There is at least three modes of travel, and most trips contain a blend of all three. You can graph the three extremes as three corners of a Travel Triangle: Relaxation, Destination, and Experience. The ideal trip would have an equal balance of all three, but most trips favor one side over the others. In my own personal travel I favor experience and destination and have almost no interest in relaxation. Your mileage may vary.
The three extremes represent a set of overlapping qualities.
Experience includes learning, change, difference, passions, uncertainties. A trip in this corner emphasizes encountering strange things, having your mind changed, going beyond your comfort, meeting as much otherness as you can.
Destination includes traveling with goals and achievements in mind — completing a long thru-hike, or journey to a mountain peak, or all the state capitals, or completing a race, to be the first, or your personal best.
Relaxation is just that: rest, comfort, renewal, a sabbatical, a retreat from the worries and business of everyday life. It may include luxury but might be primitive or primeval.
Because I am deeply attracted to experience and learning, I find myself heading toward the exotic in my travels. Whenever I have a chance, I want to go to the most different place I can get to the fastest. And I rarely want to return to where I’ve been. In the relaxing mode of travel, returning to the same place is a large part of what makes it relaxing, even deeply comforting. The “family place” is of this type of renewal. In general this kind of restful vacation does not re-charge my batteries. I need to be squeezed by new things, rubbed hard with differences, and moved by something I did not expect. So in my travel I try to optimize “otherness.” I am not looking for discomfort per se, or just roughing it, an outright death-defying adventure. That’s a bit more destination and goal oriented than my fancy. In fact, learning does not have to be done out in the rain. You can journey to otherness without making it an endurance race. That’s a balance I look for: trips that maximize experiences without requiring a focus on just the experiences of moving, racing, overcoming, winning, and achievement.
Accessible exotic is possible. I have my favorite places where I can fly into an international airport and then within a few hours swim in a total different culture offering alien lessons. A lot of these spots are in Asia, but also in other corners in the world. The picture below was taken in a place that is no longer so accessible. But when I took this picture of goat ball game (buzkashi) in Afghanistan, I was not flying in a helicopter. Rather I had taken a $2 public bus ride to a town in the north and followed the crowds to the edge of town and was sitting on a hillside with hundreds of others watching the Friday games. It was easy and exotic. The easy exotic is not hard to find, and so immensely rewarding when touched. Easy exotic is a place you should be able to reach within 24 hours or less from your front door. And it should reveal to you at least 5 things within the first day, or next 24 hours, that cause you to smile in amazement, and wonder at the nature of humans.
Where would you go?