Falling in love vs Being in Love: What You Gain from Traveling to the Same Place More than Once
There are an almost unlimited number of amazing places to see and explore. Your list of spots to go grows daily. But unfortunately your travel resources don’t. You have limited time, money and energy for traveling. So why bother traveling to the same place more than once?
The first time you meet a new destination your heart beats a little faster. You struggle to contain your excitement as you take that first stroll around a new town. You smile uncontrollably as you enter your first exotic restaurant and laugh over nothing as you fall asleep at the end of your first day there. You fall in love with your new locale.
Loving a place is not completely different from loving a person. After the initial butterflies and Crush Rush symptoms subside you’re left with a less romanticized and even flawed reality. While this toned down reality might not sizzle and flash they same way it did when you two first met, you learn to love it for different, more substantial reasons. You begin to appreciate small details you overlooked at first that make the place special; the little bakery in town with the best rolls you’ve ever had, the way the river looks at mid-afternoon, the annual parade that begs everyone to get involved. You come to better understand its rhythms and ways of thinking. What seemed so excitingly foreign at first introduction becomes understandable, even relatable after visiting the same place more than once. You begin to find ways to participate with the place in question, rather than just cheering along as a spectator. You develop friendships with people who are really, actually from there. You are eventually able to make educated recommendations on where to stay and what to see when people from home travel there. You learn your way around and no longer worry about following a map.
By visiting the same place more than once you move from falling in love to being in love with it. It’s like re-reading your favorite book. Each time you sift through the chapters you notice new levels to the characters. You empathize with the protagonist (or even antagonist) more sincerely. While the surprise of the twist ending is gone, you appreciate subtleties in the foreshadowing that you completely overlooked the first read through. You build on your first impression to develop a more complete understanding of what it’s all about.
On my first trip to London I was awestruck by Big Ben, double-decker buses and Mind the Gap; all the wonderfully London things that the movies warned me about. I spent my whole ten days there in an English-induced state of hyper. I drank my tea a little too quickly and bumped into people by yielding to the wrong side of the sidewalk. On my second trip there I was more relaxed. The pressure was gone to see all the landmarks and I was free to spend time making friends with the hotel staff (who even invited me to their Christmas lunch and were hugely helpful when I eventually moved there) and to spend a few hours just people watching.
Each time since that I’ve been back to visit my pal, London, I learn a bit more about her. I learn how her people adore her occasional sunny days – and which parks will be packed the moment it shines. I figure out that Canary Wharf is not Dicken’s East End and that Camden has changed since the days of Bob Cratchit. I find that Londoners have their complaints, just like anywhere else in the world, and that the city is more similar to home than I first thought. I laugh more easily at the British sense of humor and can once in a while even make them laugh. I learn that I will never fully get to know London, but I will continue to love trying.
Visiting a place more than once means you are lucky enough to transition from the crazy sparkle of falling in love to the calmer happiness of being in love. You learn to understand a place for what it is, not the elaborate show it first puts on. Visiting a place more than once lets you become friends with a spot you once could only describe as foreign.
What’s a place you keep going back to?