The Long-Term Traveler on the Short-Term Trip


There was a refusal to book a return ticket.

There was an avoidance of coming back. There was the denial of returning to work in nine days. There was the ignorance of fixed days and planned nights. And most of all, there was the rejection of the word “vacation.”

When using the word travel as a verb, it is not generally associated with things like boundaries and limitations. The word is almost a literary clause which is anything but finite.

But when working abroad, you are often contractually obligated to think in restrictive terms. Borders, confines, limits, and worst of all, vacations. Vacations granted only twice a year. Vacations determined by both the academic calendar and your less-than-forgiving school principal. She doesn’t understand that you really need at least (at least) 30 days to properly explore the Philippines. Why? Because she needs those lesson plans on past participles by next Monday. And she doesn’t give a shit that you’d rather be speaking about the sandy beaches of El Nido in perfect present tense.

If you’re someone who associates the idea of travel with hyphenated concepts like long-term and open-ended, the idea of a shorter trip becomes an incredibly difficult concept to grasp. Shorter trips are vacations. Longer trips are travel. End of discussion.

As much as we may not want to consider the dichotomy of travel and vacation, they still both include itineraries, foresight, and yes, even return tickets. The only differences being that these restraints are often met with responses like “I dunno, mannnn” from the long-term traveler.

I can’t help but question the feasibility of short-term travel.

Can you truly convince yourself that you’re getting that “authentic” account of any country when you’re merely damaging the surface? Is it still possible to experience some of those unexpected moments of a country when each point of opportunity is dictated by a timeline, a rushed order, or a pending departure date?

I had to ignore these questions, and the ultimate whining of the unrestricted long-term traveler inside of me. The long-term traveler who chooses to drag out its “n’s” whenever possible in this forced-hippie sort of way and complains for days because the hostel was booked two hours in advance. Jerk.

Combating your own avoidance strategies when travelling short-term is unbelievable exhausting. But without another option, nine days of planned travel most definitely beats two weeks of reaching into the pit of your stomach to find any sort of residue energy to finally teach that class on irregular verbs.

There are still possible compromises which can be made between the now intolerable long-term traveler and the incredibly realistic short-term tourist. Maybe you’ve even identified these ideas yourself. But we all know that tossing a Times New Roman small black dot next to each of them makes them all the more valid. So here it is:

  • Stay Focused

Depending on pending (har. har.) timelines, choose your destinations wisely. Stick to one or two places which you believe, will give you the best idea of a country. An urban capital coupled with a bucolic destination. A modern city and a traditional village. A party-by-day and a, oh you get the idea.

My Experience: Manila and El Nido. A “shitty shanty town” and a “picturesque paradise.”   Polar opposite landscapes. Polar opposite experiences. Polar-sized fun.

  • Admit your Limitations

You can’t see it all. You won’t see it all. So why bother trying? The island-hopping tours are kind of a time-suck, and combing the entire grounds of Intramuros really isn’t all that appealing. If either of these tourist attractions have an issue with being skipped, bring it up with my boss. She’s pretty lovely to talk to on Mondays.

My Experience: Intent on interest-based travel, I traded the boat cruises for bicycles and the Spanish-influenced architecture for an abandoned warehouse turned art gallery.  Both served chilled San Miguels upon completion.

  • Consider Accessibility

Transportation is greedy with your travel time. So is that bartering you’ve been doing for the last 15 minutes with the produce man unwilling to budge on his quoted price for apricots. Skip both and really ask yourself, “Is it worthy of this time?” The answer is probably “no.”

My Experience:   I traded authenticity for accessibility and paid more for an air-conditioned van to and from El Nido. The free banana muffins offered by the Filipino woman sitting next to me made the exchange incredibly worthwhile.

  • Give yourself “That Day”

Sure, it’s just a day of open-ended travel but it’s still something right? Wake up without a plan. Waste time on mistakes. Accept the general feeling that you have no idea where you are and you aren’t quite sure what will happen next. It’ll pay off. And if not, you can just blame your boss again. That crazy lady will take anything.

My Experience: My last day in El Nido and my first day in Manila. Both were unplanned days which started at the top of El Nido’s highest cliff, and ended with a locals birthday party in Malate. Separately, these will be remembered as some of my favourite days of travel.

Maybe you’ve guessed it by now, but I ended up buying a return ticket. The long-term traveler presented a solid argument, but the short-term tripper governed. This recent trip to the Philippines proved that there is still merit in a short jaunt to whichever country you choose. And the best part?  I didn’t even have to use the word “vacation.”

Author: Sarah Kloke

Sarah is a columnist for Vagabundo Magazine. She brags a lot about meeting a dude in the Philippines with 11 fingers. She keeps a steady routine of travel, write, brush teeth, repeat, and will continue to do so until she runs out of stories. Or countries. Whichever comes first, really. Sarah has been making different parts of Asia her temporary and not-quite permanent home for the past three years. She also writes at http://wheresmytoothbrush.com/

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The Long-Term Traveler on the Short-Term Trip