Exploring the world: comparing different types of travel.
When it comes to travel, the possibilities are endless. With 197 countries and over 10,000 cities in the world, there are a whole host of places to try, and experiences to be had. But as well as the destination, the type of holiday can really affect the experience you have. Most people are accustomed to weekend breaks, or short stay holidays of about a week. These usually consist of staying in the same location, often a city, for a few days (usually over the weekend), and exploring this area and sometimes attractions around it. This tends to be how the majority of people enjoy their holidays, as it gives them a chance to unwind for a weekend in a city they’ve always wanted to experience, or go off the grid for a bit by the sea or in the mountains for a few days. However, if you can find the time, there are also lots of other types of travel, each with their own benefits.
In this blog I will look at the differences between weekend breaks, one-month interrailing adventures and gap year backpacking adventures. These are rough categories, mostly designed to differentiate the time spent away, distance typically travelled and scope of the holiday. I will compare the advantages and considerations of each mode of holiday, as well explore the possibilities that each type offers. This can then help you decide whether you want to try longer holidays to further away places, or if regular escapes to cities and secluded retreats are more your thing.
This fundamental question lies at the heart of any decision being made about the type of holiday you want to embark on. Why have you decided to go, and what do you hope to gain from it? Are you wanting a break from work, or to explore another culture for a few days to get away from it all? Are you wanting to see as much of the world as you can, and explore as many beautiful places as you have time for? Or are you wanting to completely immerse yourself in a different culture, try a different way of life, and come out of it with a new appreciation for the world? These are all valid reasons for travelling, but all have different types of holidays associated with them. Once you’ve decided why it is you want to travel, it’s easier to decide which of these holiday types you want to try.
The quick getaway: a classic weekend break.
Probably the most popular type of holiday with people, the ‘weekend break’ here refers to a shorter style of holiday of anywhere between 1 and 4 nights, typically a weekend. According to the Office for National Statistics, the average time spent on holiday for Brits is only 8 nights, and similarly over 50% of holidays taken by US residents are just day trips and don’t require staying overnights, and even their average longer ‘summer’ holidays are only an average of 3 nights away. Understandably, weekend breaks are popular as they’re easy, and can be enjoyed at any time. Here is a full list of the potential benefits of a weekend break style holiday:
However, the weekend break is not a perfect format. It is especially popular with families and people with busy schedules and/or low budgets, but many experienced travellers have issues with this format a principal way of exploring the world. Here are some potential disadvantages to consider:
Some ideas of popular weekend breaks:
Popular weekend breaks include London, Edinburgh, York, Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Milan, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Berlin and Copenhagen. These are all sizeable cities with lots of attractions from museums to historical sites to natural beauty, yet are all close by to the UK, meaning short flights and easy travel.
The weekend break, or shorter stay holidays, remain very popular, and are great for small getaways amidst busy life. But if you really want to explore the world and immerse yourself in different cultures, longer for holidays might be more fitting for you.
On the road: the interrailing adventure.
This type of holiday can be broadly described as a longer, more immersive break. Typically between 14 days and 3 months, and usually involves moving around a few places, if not a few countries. Interrailing refers to the Interrail Pass: a pass you can purchase that allows you to travel by train anywhere across Europe (notably not just the EU) for a single fare. I will primarily use Interrail as the example for this style of holiday, as it best encapsulates the average time and distance an on-the-road holiday incorporates, however this isn’t exclusive to Europe or the Interrail pass: a road trip across the USA stopping at various attractions for 2 months would also fall into this type of holiday despite not using the interrail pass.
Interrailing can cover as much or as little distance as you want, in the time. Some people choose to have an in-depth exploration of a certain region, for example the Alps, others might want to travel all across Europe, from Amsterdam to Istanbul. As a result, the amount of time you spend in each location can change significantly from person to person. Some only spend the equivalent of a weekend break in each city, but visit lots of cities, others might spend a week to ten days in each city, but only visit four or five. However you choose to do it, you’re certainly going to have a much more immersive experience in Europe than if you just stay a couple of nights. Here are some of the potential benefits of an interrailing adventure:
However, although this style of holiday is one of the most popular with travellers who want to see as much of the world as they can, especially young travellers, it does have certain considerations you should take into account before trying this type of holiday:
Some ideas of interrailing adventures:
- Scandinavian voyage- explore the countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland (and even Iceland if you want to catch a plane) to get immersed in Norse culture and stunning northern scenery.
- Balkan tour- for something warmer, explore the turbulent but gorgeous Balkan region of Europe. Start in the alpine peaks of Slovenia, travel down Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast, explore Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia, before travelling back down into Montenegro and into Albania for some stunning beaches and mountains, and finish in Athens, Greece- the stunning home of western civilization.
- Eastern European tour- explore the diverse and fascinating cultures of eastern Europe in Czechia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
- Thematic tour- choose a theme you’re interested in, and explore different sites around Europe! For example, an art tour in Paris, Milan, Florence, Vienna and Berlin, or perhaps an Ancient Civilizations tour of Greece, Croatia and Italy, stopping at ancient wonders like The Colosseum, Pompeii, the Parthenon and Pula’s Amphitheatre.
- On country in depth exploration. Why not spend the extra time exploring one country in a lot more depth, such as Italy or France Turkey? With these countries being large and diverse with many attractions, there’s enough to explore in here for a couple of months or less without crossing borders if you don’t want to.
Interrailing is a great, and often affordable way, of seeing the world and exploring different cultures in a lot more detail that a short holiday like a weekend break. They offer the opportunity to explore many different cultures in more detail, and explore more of the world in one go with their easy border-crossing itineraries. And although they’re quickly becoming the holiday of choice for graduation holidays and as a means to fill up the summer months, they’re still not the classic long form holiday associated with exploring the world.
The Gap Year: exploring new cultures by living new cultures.
Although the weekend break is a great way to experience culture, and interrailing allows for a broader cultural experience and more time devoted to exploring different cultures, it’s only the classic gap year that allows travellers to full experience different parts of the world. The gap year refers to a year or two spent travelling, usually spending many months in each country, or even the whole year in one country. It’s also worth noting that for this definition travel, and experiencing the world has to be the main goal- although many people on gap years get jobs, and often go to specific countries for specific jobs (such as aid work in Africa, or farming work in Australia) this doesn’t count simply moving abroad for your job to a different country. Although this is a good way to see the world, since your job is the primary reason you’re going to the new country, will take up most of your time and may be indefinite instead of just a year, it doesn’t fit the definition of ‘travelling to explore the world’ as well as travelling to a country and getting a small job while out there. Gap years are all about becoming emersed in another country’s cultures, and here are some of the pros of this style of travel:
Ideas for backpacking gap year journeys:
- South-East Asia. Explore the fascinating and vibrant cultures, stunning landscapes and delicious cuisine of countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam. These stunningly beautiful countries have cultures and ways of life vastly different from ours, so immersion in them will give you a once in a lifetime insight into this part of the world and alternative lifestyle.
- South America expedition. Explore the stunning landscapes and isolated cultures of countries like Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Chilie and Argentina. These countries are often overlooked by travellers, due in part to their distance and often isolated cultures, but backpacking here would prove insightful and allow you to see sights and experience customs seen by very few.
- Australia- work and travel. A popular gap year destination, Australia gives you a solid base from which to work, as well as a continent-sized country to explore. Although the language is the same as our, the culture and wildlife is unique and vibrant, and spending a gap year here could allow you to see Australia’s indigenous community, who’s traditional ways of life are being preserved and who’s culture and folk tales and making a re-emergence.
The road less travelled, or more?
Ultimately, how you travel is up to you. Everyone has different reasons for travelling, and everyone wants to get different things out of their trip. From seeing beautiful sights, experiencing new cultures and perhaps even finding yourself, every one of the millions of people currently at airports or train stations or waiting for a Greyhounds have their own unique reasons for travelling, and their own destinations in mind. For some, travelling is about seeing the world; for others it’s about feeling it and being part of. Travel should be something to look forward to and something to enjoy and savour, however long it lasts for. So regardless of whether you’re looking for something quick and exciting to give you a well-earned rest, or you want to explore the world one train ticket at the time, there’s a mode of holiday for you. Although this blog has compared them, there is no answer for which is the best- they’re all about seeing different places, embracing different cultures and stepping out of your comfort zone, however long you decide to stay for. Some destinations and forms of holiday are tried and tested, others waiting for you to pack your things and go exploring- all you need to decide is where to start.
Written by Jeremy Hodgson