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Adventure Blog

Do You Consider Traveling a Vacation?

Buzz Poole
02/15/2011 - 12:09

One assumes that The New York Times is a mildly organized place, probably always hectic and chaotic, but controlled with teams of editors finessing sections into order, composing large ongoing editorial narratives. I wonder then about the decision of running the most recent installment of the Frugal Traveler, “How to Be a Frugal Traveler” a few days before this past weekend’s Times travel section “The Cruise Issue,” which includes this Toni Schlesinger article. In my mind, cruises are the antithesis of frugal travel, and I imagine Seth Kugel, the Frugal Traveler, would agree.


It isn’t about how much money you spend on a trip. To me, the differences between these two approaches to seeing the world boil down to how you actually choose to interact with the world, or not as the case may be. The feature article in the section showcases the Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship – “1,187 feet long and 16 decks high with a capacity for 6,318 passengers and 2,384 crew members” – a self-contained world that inspires Schlesinger to ask: “When did ships become less about the water on which they sail and more about the land they have left behind?” This pretty much says it all. Yes, I’m sure the twenty-two restaurants, multiple pools, malls, movies and bars can insure relaxation, and possibly any manner of indulgence-fueled comas, but I wouldn’t classify this as “travel”; it is a vacation.

I fully understand not wanting to deal with the hassles of everyday life - the mundane chores, office politics, commutes, etc. Everyone deserves a break from routine and what that break looks like will vary. I also understand how a cruise appeals to many people because you don’t have to go anywhere, the ship takes you somewhere but the immediate surroundings always look the same. This can be comforting. I get it.


But, if you really want to get out into the world, you need to experience it with all of your senses, even if some of those smells, tastes and sounds might be slightly off-putting. In his column, Kugel identifies six sides of traveling that, depending on how you feel about them, sets you apart as a frugal traveler: privacy, bathrooms, time, restaurants, sleep, risk tolerance. What Kugel asserts is that depending on your personal thresholds, when it comes to these matters not only can you travel pretty much anywhere in the world on a reasonable budget, but you will also really get to know and experience that destination.


Unlike Kugel, I’m over sharing bathrooms with strangers, and rooms for that matter. When I’m not traveling for work, I’m usually with my wife so we share rooms and keep costs down by finding local lodging that offers relative, and sometimes tremendous, comfort at decent prices. But I do share the same attitude with Kugel about going local, lining up with them at the food stalls, cozying up with them at the bar for local hooch.


Like I said, for me the difference between cruising and how Kugel travels is not so much about the money, but the attitude. Why do you travel? What excites you about the idea of planning a trip? Would you rather cruise the Caribbean or wander the streets of ?

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