There’s an undeniable, heart-thumping magic to travel firsts. The first time slurping a mouthful of steamy, fragrant pho in Vietnam; the first time navigating Tokyo’s labyrinthine subway on your own. But if you want to really give a place the opportunity to work its spell on you, the second time around is where the sweet spot lies.
It can be easy, particularly today in our world gone mad with speed, to get caught up in the idea of having “done” a place. You’ve “done” Seoul; you had that 20-hour layover there nine years ago, so why waste precious time and money returning when the rest of the world beckons with deliciously new and unfamiliar fingers? Because that’s precisely when travel becomes richer, deeper, and more fulfilling.
On journey No. 2, you’ve got a far clearer idea of what you want to see and do, having already done your first-hand research. You can confidently return to your favourite haunts, ignore those that disappointed and, having most likely ticked off the overcrowded tourist sites on your initial visit, stray off the beaten path and begin to develop a real relationship with place. After spending more than six months in India five years ago, I returned a couple of years later to visit the friends I’d made during that first stint, to eat at my favourite pani purijoint, to discover the ways in which the city had changed – for good and for ill – and relish all the ways it hadn’t.
A second visit to a destination is also an excellent opportunity for a do-over. Time really does heal all wounds, and just because you hated a place the first time around certainly doesn’t mean you will the second. This year, for example, I gave Barcelona a second chance. I detested the place when I first visited in 2006 due to a mixture of terrible accommodation choices, drinking my body weight in sangria, and falling prey to wandering hands and petty theft at a nightclub. This time however, with a slightly more mature lens on life, I was able to appreciate the city’s astounding architecture, world-class dining scene and unparalleled energy, and fell completely in love. I was able to not only right the wrongs of my travels past, but also to understand all the ways in which I had grown since that ill-fated journey.
We evolve alongside the places we return to. They are living, breathing entities just like us, that move through different phases and versions of themselves over time. So while first trips might contain all the heady intoxication of a fling, second journeys are more akin to true love, going deeper, perhaps even weathering some storms, and ultimately gaining the most potent rewards.
THIS WAS PART OF A LARGER ARTICLE. IT FIRST APPEARED IN PRINT AND ONLINE HERE