Sharm al Sheikh: A Vacation from Travel Explained through Etymology

Etymology: the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. The term “the etymology (of a word)” means the origin of the particular word.

Ever since my awesome Rhetoric and Persuasion professor (shout out to Dale Smith) introduced me to etymology, I’ve been obsessed with finding the roots of diction I cherish. As someone who loves learning new languages, realizing the correlations of words and syntaxes across lands and cultures is quite fascinating. For example, the word “companion” is composed of  “com” and “pan”, “com” meaning “with” in Latin, and “Pan” from the word “pain” meaning “bread” in French. A companion is a person you break ‘bread’ ‘with’. How beautiful is that to imagine: a person you share your meal with indicates an intimacy of the relationship.

Now let’s gear this in the direction of travel. A lot of us use “travel” and “vacation” as synonyms, but there is a really big difference between the two. Allow me to explain:

“Travel” originates from the French word “travail” which means to struggle or to labor. If you think it’s a hassle now to get through security and be packed like sardines in planes and buses for umpteen hours, think of the harrowing experience of diving meters deep into the endless sea or camping out in a desert for days on end. This is travel.

On the other hand, “vacation” contains the root-word “vac”, which comes from the Latin “vocare”. “Vocare” is “to empty”, and that’s why words like “vacate” and “evacuate” (v.) mean “to make empty”; or “to unoccupy”. This leads us to the word “vacuum” (n.), which is a space entirely devoid of matter or an emptiness.

As a result, on a theory based purely on etymology, I classify vacationers, especially those who have essentially stressful jobs/lives, as people who find ’emptiness’ a necessity. They go on vacation to vacate their minds.

If you’re like me, you want to engage with life in all its hassle. You find that ’emptiness’ to rather be a waste of time (like yoga, sorry not sorry). For this constant curiosity and lack of patience, we travel. And when we’re willing to bear that sorrow, we are compensated with adventure and stories.

For a long time, on my high horse, thought vacationing was “for the privileged few” and therefore “bad” because I could not afford it. The truth is, both have their own place. Whatever floats your boat, right?

After my 10 week internship in a small town near the Libyan border, I decided it was enough. I was so mentally exhausted from the constant language barrier and grammar nazism that I spontaneously splurged on a vacation in a cliche resort in Sharm al-Sheikh for a weekend. 

I wanted to treat myself and do something new – feel adrenaline rush to my head again from the travel that had slowly become a routine. I settled on diving. Diving had been on my bucket list for a very long time and I refused to leave Egypt and its Red Sea, without ticking it off.

After taking the 6-hour bus to Cairo from Marsa Matrouh (the city I worked in), I took another 13-hour bus to Sharm al-Sheikh. A lot of my local friends told me not to go alone as a foreign girl but I’d already set my mind to it.

Even with all my prior globe-hopping, I’d never been to a resort. Traveling, for me, is stressfully doing hours of research and staying out all day exploring the city. Not this time, this was all-inclusive. I didn’t have to plan a thing. I laid by the pool for hours and hours just tanning (since I can’t swim, shhh). I made friends with almost all the staff there because they felt bad for me having to travel alone… little did they know I thrive on doing so. They gave me lots of local advice on places and prices for diving and I had the best time because of it.

I went to cute cafes and clubs, made a ton of foreign friends, and ate three times a day like a queen. When I came back from breakfast, the bed was made and the towels were fresh. I sat on the balcony and got some reading done.

I’ll be honest, I had a negative impression of people who vacationed in an enclosed resort while there was so much going on around them. However, this trip changed some of that. I was so calm on my 9-hour bus ride back to the airport. I felt satisfied because I did something different and relaxed. I’m finally understanding why it’s important to take some time off and spend what you earn on yourself. Sometimes, we really do need the extra pampering. If you’ve read my previous blog about “Behind the Scenes of Glamourous Travel”, you’ll get it.

Changing geolocation is not just travel, its how you test yourself in a new environment that really counts.

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