Vacation or Travel? Adventures Across the Globe

December 18, 2012
Vacation or Travel? Adventures Across the Globe

A few years ago, I sat looking out a caged sorority dorm window at the University of Tennessee. I had carefully selected all of these things–the SEC school close to home, sisterhood, Knoxville–so why couldn’t I see myself in any of it?

I don’t know where I first heard about Semester at Sea. I think I googled it after a conversation that went something like, “Dude, I hear there’s this boat, where you can like, take classes and sail around the world.” By my next semester of school, I wasn’t headed back to Knoxville. I was headed to Nova Scotia, Canada to circumnavigate the globe with 550 students from around the world. Turns out, there was something more than my crayon box life in Tennessee. And somewhere between sleeping next to a goat in a Ghanian village and climbing the Great Wall of China, I tasted it.

Turns out, there was something more than my crayon box life in Tennessee.

Heading back to Tennessee after my semester at sea was not ideal. After my sparked love affair with seeing the world, how could I be comfortable in familiar Knoxville again? So I became a traveler a bit like one becomes a monk or a nun. I was obsessed with travel. My best friend was travel. And I did everything I could to get myself somewhere new.

I took unplanned trips to Austin, Texas where I’d sleep in my car, and road trips to Chattanooga, which was only two hours away. I was always seeing, always going. I called myself a free spirit. My friends called me a flight-risk.

Soon I started planning another study abroad adventure. My next destination? France. After a long year in Tennessee of course petitions, scholarship applications, and pleading for a last minute visa, soon I found myself in a cozy apartment Paris, adoring something new about the city everyday. But the clock was ticking. I was graduating soon. Could I join my friends back in America in search of careers and engagement rings, and for some, even cradles? This sure didn’t sound like me.

So, I moved to Italy. Perched comfortably in the hillside town of Bergamo, I lived with an Italian family on an olive tree farm. I spent my days teaching them English, and nights working at the suave discotheque my Italian mama owned.  I didn’t know where I would be in a month. I didn’t know where I would be in a week.

I was obsessed with travel. My best friend was travel. And I did everything I could to get myself somewhere new.

But I did know that traveling taught me more about the world than any career, boyfriend, or classroom ever could. I learned to be open-minded to everyone, even to the most close-minded of people. I learned life was more than internships and careers and two story brick houses. Sure, sometimes it was scary. Sometimes my brain wouldn’t stop pinball-ing the fact that one day I would have to build a stable fence around my free spirit. But I wasn’t ready to buy the hammer and nails. I’m still not ready.

Now I live in Manhattan. Still the same free spirit, different backdrop. It’s hard dealing with reverse culture shock and the reality of landing a career. But Manhattan keeps me moving, and it’s the only place I can still travel the world without leaving New York City’s borders. In a way, my adventure hasn’t ended. Some try to bring me back to the real world (whatever that is, I’m not even sure), and some criticize me for living a life of “vacation.” But only the traveler knows the real difference between vacation and travel.  Curious? Come see for yourself. I dare you.

Travel Girl
Does the adventure ever end?


About Lauren Watt

Lauren Watt is professional wanderer and writer, who currently lives in New York City.

4 thoughts on “Vacation or Travel? Adventures Across the Globe

  1. Lauren
    February 26, 2013

    Thanks for the comments, ladies! It’s nice to know that people share similar experiences. Caroline- wow! a campervan sounds amazing! I have always wanted to travel that way! Best of luck to all of you in your travels, and you can read more of my experiences at xxx

  2. February 24, 2013

    This was beautifully written. Traveling charges you. Now that you’re in New York, that doesn’t mean it’s the end. If you do decide to get married and have kids (whatever it is that people “traditionally” do), you’ll have a whole world to share with them.

  3. Caroline
    February 16, 2013

    Enjoy it while you can, at least you’re living and not doing what most people envy, the ones usually that point out how ‘you gotta settle down one day’
    Really? I’ve had the travel bug myself for about the last 13yrs or so, had my kids with me and went to cyprus & spain, they are’nt as narrow minded as many little town people as they are more accepting and less judgemental. Now it’s just me as the kids are grown up but at 48 and recently bought a little campervan I shall be off on my travels again very soon 😀 Just the UK for now and then when my dog has had all vaccinations for pet passport we shall go to warmer climates x My pet Jackachu is called Jazza so I’m naming my camper Jazzamataz x x Good luck in your lifes travels x Live-Laugh-Love x Cal & Jaz x

  4. February 2, 2013

    Lauren, this sounds exactly like many of my experiences. After graduating from college, when many of people my age where getting married and buying houses and having babies, I went and lived on the island of American Samoa for a year. Now I’m back, dealing with the reverse culture shock and have a good job…leading to the ‘stable career’ but can’t shake the restlessness.

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