Defining the Word “Vacation”

The wave of laughter rushed through the throat before ringing hysterically from the vocal chords of my good friends as I told them about my plans to head to Phoenix for a bit of a “vacation”.

“Don’t you need to work to be granted a holiday?” one asked as he wiped the tears cascading from his eyes and down his cheeks.

The truth is, I’m fairly sure that I spend more hours a day “working” than any one of my friends in the group.  It’s just that my “work” is travel, and I am my own employer.  However, when you travel the world for a living, people often mistake the work you do as a vacation. As I am finding out here in Phoenix, Arizona, where I’m holding up in my parent’s new house, there is a massive difference between what I do for a living and a vacation.

Golf is a part of any one of my “vacations”

While I’m working my week consists of 3 days worth of finding new material for my website, magazine, or to pitch as an article for some other site or magazine.  That work involves waking up early, taking photos, searching for tourist activities, exploring cities, etc.  The other 4 days a week are spent online building a following, publishing articles, pitching magazines, editing photos, and avoiding my email inbox like it has a strange disease.  I can’t tell you how many hours a week I work because, essentially, I can find myself “working” nearly anytime of day.

While on “vacation” my days have consisted of me doing exactly what I want to be doing without a guilty conscious at all.  I sleep in as late as I’d like, don’t drag my camera with me if I don’t feel like, drink whiskey at noon, play golf without thinking about writing an article about it, and sprawl out in the hot tub without thinking about tweeting about it.

A vacation isn’t where you are or what you are doing, it is what’s on your mind as you do it.

Sure, I love my job.  But that in no way doesn’t mean that it’s not work.  There are days I do not want to wake up at 4am and shoot pictures.  There are days I don’t want to spend my Friday night sleeping in a 16 hour-long overnight bus.  There are days I don’t want to leave my room and push my way through a strange city.  By no means is what I do for a living a vacation.  Regardless of the fact that I am living the dream and love nearly every minute of it doesn’t in any way mean that it’s not work.

Backyard in Phoenix, Arizona

The backyard of my parent’s house in Arizona… land of Canadian “Snow Birds”

As I walk back to my golf cart to meet my glass of Blue Moon after taking likely one of the ugliest hacks this local Phoenix golf course has ever seen I remember what it feels like to disconnect.  I remember what it feels like to be on vacation.  I don’t have a care in the world, I don’t have work on the back of my mind.  I am not thinking about posting an article or photo, or doing some editing.  My mind is clear.

In the end, however, it’s not the definition of vacation or another grand revelation for everyone else that I have realized through this process.  But the definition of vacation for myself.  I have realized that I need to disconnect more often myself.  Because I love what I do, and because I feel like it’s a privilege I shouldn’t squander, I often become a drone to my work.

Through this all, I have realized that every now and then a travel writer just needs to take a “vacation”.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. You have my dream job! So glad you get to have some reall “r & r”, too.
    I really enjoy your website.

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    • Thanks Julie!

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  2. “A vacation isn’t where you are or what you are doing, it is what’s on your mind as you do it.”

    such a perfect quote!

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  3. I really enjoy this website, love the pictures, love the articles. great job =)

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    • Thanks Valencia

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  4. Great post, Brendan. You read my mind – desperately need a holiday. Got a taste of one over the Christmas-New Year period for a few days and it was heavenly. Spent one whole day reading a book. Need another two weeks of that. I often calculate how many hours my husband and I work – me researching/pitching publications/writing and he shooting/processing pics/maintaining our sites and it’s roughly 15 hours a day 7 days a week when we’re travelling and when we’re in write-up mode it’s around 17 hours 7 days a week. Only time we take off is Xmas-NY but we absolutely live our work.

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    • @Lara – I think that people don’t realize how long we work every day. However, we are really lucky to love when what we do. I’ll be honest in saying that my first couple days down here on “vacation” I was always worrying about what was going on online. Then I was like “everyone else gets a vacation… I should lay off as well.” It was great!

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  5. We couldn’t agree more. It’s important that you take time to re-charge your batteries and clear your mind. Sometimes a bit of “mindlessness” can do wonders.

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    • @Culturist – It’s nice to let the mind free and have a couple glasses of scotch without thinking about work!

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  6. Brendan, these are sweet pic! Wish I had your


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  7. I loved your quote: “A vacation isn’t where you are or what you are doing, it is what’s on your mind as you do it.” It all lies in our mind right? Once we have control over our thoughts and what kinds of thoughts we have…we can be on a vacation everywhere! 🙂

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