Travel vs. Vacation: which is better?

What a surprise! Another flat tire!

Since the first time I vacationed sans parents (Daytona Beach, Florida back in my final year of high-school) I have come to realize that travel and a vacation are two vastly different experiences.

One-week getaways to sunny and often all-inclusive destinations are a wonderful way to get away from the monotony and stress of the daily grind.

I’ve had many great vacations over the last decade that allowed me to recharge my batteries and thus return to the daily grind with renewed vigor (Cuba is a personal favorite for this purpose, though Mexico and southern California come VERY close).

During these short breaks, the last thing I want is more stress induced by any potential hiccups in the itinerary.

I want everything to be arranged for me; for my hand to be held from the airport directly to the buffet at my all-inclusive beach-side hotel.

I want my daily schedule to be comprised solely of swimming, lying on the beach, and generally relaxing. (I must admit that both Marina and I are only capable of doing this for about 2-3 days before we become stir crazy and begin doing excursions to explore beyond the boundaries of our resort).

Unfortunately, on such vacations, while I spend my days relaxing and sipping fruity drinks out of a coconut, the only personal insight I tend to glean is that I really enjoy lying on a beach sipping fruity drinks.

Not the most earth-shattering of revelations.

On the other hand, when roughing it through under-developed countries, challenges are essentially guaranteed.

I’ve personally found that during these challenges – broken down buses, countless hours on painfully uncomfortable transport, extremes in climate and altitude, and the all too common illness one develops in these trying situations – I gain a tremendous amount of perspective.

The more arduous the circumstance; the greater the personal insight gained.

Although I am generally one to complain when things go awry, sometime in Bolivia (by far the toughest country I have travelled through) I began looking forward to travel hurdles because I knew how much I could gain once that hurdle is surmounted.

In fact, now that we are staying in an ocean-view condo in Rio, enjoying the beautiful weather, the great food and fresh fruit juices, getting around the city seamlessly using the network of public transport, etc. I almost miss the hassles and difficulties of our prior destinations.

As you can tell by the relative dearth of posts on this blog as of recent, I have little to say beyond the fact that I absolutely love jogging by the ocean each morning and following these runs with a delicious acai na tigela.

Thankfully, over the past 3 months of often trying travel I have already come much closer to answering many of the questions that loomed back when I finished my PhD.

While I’ll write more on these insights in the near future, for the time being, I think I’ll enjoy my vacation.


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Rio’s magnetism: A premonition of our nomadic future?


It’s early afternoon on a warm and partly cloudy Sunday.

We’re sitting in a packed restaurant in the beautiful and isolated Urca neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, at the base of the popular Sugar Loaf mountain.

While still considered a part of Rio, this area feels very distinct from the hustle and bustle of more trendy parts of the city like Copacabana and Ipanema.

The smell of searing beef from the countless table-side mini-bbqs permeates the air.

All round us, cariocas (Rio locals) are engaged in lively discussion and slow and meticulous eating (lunch is by far the biggest and longest meal of the day for Brazilians).

Through the open windows we can see sunbathers on the small beach just across the street. Further back we see the buildings surrounding the boat-dotted bay of the Botafogo neighbourhood, beyond which the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue stands with arms wide open.

“I think I could live here,” I mumble under my breath, sated partly by the interesting dish of fish, eggs, vegetables and rice we just consumed and partly by the stunning scenery.

Later that evening, after a quick sunset workout at one of the countless beachside stainless steel exercise stations, Marina and I attempt to figure out our next move through Brazil.

Marina is reading online about various hostels in Salvador, a large city north up the coast from Rio.

I am browsing our guide book for things to do when we get there.

During the past 4 days we had already explored most of the neighborhoods in Rio, we caught a soccer match at the world famous Maracena stadium, we spent a night out in Lapa, the Samba capital of Rio, we had dined at a trendy sushi restaurant in Leblon and had a few drinks in Ipanema, etc. etc .etc.

“What if we just stay in Rio a bit longer?” Marina suddenly suggests.

“Really? I think that’s a great idea!”

And just like that it was settled: we’re not leaving Rio any time soon.

After the pressure of planning our next travel step was lifted, we headed down to the local juice shop for a serving of acai na tijela (acai berry smoothie with granola, banana and yogurt – my new dietary obsession).

Today, two nights after the decision to prolong our Rio stay was made, we moved into our new accommodations: a 2-bedroom condo with WiFi, satellite, and a view of the ocean between Copacabana and Ipanema.

“Imagine this was our home,” Marina suggests as she comes into the bedroom in which I am writing these words.

As I ponder this suggestion, I can vaguely make out a commercial for Saturday Night Live (one of my favorite shows of all time) playing on the television in the living room.

“Yes, I could definitely live here,” I respond with a smile.

All I need is some employment…


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