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Vacation vs. Travel

A lot of people have been wishing me a “good vacation” or been asking me “how’s the vacation going?” and it seems to be the general impression that I’m on a vacation. That is, however, not even close to my own impression. So correct that misconception.

I’m travelling! And travelling is something very different from being on a vacation! It might sound arrogant, but so much differ the traveller from a mere tourist or a person on vacation. I’d like to explain this more thoroughly, as it might bring some insight to how I live when I’m on the road and bring everybody back home a little closer to my current life.

It is hard work – travelling – harder work than studying back home and the hours are longer than most nine-to-five jobs. If you don’t believe me ask someone who’d travelled or been on simple vacation with me. My sister’s boyfriend even got a cultural shock, during the first few times he went with us to British Columbia and Athens, respectively.

Here, I’d like to apologise. It might get a little technical, but we need some definitions at this point.

Let’s begin by looking at the words. Vacation is “a period of suspension of work,study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday” or “freedom or release from duty, business, or activity.” Note here that the word travel is part of the first definition,but as its own, separated entity.

Travel on the other hand is not associated with freedom or a suspension of activity – instead travel is an active labour: “to go from one place to another, as on foot, by car, train, plane, or ship; take a trip; journey.” The word has the following origin: y. 325–75; Middle English (north and Scots), orig. the same word as travail (by shift “to toil, labour” > “to make a laborious journey”). *

So even though travel is included in the first definition of vacation, it’s surely not included in the second. To the contrary is freedom from activity in stark contrast to a laborious journey. And the share length of my journey, seven months, makes it more than just a holiday or a period of suspended work.Especially since I’ve finished my studying, getting my bachelor’s degree. I don’t necessarily have to return…

But how is whatever I’m doing a laborious journey? You might ask. A genius question by all means. To examine this lets have a look at a typical day in Ask’s life on the road.

Most days start around 08:30 or 09.00 – depending on when consulates, sights or the stations ticked offices open, and given that I don’t have any early morning buses or trains. Coffee and breakfast are next and then the duties begin. To let’s make it a little easier by giving an example of a daily program, this one from Saint Petersburg:

09:30:Head to the bus station to buy a ticket for the next day bus to Tallinn (half hour transportation time each way)
10:30: Excursion to Peterhof
11:30: Visiting Peterhof
13:00: Return to Saint Petersburg
14:00: Lunch
14:30: Visit to the Kunstkamera/Anthropological Museum
15:30: Visit to the Zoological Museum
From 16:30: Do the evening paper work (will return to that) and dinner, before going to the State Hermitage at 18.30 to see the demonstration of the Golden Peacock Clockwork at 19.00.
(Not all days are this heavy in museums, but keep in mind the Saint Petersburg is probably going to be the trip’s high culture highlight.)

Most sights and consulates close between 17 and 18 in the evening, and the daylight disappears around the same time as well. So the exploring of places usually ends around that time a day – just like a normal work day. The evenings are spend differently depending of where I’m staying. If I’m couchsurfing they’re reserved for conversation and quality time with my host, if I’m at a hostel it is typical used in the common room on sporadic conversations.

Evenings are also reserved for “paperwork”. Paperwork refers to all the stuff that must be taken care of surrounding the actual travel and exploring. It might be searching for new places to stay, especially couchsurf requests take time because you need to personalize the requests to the specific hosts in order to show your honest interest in them and aren’t just using their apartment as a free hostel.

Other times places only have a few or very popular hostels that you need to book ahead for. There is always a lot of picture editing – you simply have to do that as you go along. Failing to do that for my last two trips I ended up with 1000+ pictures which are too immense to get through once you’re home. Drafting up or rewriting blog entries is considered travel paperwork as well – one of the reasons we travel is to tell the stories.

Some places I need to visit embassies or consulates to arrange visas, but in Eastern Europe it’s done online. Application forms needs to be filled at checked and double-checked – and a time for actually visiting the visa centre needs to be booked.

Finally there’s the reading up on and making of a rough program for the next day. Have I missed anything I really wanted? Do my host have any with need-to-know information? When do I need to leave for the bus-/train station? And so on…

What are the relaxing parts you might ask? Because no one can keep up this pace for much more than a few weeks, let alone seven months, without having a few breaks. And the beauty of long time travelling is that you always have the possibility to take a day resting – if you don’t feel like doing anything, you just don’t. But it’s necessary to minimise those days. Otherwise you’ll never get anywhere.

Instead the actual travelling are chances for rest and recreation. A seven hour bus trip or three hours in a train gives a welcoming, and often well-deserved, change of pace…


Oh, and the pictures are from Estonia since I’m not gonna make a blog entry from there.

*Definitions and origins are taken from

Journal info

  • Estonia Estonia
  • ask
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