I’ve learned that I don’t really get homesick, but I do miss a routine. I thrive on routines, and I could be happy anywhere as long as I have a routine. When I’m traveling, I don’t really think how I could stay there forever. I like my life with its many challenges, and I don’t want to avoid it. I want to travel to expand my mind, learn about other cultures, and be inspired.
Still, if travels lead me to warmer weather than Chicago winters, I’m okay with a temporary escape. I face winter head-on with my snow boots and parka, so I won’t complain about exploring cities with tropical climates. : )
++ Mary K