I’m not sure when the word ‘vacation’ was replaced by ‘travel,’ or why it needed to be.
Because for 21 years, I took vacations, and they were awesome.
Exhibit A, “Vacation”:
Exhibit B, “Travel”:
Most summers we loaded up the van the night before, anticipating a four AM start to the vacation.
“I’m going to stay up all night,” I said.
“Me, too,” my sisters said.
We stayed up until about one AM, fell asleep, couldn’t be roused, and eventually hit the road at eight. But it didn’t matter, because vacation had started. Not only did it mean a breakfast of iced cinnamon rolls at Hardee’s, a special road trip treat, it meant Florida.
Sunshine and sand in St. Augustine, followed by the main attraction: the theme parks of Orlando. On the drive down, my sisters and I discussed what we’d do once we got there.
“I want to go to MGM, Universal Studios, and Magic Kingdom.”
“Well, I want to go to EPCOT and Typhoon Lagoon.” (This was only said one time, because once you’ve been to EPCOT, there is no reason to return.)
“I’m going to ride Jaws, Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Great Thunder Mountain Railroad. Also, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Jungle Cruise.” To this day, I can draw you an accurate map of the Magic Kingdom.
About eight hours in, we’d lose sight of the destination and start lamenting about how we were never going to get there and had to pee so bad. I suppose it would have felt more vacation-like if we’d taken flights to Orlando, but maybe the suffering increased the value of the reward. At least that’s what my parents led us to believe.
But all was forgotten when we saw this sign, signalling that we’d arrived:
I know it’s commercial, overcrowded, and overpriced, but here’s the thing: I did not care. The Magic Kingdom was truly magical, and that’s what you want out of a vacation.
Maybe it wasn’t as magical for my parents, who felt the blow of an $80 lunch at Pinocchio Village Haus much more keenly than we did, but I’m sure the glee on our sticky little faces made it all worthwhile.
Those family trips to Orlando had such an impact that I’ve gone back for more, without my family, as an adult. Surprisingly, I’ve probably been to Florida more than any other place in the world, which really boggles my mind.
Exhibit C, “Vacation”:
Exhibit D, “Travel”:
I don’t use the word vacation anymore; everything is ‘travel.’ Technically, that’s correct, but I miss the magic and glamour that comes with calling something a ‘vacation.’ It promises relaxation and freedom, without the pitfalls and challenges of ‘travel.’
Not that I would trade travel for full-time vacations – I think those challenges are what make travel so intriguing and rewarding. But sometimes, it’s nice to just coast for a couple of days; to be full of the excited anticipation that comes with a trip, but without the trace of anxiety that sometimes tags along with travel.
Exhibit E, “Vacation”:
Exhibit F, “Travel”:
When I took my first solo trip at 22, I swapped ‘vacation’ for ‘travel.’ I think it made me feel more worldly; “going traveling for a year” had purpose, whereas “going on a yearlong vacation” suggests that I checked out of reality.
Which, honestly? Maybe I did. But you won’t hear any regrets from me. I’ve learned that ‘vacation’ and ‘travel,’ thankfully, can be interchangeable. And just as addicting as, say, iced cinnamon rolls from Hardee’s.
Now, who would like a hand-drawn map of the Magic Kingdom?