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The Difference Between Normal Life Travel And Tourism

Explaining the family travel strategy.

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It was time to call a family meeting. 

“We are here on Kinmen so that I can do my work,” I began. “Oftentimes, the places that I go for work are not fun, they are not comfortable, the food is not any good, and there is nothing to do. I have a job because I am willing to spend a lot of time in places like this. We are not here for fun, we are here to learn about this place, to work, to live a normal life. We are not on vacation. When we go on vacation, we go to places like Puerto Rico, Cyprus, and Hong Kong Disney. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun too …”

My family has three different modes of operation: 

  1. I travel on my own and everybody else stays put somewhere. 
  2. We all travel together but set up “normal lives” in the places we go to. I do my work, the kids do their school, my wife runs the house or works too. 
  3. We turn tourist and go on vacation. 

But I believe my family already understood everything I had to say. These were the same people who didn’t wimper a peep when I announced that we would be eating dinner at Seven Eleven because all of the other restaurants in Jincheng (the biggest city on Kinmen) were either closed or were ridiculously expensive. 

But we had unexpectedly entered a slightly difficult stretch of travel, and I wanted to same-page everyone about the fact that we were going to have to eat bitter for a little while — that the road ahead may not be as fun as some of the roads behind. 

The village on Kinmen that we were staying in was invested with rats. This wasn’t just a problem with the house that we were renting — there was rat shit piled up all over the streets and on the playground. 

The difference was that the house we were renting was a traditional home that had not yet been restorated, and therefore had wide openings below all of the doors and other crevasses that the rats could stream through at will. The restorated homes are more secured from the outside world.  

Perhaps this was only a seasonal occurrence? Maybe in a month or so the rat population would simmer down to something a little more manageable? I’m not sure– and my wife was not willing to wait around to find out. 

That left us searching for a place to stay. No problem, except for the fact that temporary accommodation on Kinmen is ridiculously expensive. It’s roughly on par with Taipei and way more costly than in Xiamen, the  island’s way more economically vibrant neighbor in the PRC. 

There’s a bit of a tourist trap mentality here … or maybe the prices are just set to what rich Chinese from the mainland are willing to dish out when in vacation (more than likely). 

We found a guesthouse in the northwest of the island that took us in for around $50 per night. Relatively speaking, it’s a very good price, and I can’t complain. My seven year old daughter is awed by the young woman running the place and she follows her around asking all kinds of questions … 

But the design of “normal life” family travel is to find an apartment in a location that I am writing about to drop the cost down significantly. I then travel out and do my work, and everybody just kind of lives like they’ve always lived wherever we are. 

Without this setup, continuous family travel borders on fiscally unsustainable just about anywhere in the world. 


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Filed under: Accommodation, Kinmen, Taiwan, Travel Diary, Travel With Family, Uncategorized

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3715 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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