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Adventure Blog

Is "Traveling" Synonymous with "Vacation"?

Buzz Poole
02/26/2013 - 06:58
Aguas Caliente, via TrekEarth

A few weeks ago, Huffington Post travel editor Andrew Burmon wrote "The Travel Industry and the Baby Boomer Menace," in which he blames the boomers for converting formally off-the-beaten-path locales to staid destinations. Burmon cites Aguas Calientes, Peru, as his prime example, describing "the gateway to Machu Picchu [as] a perfectly lovely town in the way that JFK's Terminal 4 is a perfectly lovely international terminal."

I've never been to Peru but I think I understand what Burmon means. Machu Picchu, like Giza in Egypt  or Angkor Wat in Cambodia, has beccome so popular that much of its fundamental charm, especially in terms of the areas surrounding the monuments, has been chipped away by businesses established to make visitors comfortable. Burmon's big-picture point seems reasonable: "The problem, it is worth noting, is not the boomers themselves, who tend to be deeply sensitive to local culture and eager to 'have fun,' an activity that shall remain in square quotes, but represents the right impulse regardless. The problem is that the infrastructure set up to make the boomers comfortable facilitates the arrival of checklist travelers." Burmon goes on to admit that at this stage in time, there probably isn't any going back, arguing that the key to the future is "how to keep boomers traveling without facilitating the destruction of delicate places."

If you want to blame the baby boomers for exploring the world and ruining it for their children and grandchildren, you might as well blame the G.I. Bill and the strong economy it spurred, which led to a level of financial stability previously unknown in the United States. Looking at it through a wider angle lens than Burmon, it's hard to blame the boomers, though it is true that their generation led the way. And with good reason - having the inclination, and means, to explore the world is something that should be applauded, not dismissed. Burmon does have a suggestion for preserving popular destinations: "Stop equating travel and vacation. Traveling is moving through the world with purpose and awareness. Vacationing involves massages, cappuccinos and spas. They both have their place, but there is absolutely no need to do both at the same time."

It's a polemical statement to be sure, but there are differences and while I think you can be a traveler and visit a spa at the same time, it is a notion worth considering. What do you think? 


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