For much of my adult travelling life, I’ve been keen to seek out new destinations, craving the buzz which comes from taming the unfamiliar and discovering what makes a place tick. As the country count has increased, some have commented that I’m only interested in the number, but that’s really not the case. In fact, over the past two years I’ve cut back on visiting the new to revisit old haunts. Nostalgia is harder to fight the older you get.
After a fourteen year gap, exploring the incredible landscapes around San Pedro de Atacama in Chile helped to reinforce just how spectacular that country is – and this time I came armed with a better camera:
As well as Chile, I returned to Salzburg in Austria, a city which I last visited as a child. Participating in the Fraulein Maria Cycling Tour enabled me to create new memories – although I think my dream of belting out Lonely Goatherd at the top of my voice was probably someone else’s nightmare. Perhaps that’s the key – to try something new in a familiar environment and add another page to your personal guide book for that place.
There’s more here:
There’s a risk, though, and that’s the place will have changed from the rose-tinted picture that takes pride of place in your holiday album. Accept the reality: it moved on, and it moved on without you. I remember heading back to Lake Titicaca after an eleven year gap to find the Uros Islands that had held such rustic charm now sported satellite dishes and solar panels. The quality of life for the islanders had measurably improved and I had to adjust my perception accordingly. Why should people forgo education and health care just so we can get our daily dose of quaint?
However, on balance, returning has been a largely satisfactory experience. Seville, New York, Saigon and Cusco are amongst the cities which have garnered renewed attention from me over the past couple of years, and none of them disappointed. In a few weeks, I’ll head to Budapest for a second visit. It will be a day trip (joining Belfast, Lisbon, Amsterdam and Bremen on this blog once I return) but I’m already excited at the thought of luxuriating in one of the city’s hot springs and having a post-dip coffee and cake at Gerbeaud’s Cafe. If you’ve been, send me your tips for how I should spend my day.
My next big solo trip will be back to South America; I plan to return to Uruguay, Argentina and Bolivia but many of the destinations I’ll stop at en route from Montevideo to La Paz will be new to me. And I’ve still got a few new countries on my wish list – Ethiopia, Cape Verde and Moldova spring to mind – but for now, they’ll just have to get in line.
What’s your take? Do you love to return to the familiar or prefer seek out new places?