While you won’t win the country counting competition, here’s why revisiting your favorite cities can result in a deeper, more meaningful experience.
Is it me, or does travel feel like a competition these days? For every “I went on this great trip to Spain,” story, there’s at least one “Yeah, but did you see this?” one-upper in the crowd.
I’m not a fan of one-uppers. And, as you know, I’m not big on the “my travels are better than yours” mentality — because they’re not. This whole “gotta see it all” competitiveness makes travel more checklist than experience.
Competitive country counting also deters people from revisiting their favorite spots which, in my opinion, is a huge miss.
Why you should revisit your favorite places
When I first visited London, I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 16-year-old exploring Europe for the first time. While yes, I was captivated by the cultural changes and new scenes, I had one priority in mind: shopping. Hyde Park was cool, and of course, I loved me some Windsor Castle, but my short attention span beyond incredibly important (read: super trivial) matters like my high school fling distracted me from the adventure opportunities right in front of me.
Ugh. Please never make me be a teenage girl again. (Please!!)
Fortunately, my London story doesn’t end with a shopping trip in SoHo. It led to a three-month grad school stint where I lived in Kensington, worked near Chancery Lane, and spent every waking moment exploring London on foot – from daily runs through the parks to aimlessly wandering along the Thames and, of course, attending (my dream!) the London 2012 Olympics. Those three months were some of the most magical months of my life. And, since I was seven years older than my first teen-bop stop in Londontown, it was an entirely different – and much deeper – experience.
And the story continues.
In 2015, my boyfriend and I visited London together for his first time in the city, and we enjoyed all my favorite spots (Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, Portobello Market, Thames River!), but also revisited some of those more popular tourist spots I hadn’t been to since my first go, including the London Eye and Westminster.
Let me tell you: Visiting Westminster Abbey is significantly different when you’re in your mid-20s. This time around, I was able to play London tourist from a different, less hormonal, and more appreciative perspective, taking in – and absorbing – the history, while giddily introducing the love of my life to one of the “location loves” of my life, London. (Because as travelers, we all know love isn’t just for humans…)
Cool, you’ve been to London a lot. What’s the point?
I’m glad you asked. While yes, I’ve been to London several times, each experience has been different. I’m constantly changing, growing and learning, and seeing London through multiple lenses helps me understand and fully embrace the city much more than, say, a “check the box, I saw the Palace” approach.
We all have our favorite cities, and I can guarantee that the majority of you promise to return, but how many times do you actually make the trip?
To be fair, I totally get it. I have so many places on my list that revisiting an old favorite feels more like a setback than advancement when it comes to achieving travel dreams. But then again, I have to ask myself, is travel really an achievement? Is there a score I earn based on the places I can check off my list?
Dear God, I hope not. And if so, I’m not playing that game.
While, yes, I’ll definitely visit new places nine times out of 10, I reserve that special one out of ten for a return trip to a spot I can’t live without. Like London. Or Iceland. Or Tuscany. Ohhh, Tuscany.
How to revisit old cities in a new, fresh way
If you’re keen to revisit a favorite spot – I approve! – here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your experiences are new and meaningful:
- Explore new areas: Chances are, during your first trip, you only saw half – or less – of a place. Spend this time exploring a new neighborhood. You don’t have to go by the guidebook, just pick a borough, take a subway and explore. Of course, read ahead of time whether or not said neighborhood is safe (I’m not condoning life-or-death travels), but sometimes the best way to learn a city is walking through its lesser-known streets.
- Revisit favorite sights: This may sound contradictory to bullet one, but just because you did something once doesn’t mean you can’t do it again. Make a list of your absolute favorites, and revisit them again! To ensure you’re not just going through the motions, pay close attention to how the sight has changed, how you feel revisiting it (I love a good memory lane trip!), and what things you don’t remember from your first trip.
- Travel with someone new: The only thing I enjoy more than revisiting my favorite cities is introducing someone I love – a parent, friend, or my boyfriend – to said city. This way, I have a reason to go back to all my favorite spots with someone I know will appreciate them as much as I do.
I realize that this may contradict with your great big travel goals – and I get that – but if you portion off a small percentage of travel to re-explore your favorites, I promise, you’ll be in for a true treat. But, if competitive, “gotta hit ’em all” travel is more your style, well, I think we both know this option is not for you. (And let’s be real, I’m sure you didn’t last to the end of this page…)