The topic for August’s travel link-up is travel contrasts – think east vs west, hot vs cold, beach vs city – so I have chosen to write about the difference between ‘travelling’ and ‘holidaying’. For most people, these two words might be synonymous but, for me, they allude to two entirely different types of trip.
‘Travelling’ is the word that I use when I am going on a real culture vulture, low-budget, explorative trip, where I want to eat and live like a local (OK, not quite), but when I wish to truly immerse myself in the foundations of a country and its people.
It is an educational and rewarding experience.
Last year I went travelling across two different continents, Latin America and Asia. In Latin America I visited multiple locations within Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico.
I hiked one of six Costa Rican active volcanoes, Rincón de la Vieja, in the blistering heat so as to see the natural wonder that is the Celeste waterfall with my own eyes.
On Michael’s birthday(!) we ate a typical Guatemalan breakfast of ‘desayuno tipico’, which is made up of 3 components, eggs, black beans and tortillas, setting us back all of 10p per portion (admittedly, this was all that was available at the time, else I would have made the first meal of his day a little more special).
The same morning, we sat at the side of a desolate road for nearly 2 hours waiting (and praying) for one of the local pick-up trucks to drive by and add us to their bulging crowd of passengers, so we could get as close as possible to the airport. During this time, 3 men and 2 children separately walked past swinging machetes. I would be lying if I hadn’t imagined the worst more than once… Happy Birthday!
We got down & dirty with the local cuisine in Mexico (i.e. taco after taco after taco), which made us both violently ill for 48 hours. And I mean violently.
In Asia, I travelled through Vietnam and Cambodia. Half-way across the world, these countries were understandably poles apart from those that I visited in Central America. The scenery, climate, culture, people and food, were all incredibly different.
In Vietnam, I did a week-long tour with the most charming, young Vietnamese guide, ‘Tom’, who had taught himself fluent English by watching the BBC News online (talk about making the rest of us feel inferior; that is serious ambition & dedication!).
Anyway, he enabled us to see and do things that one would never have been able to as a lone tourist.
He introduced us to the only living survivor of those born in the Cu Chi tunnels during the Vietnamese War (the little guy standing directly in front of me):
We joined the rest of the Vietnamese population on their favourite mode of transport (it’s INSANE how many motorbikes are on the road) and drove for 10 hours straight through hail, sunshine, light and dark, from Hue to Hoi An. One of the scariest and best experiences of my life.
He took us to Paradise Cave, a natural wonder off the beaten tourist track.
We moved further south via sleeper buses (these were a real saviour during my travelling in Asia!) and, on one occasion, got to witness the entrenched corruption of Vietnam with our own eyes, when the police raided the luggage compartments and discovered a hoard of stolen electronic goods, which the bus driver simply paid them to ignore. And on we went.
Cambodia was different. The people are different. More aggressive and, sadly, I would say that this is as a result of being more Westernised. Bag snatchers are common. During my 2-week stay I knew two girls that had their bags ‘snatched’ whilst walking along the main roads.
However, still utterly beautiful. I spent 6 days (I still personally think that I deserve a medal for this) on an idyllic island called Koh Rong, that has no electricity, i.e. no lights at night, no fans, no ice, no hot shower water. I also slept in a wooden hut with questionable roofing, to say the least, in that I got SOAKED by the monsoon that occurred every night. I must admit that I almost swam back to the mainland on my last day, but it was an exceptional experience that I wouldn’t change for the world.
The island and the people are some of the most beautiful that I have ever come across.
And I lived how the majority of the world lives. I experienced and witnessed basic living. I learnt and appreciated so much in that tiny time frame.
^ This is my absolute favourite photo that I took whilst travelling. I can’t really explain why, other than it manages to make me feel all of the emotions that I experienced whilst away.
Whereas, to me, a holiday is all about treating yourself. Yes, you might still sight-see and try some of the local cuisine, but it’s probably via a nice air-conditioned car, or in an upmarket restaurant. ‘Holidaying’, in my eyes, means relaxing, wining & dining, pushing the boat out and indulging in that little bit of luxury whenever possible.
A few of my favourite holidays have been those to Japan, New York and Thailand.
For my 18th birthday my mum took me on a surprise girly trip to Tokyo, home to our favourite cuisine. We stayed in a suite at The Peninsula hotel, which had the most advanced remote control I’ve ever seen – you could even make the toilet sing! We ate at Nobu, where I was introduced to my beloved black cod, as well as at Michelin-starred Hei Fung Terrace. No expense was spared as she treated me to all of my favourite foods, new clothes, special trips, a sushi-making class and spa treatments in the Peninsula. She introduced me to a level of luxury that I had never experienced before (for which I am sure she is eternally regretful).
New York is just amazing to me. The first time I (properly) went was with my mum as a 21st birthday present (yep, I know, she’s the best). We stayed at the legendary Waldorf Astoria and, on our first night, ordered insanely overpriced room service to eat in bed.
We ate at some amazing restaurants, including The Sea Grill in the Rockefeller Center, where I tried wagyu sushi for the first time, Bar Americain for oysters and sublime fish tacos, and Buddakan (which without a shadow of a doubt serves the best Chinese food that you will ever eat).
As for Thailand, it is a country that my family and I are very much in love with, and have returned to celebrate Christmas in for many years. We have stayed at various resorts, but my all-time favourite has to be where we stayed on our most recent visit, the Veranda Resort & Spa. It’s such a gorgeous boutique hotel, with the most outstanding and personal service I have ever received.
The Thai food that they serve is insanely good, and I grew more than a little attached to my routine of homemade ice-cream and cocktails by the pool every afternoon.
I don’t think it takes a genius to distinguish between the trips that I have described within my ‘travelling’ and ‘holidaying’ categories.
But which do I prefer?
I love both. Admittedly, my hostel days are well and truly over, but I am still desperate to travel India and Africa, and I mean travel, not holiday. But everyone wants (and needs!) a holiday too, and I am more than partial to a bit of pampering.
A healthy balance of the two keeps me grounded and happy.
But what about you? Have you been ‘travelling’, or just gone ‘holidaying’? If you’ve done both, which do you prefer? And will you go ‘travelling’ again? I’d love to know!