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The 3 differences between traveling and having a holiday…

March 14, 2018 10 Comments

You’re reading the title and wondering, “There is a difference between the two? What is she on about now?” But let me explain… Last month I didn’t do a lot of blogging and this was because of two main reasons:

  • School was crazy and I was mentally exhausted
  • I was fortunate enough to go on two holidays

Although I have been on many holidays throughout my life (starting with stays along the South African coast during school holidays with my parents- I don’t know how this was relaxing for my parents who had to pack for 4 children including one set of triplets then pile us in a Chrysler Voyager and listen to us bickering for hours on end), the difference between traveling and going on holiday only dawned on me last month (a late bloomer as usual).


So in early February I went on a road trip to Oman and in late February I kept it local by heading across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to Al Ain- The Garden City. If you’ve stumbled across this post looking for two weekend getaway destinations then I will definitely provide you with all of the details you need to know! But the main question being asked here is: What makes one trip a holiday and one trip a “travel experience”?

Here are the main 3 differences between going on holiday and traveling from this intrepid- but sometimes- tired panda:

  1. You don’t feel tired after a holiday

The main reason I discovered the difference between traveling and going on a holiday was because I returned from Oman feeling relaxed! I couldn’t remember the last time I returned from a trip and didn’t feel like I needed to hibernate for three days! Instead I was refreshed and ready to go to work the next day (well kinda- teachers know the struggle). I thought back to a month long trip I took to India in 2012. Even though I was gone for an entire month, I still returned exhausted because each day was spent trying do as much as possible, travel the vast distances between cities, making my money last for the duration of my trip and doing the things necessary to ensure that happened- bargaining like crazy/ walking as much as possible etc. But when I returned from Oman- despite a 5 hour drive- I felt like I was floating on clouds. It was an amazing feeling. Who can fail to relax when these are your views in Oman?!



2. Where you stay can determine the type of trip you have

I remember being in my early twenties, sharing a hostel room in Singapore with seven other girls… there was NOTHING relaxing about that trust me. But when you travel, you only need a clean & safe place to sleep, leave your stuff and shower. If it’s close to public transportation that can take you where you want to go, then that’s a definite bonus! And off you go, exploring, trekking and immersing yourself in the trip in ways that leave you feeling tired but fulfilled. But recently, with the need for relaxation comes a need to spoil myself. I feel that I am working hard and thus, want to reward myself and supplement my holiday with a luxurious resort. And so I do. I was fortunate enough to stay at the highest resort in the Middle East when I went to Oman- Anantara Jabal Al Akhdar– and for the first time in my life I understood why some people insist on staying in 5 star places… its a different world! From the feel of the sheets to the view from my room, I thought I had died and become a celebrity.



Telal Resort in Al Ain was unexpectedly swanky too. The bathroom was the size of my bedroom in my apartment and again- the VIEWS!



The truth is pretty simple- if you spend a lot of money on your accommodation, you will want to spend as much time there as possible. Truthfully, the more you spend the more facilities your resort should have anyway. Like the archery and horse/camel riding on offer at Telal Resort:




AND who wouldn’t want to lounge around these gorgeous pools all day (and night)?


3. Your days aren’t crammed with sightseeing/activities

When I’m traveling, I am SO busy all the time- I’m navigating public transportation systems, admiring local architecture, getting lost in markets, climbing mountains, walking for kilometres to get a great photo and interacting with the locals. When I’m on holiday, my priority is one of the following: beach/hammock/pool/a good book.

A morning treat at Anantara Jabal Al Akhdar
Expat Lion enjoying some relaxation

When I was younger, I was all about trekking across South East Asia with little more than my barely filled backpack and my camera… Rest? I’ll rest when I’m dead! Nowadays I see the value in taking time to myself and appreciate new scenery without killing myself to see and do everything!

I view a holiday as an escape- a trip I take that serves as my refuge away from work and the stresses of daily life. Travel, however, is when you are not running away from work but running towards new challenges. Honestly, travel is hard work! You choose to go places not because they are familiar and easy, but because they are foreign and exciting. You don’t need anyone to bring you fruity drinks, because half of the fun is figuring out how you will fend for yourself in this new environment. It’s the ultimate test to your independence, and the rewards are exhilarating.

Taking it all in | India, 2013
Blending in | Czech Republic, 2017


People think travel experiences are inauthentic if you aren’t roughing it in the wilderness in clothes you haven’t changed out of in 2 days (never happened to me, just saying), and yes I understand that a trip that involves pool attendants and a concierge is not a cultural experience, per se. However, as I grow older I realise that I am starting to enjoy a balance of the 2. Although some backpacker snobs might look down on the all-inclusive sun lounger by the pool crowd, there is nothing wrong with going on a holiday. Life can be stressful, and it is very healthy to take a break every once and a while and treat yourself to something enjoyable. Being pampered at an all inclusive resort might not be the most meaningful cultural exchange, but these enjoyment seekers are doing no harm.

Get stamps on your passport and create your own life-changing experiences that will lead you to find happiness.


There is no bad time of day, for a view such as this. The mountains rose up before me in the west, haloed in the aureate light of the setting sun. Oranges and yellows filled the air, the clouds framed with silver and gold from the sun and mountains who touched the sky together for these short moments. 

When barely more than a thin sliver of the sun could be seen, the mountains began to glitter like diamonds, throwing entire spectrums of colour across the land and into the air. I was happy; I was content.

Driving to Oman from Abu Dhabi:

– Depending on your destination in Oman, your journey will take roughly 5-6 hours including time spent at border control.

-You need your passport with UAE residency visa inside (obviously), 5 Omani riyals (50 dirhams) and a pen to fill out the arrival card. You can pay in riyals, dirhams or with your card.

-Make sure your car insurance covers Oman (call your insurance company directly). You will need to produce an ‘orange card’ showing that you have insurance coverage in Oman when you drive through the border.

– If you’re staying at any hotel on Jabal Al Akhdar, you will need to park your car at the base of the mountain and take a 4×4 to get to the hotel (unless your car has 4 wheel drive). This can be pre-arranged through your hotel OR just grab any of the awaiting SUV taxis at the base of the mountain.


Driving to Al Ain from Abu Dhabi City

-Depending on your final destination in Al Ain, your journey should take you 1.5- 2 hours.

-Telal Resort is in the middle of the desert (close to NOTHING) so be prepared to eat at the hotel restaurant.

-Park your car at the first security checkpoint and let the hotel fetch you in one of their 4×4 vehicles to take you to reception (its a steep climb to reception).

-Look for a Groupon deal that includes accommodation, breakfast as well as a choice of activities.




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  • higgledypiggledymom March 15, 2018 at 2:17 am

    I think you’ve cracked the difference exactly. Well done. Thanks for the gorgeous photos.

  • Blonde On The Move March 15, 2018 at 11:32 am

    What is this “relaxation” thing you speak of!?

  • cynojack March 15, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    I completely agree about the difference between the two. I love travelling, but I’m more of a holiday person almost everywhere I go. I love a stress-free, relaxed holiday in different places. I’m the kind of traveller that wants to blend in with the locals, rather than jump around like a tourist everyday of my vacation.
    PS. Gorgeous pictures!!

  • Britta March 16, 2018 at 3:15 am

    This was something I became all too aware of after I lived abroad. I admit, I have stuck my nose up in the past at Facebook friends who’ve posted pictures of themselves on vacation where all they seem to be doing is sunning themsleves at resort in Mexico (a common holiday destination for Americans). “I’ve lived in Thailand…I know what it is to be a backpacker. Your vacations are BORING.” That kind of outlook. You’re absolutely right, though…traveling is exhausting and sometimes it is nice to get away and do nothing. I’ve discovered that I don’t want to be a long term traveler. I like having a home base and a daily routine…I still LOVE to travel though, and when I do I need to have a healthy balance of exploring/adventure and downtime along the way.

  • Danielle March 16, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    Spot on! I was just last weekend explaining why sometimes I love a beach-y resort and my friends were saying that was a lame way to spend a week. I love getting out there and seeing as much as I can but yes, there is absolutely something to be said for a pretty hotel and staying put for a few days!

  • Jenifer April 17, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    This is like a light bulb! We travel by RV (a truck camper) and I love it but it isn’t relaxing. It’s your home on wheels so you still have all the chores – cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, etc. It’s allowed us to spend a lot more time traveling but I think I might be up for trying a holiday. But, don’t you feel guilty if you’re in a new beautiful area and you don’t go exploring?

    • Expat Panda April 17, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      I don’t feel guilty because I prepare myself for rest and relaxation before the trip. Or I just do ONE thing and relax for the rest of the trip so I can say I did something. Traveling by RV sounds very exciting but a lot of hard work!

  • Jen at The Places We Live May 15, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Beautiful photos! I get flack for it a lot but, as a full-time traveler, I totally agree that there is a difference AND that going on holiday once in a while is a necessity. I love how I feel after the stress of a challenging day and proud after eating something that was different, but not very good. But that isn’t the same as feeling relaxed and refreshed. That is what I need sometimes. And that comes from a cocktail by the pool. haha

    • Expat Panda May 15, 2018 at 4:26 pm

      The two feelings are indeed completely different and for most travellers, both are highly necessary (at least once in a while!) 🙂

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