Do You Re-Visit Destinations?

When I was a kid, there was pretty much one place we went to every year for vacation:


Between visiting my mom’s family in St. Augustine and charging down I-95 towards Disney World nearly every summer, I felt like Florida was my second home.

Going back to a familiar place was comforting. I knew I’d eat at the Cheese Wheel, climb up the St. Augustine lighthouse, and wait in an obscenely long line to ride Splash Mountain. The predictability was part of what I looked forward to.

Mickey Mouse Disney World Orlando
The best part is how Mickey’s always glad to see me, no matter what.

Now, of course, I’m not so easily pleased. If I was, I’d probably still be waiting in line to get in that log, jostling against people wearing Mickey ears and spraying bits of their giant turkey legs all over the place.

Since I started traveling, it’s been more about seeing the new than seeing the familiar. Why would I spend my travel budget on a place I’d already been to instead of a place I’d never seen? That just seems silly.

Last weekend, Jared and I went to Jeongdongjin for the second time. As I was snapping a photograph of the Sun Cruiser Resort, I realized – I do still re-visit destinations.

And you know what? It’s never the same. Sometimes the place has changed, but usually it’s me.


Lions in Trafalgar Square, London
In the initial throes of the love affair, no one was safe from my affections.

I went to London for the first time in 1998. I returned in 2003 and worked for six months, then came back again in 2007 to do a master’s.

During that second trip, I really fell in love with London. For years, I was turbulently in love with the city, insisting that I wanted to live there for the rest of my days. When I came back to study, I understood the truth.

I wasn’t in love with London. I was in love with the feeling of personal change I underwent while I was in London. It was the first time I’d lived in a big city, a city with multiple forms of public transport, historical significance, and modern appeal. I discovered the joy of living an uncharted life, with Europe at my doorstep.

Things were a little bit off when I returned. First of all, I didn’t live there anymore. I was a tourist again, and had to find accommodation in London, where I once had my own address. Occasionally, I wandered around my old stomping ground of Notting Hill, stealing bitter glances at my former flat and wondering who lived there now.

Second, I had to start from scratch, blending my old memories with my new experiences. I was there to study, not to swan about town, giggling with my equally-besotted girlfriends.

I still have a soft spot for London, and I always will. It’s just not as explosive as it was that first time. Somewhere along the way, I squeezed some of the magic out of it.


I loved living in Galway, and I was so looking forward to returning 6 years later, when Jared and I took a road trip around the UK and Ireland.

But…it was a crushing disappointment. The traffic was terrible, the cobbled streets I loved were jammed with tourists, and everything was insanely expensive. Jared and I were cranky and couldn’t decide on where to go for dinner or how to avoid the crowds.

Galway, Ireland
Something is just not right here…oh wait, it’s me. Galway, 2009

I was trying desperately to stuff my 2003 experience into my 2009 one, but it just didn’t fit.

That said, Galway, it truly, truly wasn’t you: it was me. I was in the wrong frame of mind and had unreasonable expectations. You can’t recreate the past, nor should that be your aim.


And then I went back to Australia.

If I learned to be an independent explorer in London, I learned to be a backpacker in Australia. That first time, I worked odd jobs, laid out in the sun, and drank beer until my head swam. It was like one long spring break, but slightly less frenzied.

Big Merino Australia
Well hey! Didn’t see that the first time around.

The second time? I was a grown up. I had bills to pay and I was living with my boyfriend’s family in Newcastle. Sun cancer was finally on my radar, so those long hours of baking myself brown crimson had to be otherwise occupied. This time, I definitely wasn’t a backpacker.

But – I still loved it. Loved it enough to keep on coming back (ok, maybe having an Aussie fiancé plays a role in this, too).

Short Trips

On the flip side, I have found that when you’re taking a traditional ‘vacation,’ a place does tend to stay the same.

Take St. Augustine, for example. I’m really excited to go back there and walk along St. George’s street, get a loaf of Spanish bread from the bakery, take pictures of the Bridge of Lions, and maybe swing by the outlet mall. In the oldest city in America, I’m not interested in discovering what’s changed.

I’ve always been a tourist there, and I expect that will always be the case.

The same went for Jeongdongjin this weekend. I looked through my photos only to find that they were eerily similar to the ones I took last year.

Jeongdongjin, Korea
Jeongdongjin, 2011.


Jeongdongjin, Korea
Jeongdongjin, 2012

But that’s okay with me, because that’s why I went. My itinerary didn’t change, and my expectations were simple.

Changing your status from expat to tourist throws a place all off kilter, but re-visiting as a tourist when you’ve only been a tourist keeps it frozen in time.

At least it does for me – what do you think?

What has your experience been? Is it true what they say – that you can never go back? Or am I just spouting off total nonsense?


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  1. If I’ve been somewhere really amazing I always tell myself I’ll go back – especially if I haven’t had time to do everything. In Tanzania, I didn’t have a chance to climb Kili and I would always be up for going on safari again. But, other options keep popping up. Now I think I’d do Everest Base Camp over Kili just because I’d get a whole new experience in Nepal. There’s certainly nothing wrong with returning to a place you love though – and I definitely disagree with going somewhere different for the sole purpose of ‘ticking off another country’.

    1. That’s a good point – if you don’t feel like you’ve exhausted everything you wanted to do in a place, then you have a more compelling reason to return. And going for the new experience always seems to edge out re-visiting a place. I’m right with you on ticking off the boxes. When I first went to Europe, I felt like I had to do certain things: see the leaning tower of Pisa, the Sistine Chapel, hit every country possible – but thankfully, that doesn’t matter to me anymore. It’s more about traveling slowly and seeing what sparks your interest.

    1. It still makes me sad that London will never be as magical as it was during that trip…I still love Edinburgh, though. Do you think you’ll ever go back?

  2. I find when I’m going on a shorter, more vacation-y type of trip I like returning to places. It’s easy and often I don’t have very high expectations. Like a weekend in Busan or a week in Florida at my friend’s condo. I could go there 3 times a year and have a great time every time.

    But when I go back to the places that really mattered, I have a harder time. When I returned to Rome after studying abroad it was heartbreaking. Everything was the same, but the experience was so different. I felt betrayed by my city. Eventually I came to love it again, in a different way. But returning is definitely more difficult when you’ve had a deeper “relationship” with a city or country.

    Great post! Also, I may have to pick your brain about this Travel Writing course soon!

    1. Yes! That’s just how I feel. Like London betrayed me by not giving me the same experience twice. That’s the key – when a place really mattered and you underwent significant change there. Then it’ll never be quite the same.
      Feel free to ask any questions about the course! I found it really useful, despite not yet really having a go at a freelance writing career! The best part was that it forced me to focus on writing every single day, not like now, where I mainly write when I feel ‘inspired’ (and you can guess how often that happens).

  3. I agree that going back to places on short trips can be great. You know what it’s going to be like and you don’t really have any deeper expectations. So far, I haven’t returned to any places that were really important to me, but I know it’ll be different. I went back to Costa Rica five years after my first trip, but it was a totally different style of trip and I mostly went to different places. I liked it even more the second time! Probably because I got to visit my Peace Corps friend in a very tiny village.

    1. That would make a big difference, visiting different places. It also changes the experience depending on who you’re with – I always want to take my friends & family to the places that were important to me, but I know that it wouldn’t necessarily work out for the best. I’ve heard so much about Costa Rica! Hoping to make it there sometime in the future.

  4. I revisited South Korea 4 or 5 times over a period of two years. Everytime I left to go somewhere nice I seemed to end up back in Korea about 3 weeks later!

    1. I agree. The places & activities that seemed so wonderful the first time around might not appeal because you’ve changed so much as a person.

  5. Hey Lauren,

    Really enjoyed this post, I’ve been thinking for a while about why I do continue to re-visit certain places and why I really enjoy it. It kinda surprises me as I thought I’d be more of a ‘see as much as possible’ traveller.

    Anyway, there’s too much to say in one comment so you’ve inspired me to blog about my own angle on why I go back to one place in particular. If you want to check it out you can find it here:


    1. Thank you! After reading your post and thinking about it more, I’m really craving visiting St. Augustine, Florida, my ‘second home’ from childhood. It’s nice to have a balance between totally foreign and familiar. When I go back to the US, I always want to re-visit all of the spots that mean ‘home’ to me – certain restaurants & cities, usually. It sort of feels like I’m chasing the past, but it still satisfies something in me.

  6. I totally agree with your article and the feeling of returning to a place.

    I have now done two trips with my husband where I have gone back to places that I travelled as a solo backpacker. In each case the trip felt different, even though some of the places were the same. It was definitely a case of how I had changed rather than the place.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anne! Yes, I’ve noticed that things are especially different when you return to a place with someone else. I’m always so excited to show my fiance places I’ve loved, but it never goes the way I expect.

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