Not All Travel is the Same

The word ‘travel’ is incredibly multi-layered.

The official definition of the word, as listed in the dictionary, has 19 different variations and can be used as a verb, a noun, or an adjective. The primary definition is: to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship.

I guess, technically, that’s accurate.

Merriam-Webster, however, does this nifty thing where they give an “essential meaning” which they list online above the full definition. There, travel is explained as: to go on a trip or journey.


That is what gets us all warm and fuzzy inside. I particularly like the use of ‘journey,’ another multi-layered word. Because travel truly has the ability to take us on a journey, both in the physical sense and a mental one.

That being said, some travel does that more than others. There are many different types of travel. It can be broken down in a specific way (international travel, domestic travel, local travel) or it can be broken down by type of trip (work or play).

In the broadest sense there is leisure travel and obligatory travel. Simply put, obligatory travel is travel you have to do for something outside of your control and leisure travel is something you choose to do.

Leisure travel is what we yearn for. But even that can be broken down into subcategories. I see leisure travel as having three main components: culture travel, adventure travel, and vacation travel.

Culture Travel

Culture travel is the type of travel people generally envision which they think about traveling. This includes basically everything about exploring a new place: sight-seeing, walking tours, visiting iconic landmarks, going to museums, trying local food, ect. It’s doing the touristy stuff like visiting the Louvre or going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but it’s also sitting in a Paris coffee shop for two hours enjoying a cup of coffee and a croissant because in Paris that is what they do (it is borderline offensive to order coffee to-go in Paris however, with changing times, it is becoming more acceptable).

Munich, Germany

A lot of culture travel is also what you witness. I always end up learning so much about a place accidentally. Once, while stopping for a bite to eat in Madrid, my friends and I were sat at a table with three other women that were halfway through their meal. While community tables exist in the United States they are far from common practice. Our experience in Madrid was that community seating was completely normal: if there’s room for your group somewhere in that restaurant, even at an already occupied table, then you’ll be put there without much thought by the patron or the staff.

I love this type of travel. There is so much to learn about people and cultures. Adults have this habit of boxing ourselves in. We do things a certain way for so long we forget that there are other ways to do things.

Adventure Travel

Full disclosure here: I am an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker (2019). I am obsessed with hiking and have backpacked thousands of miles. I love the national parks and getting outside and hiking to the top of mountains. Adventure travel is my bread and butter.

On the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

Adventure travel can encompass a lot of things. Queenstown, New Zealand is considered the adventure capital of the world and the Lord of the Rings cast famously went bungee jumping while there. And roughly 30,000 people attempt to hike Mount Kilimanjaro every year despite its rather steep price (you are not allowed without a guide). But adventure travel doesn’t have to be giant endeavors like those. Adventure travel is a pretty loose term and, for me, it includes a lot. It can be as big as an African safari or as little as a road trip through the mountains or going on a whale watching tour. It can be zip-lining in Costa Rica or taking a surf lesson in San Diego.

If culture travel is experiencing people, adventure travel is about experiencing the natural world. And the natural world is amazing.

Vacation Travel

There is a difference between vacationing and traveling. Vacation travel is the least travel-like type of travel. There are lots of resorts around the world geared towards sipping cocktails, getting massages, and relaxing while never leaving the resort. This type of travel fits the primary definition of the word (going from one place to another) but barely nudges the essential meaning (going on a journey). Which makes vacation travel my least favorite of the three.

Southern California

Don’t get me wrong. The Maldives are undoubtedly beautiful. Popping champagne on a beach in Jamaica with your honey bunny is obviously romantic. Getting an oceanside massage is luxurious. These are all great things. And I’m not saying that I never take these type of trips or that I dislike them, but they are the ones I take least often. I’m not genetically built to sit still for an entire vacation when there is exploring to be had. And, just as importantly, while I am very good at budgeting money and saving for travel, I don’t have the means for endless trips. Most of us don’t, which makes identifying what type of travel we like best so beneficial when it comes to trip planning. For me, vacation travel seldom makes the cut.

Mix it up

That being said, just because you have a favorite type of travel doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mix it up. Mixing it up and doing things outside our norm is part of how we grow and that includes taking a trip that you might not normally go for. On my most recent trip I was in Oregon with my cousin who captioned a smiling picture of me with “don’t let the smile fool you, she’ll kill you,” in reference to the adventure-heavy trip I planned. Okay, so I don’t love vacationing, but it would probably be good for me to slow my roll and relax on one of these trips. (Maybe).

While each trip will inevitably incorporate all three, most of the time one of them is dominate. Often, your destination will dictate this in some way. A trip to Rome certainly calls for a different way to travel than a trip to the Amazon. The more flexible and open-minded you can be, the better.

At the end of the day, just like anything else, the more you travel the better you get at it. And, quite frankly, the more “practice” I can get, the better!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: