Travel vs Vacation: What's the difference?

Do you believe there is a difference between the words “travel” and “vacation”?

At first glance they seem to be one in the same. However if you were to insert them into a similar sentence you would certainly get a different reaction if you said it to family and friends.

Case in point: “I am going to travel the world.” Now say “I am going to go on vacation.”

That drums up a different story, a wildly shifting narrative between the two, and an absolute alternative experience should you partake in both of them.

I typically find myself in the travel category, while I have nothing against the vacation category and fully support and encourage people to go on vacation.

What’s the difference then?

Travelers are seeking out places that are going to bring out different versions of themselves. They might travel to go on a mission trip or volunteer somewhere around the world. This can be done on a very small scale that an individual sets their own intention for or as large as joining the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders.

Travelers might also seek out more than pure pleasure on their journeys. From those spending six months on the AT or PCT National Scenic Trails in rain, mud, amongst bears & snakes, fighting chills, fevers, and the flu to myself who has trips planned in 2020 to spend 8 days mountaineering up Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and then running a half trail marathon in Zion National Park then sleeping in a tent on the ground after the race.

This is pure pleasure to those who love to do these activities but not what a person who enjoys vacation would describe as pure pleasure. Pure pleasure to me is challenging my body and pushing it to the point of exhaustion, to examine my inner soul and mind and see what narrative I am seeking to be proven true or untrue in my travel experience, or to dig my toes into a culture that I either know little about or is hard for me to fathom a day to day in.  

Vacationers pure pleasure is more about seeing something new for the first time and living in that experience. From the Statue of Liberty to Rome to the Great Barrier Reef this can happen all over the world. Or perhaps it’s a beach vacation with loved ones. Pure pleasure is a day of leisure.

The world needs more travelers and the world needs more people (especially in stress driven work cultures like the US, Japan, & Western Europe) to chill out and take more vacation.

But they aren’t one in the same. And that’s the beautiful thing about freedom. We all get to choose to do more of what lights us up and when we experience the world this is included in that.

Not all people want pure pleasure when they travel the world. Some of us (myself included) want to learn, grow, connect with local cultures and find our way down a path that makes us feel challenged, exhausted, and uncomfortable at times.

On the flip side…

Not all people want pure challenge when they set foot out of the home they live in. They might have exhausting jobs or spend little time with family they care dearly about. For them a week in the mountains or in a bustling city seeing “bucket list” items and then taking naps or going out to dinner every night is exactly what they feel completes them.

You can have a little bit of both as well. While I “travel” much more than I “vacation” I have been known to go on vacation every once in a moon year or two.

I think the point of my post is to leave you with this. We are all so similar yet oh so very different. Let others seek out their own authentic path in life and you should also make sure you do the same for yourself. In fact doing it for yourself should be your only priority, let everyone else in the world carve it out for themselves and don’t try to change them 24/7.

If you are a traveler, love the vacationers and respect them and get to know them. Maybe even go on vacation once in a while.

If you are a vacationer, love the travelers and respect them and get to know them. Maybe even go travel once in a while.

They are not the same and we all traverse the planet for different reasons but the more we understand the difference and don’t question others intentions and instead put time and energy into our own quest, the more we will hopefully land in a life filled with peace.  

Peace might be having your toenails ripped off on a mountain or drinking pina coladas on the beach. To each their own and bon voyage to both the travelers and vacationers!

Now tell us, do you consider yourself more of a traveler or a vacationer?

No matter which is more your style, our push pin maps offer the perfect way to document your wildest adventures or most relaxing of trips. Choose your region and style, then personalize the map to showcase your unique journey across the USA or around the world!


Mike Rudd is a 3 Time Author, yogi & yoga teacher, outdoor & active events curator, nature junkie, world traveler, hiker, & trail runner. His outdoor adventure community can be found at Hashtag 59 or follow him on Instagram @TheMikeRudd. Spread good vibes.