CHARLOTTE, NC — For people with a passion for international travel, one nagging dilemma remains that ever-present internal debate. Should we go someplace new? Or should we revisit a treasured destination filled with fond memories? Both options have merit. There are no right or wrong answers. But in the end, some combination of each traveler’s psyche and individual lifestyle usually determines the best personal choice.
The classic national or international travel dilemma: Something old or something new?
Years ago, I had a conversation on US and international travel with one of my fellow traveling companions, a veteran writer. She mentioned that her travel philosophy embodied once principal rule. She “wanted to see everything once before she saw anything twice.” This seemed like solid advice at first. But after I added a few years of pure wanderlust to my travel resumé, my thoughts began to change.
Another big question: Is there a right time and a wrong time to travel to a given destination?
Answer: In many cases, timing can be an important consideration in national and international travel. For example, nearly anyone who visits New York City for the first time amidst the seething humidity of July or August is guaranteed to have the same reaction. These traveler will NOT come away with the same impressions of the Big Apple as travelers who make their maiden journey there during Christmastide. In the city’s crisp, wintry air, New York comes alive with dazzling seasonal lights and decorations.
To begin, never forget that no two trips are ever the same. Regardless of how delicious and memorable a previous adventure may have been, it is impossible to duplicate. So don’t even try.
Also, keep in mind that regardless of how much effort you make, you will never see all of any one destination, which means the best thing to do is to pace yourself. All the more reason for a return visit.
Grand Tours: Fun, or too frantic?
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, tour operators created so-called “Deluxe Grand Tours of Europe.” These essentially cookie-cutter trips included 21 countries in 17 days conducted at a totally exhausting a killer pace. The concept behind these “If-it’s-Tuesday-it-must-be-Belgium” tours was seductive. The advance PR made senior citizens believe they could see all of Europe in one huge trip of a lifetime. Better yet, they could do so comforted by an English-speaking guide who also knew how to convert “Monopoly money” into useable local funds. (The euro did not exist back then.)
Five minutes at the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower, quick photo op, 30 minute bathroom break and off to the next hotel. Luggage outside the door by seven, gulp down a cup of coffee, inhale a stale croissant and uncooked bacon. Then back on the bus. Is that the way to enjoy international travel?
Things change in international travel fashion
Technology and readily available disposable income have changed national and international travel trends dramatically since those post-World War II Grand Tour days. Thus, returning to a destination you’ve already visited in the past brings with it an inherent comfort level. This, in turn, creates a sense of “returning home.”
You can still get out of your rut and do new things. But you also can enjoy a relatively familiar home base worth its weight in comfort. In turn, that eases apprehension and anxiety.
As previously mentioned, you probably hit those must-see high spots on your inaugural trip to a city or country. So chances are, you missed many, if not most, of the hidden nooks and crannies. We’re talking about those semi-secret locales that bring a destination to life with their own unique personality and character. This factor alone makes the second and future visits to any desination the right time to check out the museums and/or lesser-known neighborhoods in a given country or city.
Countries and cities change, too
Don’t forget this simple fact: Over time destinations can change, sometimes dramatically. The Berlin you experienced on your last trip may not be quite the same today as it was in the ten years since you last traveled there. It’s another solid reason for going back to a place that you fell in love with once before.
However, just as places change, so, too, do people. For many travelers, that’s the single greatest endorsement of all for returning to a destination. You might want to revisit a city like London because you went there at the age of eight. Perhaps now, you want to see it through new eyes as an adult. Or, better yet, you might want to share that same first-time joy you experienced with someone else. An experience like this truly embodies the magic of international travel.
At any time of year, you can experience Christmas-like sensations during a travel adventure. These include sensations you feel when you can stand back and savor the reaction of a spouse or traveling companion witnessing something unique for the very first time. It could be Michelangelo’s David or the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Perhaps it involves some grand new culinary treat like escargot in France or caviar in Russia. Maybe it include spectacles like the Lipizzan horses in Vienna or the massive pageantry of the Edinburgh Tattoo. The catalyst for such moments makes little difference. All that really matters is sharing that magical moment. Therein lies the secret.
Places to see, yes. But people, too.
Executive editor George Stone of National Geographic Traveler tells us this.
“People travel for people as much (if not more) than for sights. Sometimes we discover a bit of ourselves in a stranger; sometimes we learn how to be a better version of ourselves by learning from a local.”
Discovery is the key that unlocks the pleasures of travel. And discovery can occur at any time in any place.
Certainly, the flip side of the traveler’s dilemma is easier to justify. After all the very nature of international travel is to see and to experience the world beyond our personal borders. Traveling to a new destination is by definition already incorporated into the process of being on the move.
On the other hand, returning to a place for a second, third or, even, fourth time should not deter travelers at all. They should regard such return trips as a luxury or a bonus to their ongoing itineraries of learning and exploration.
Checklists or memories?
In this day and age of social media, we often experience pressure to view our vacations as checklist travel undertaken to outdo others and create bragging rights. Avoid such temptations at all costs. Most voyagers come to understand that this approach ends up as the least satisfying form of travel.
Whether you prefer seeing new places over return visits or some combination of the two, the purpose of any trip is to experience the things you want to experience, but on your own terms.
However you achieve this is up to you. But always be a traveler first instead of a tourist.
— Headline image: The Moulin Rouge has long been a Paris institution and symbol of Bohemian lifestyle.
(Photo: Pixabay, CC 0.0 license. Public domain.)
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up