World explorers, casual backpackers, and typical tourists alike often find themselves reminiscing over places past. Miniscule moments can spark déjà vu that quickly turns into fond memory at best, or, in my case, extreme nostalgia.
As of late, I have caught myself dreaming of cobblestone streets, yearning for full breakfasts with proper bacon, and craving the cold black cliffs that border the North Sea. When I think back to where I was last year, images of Wick and Edinburgh fill my mind and overcome my horizon. Even though I wasn’t always warm, or busy, or happy; I was content in Scotland. I was satisfied.
(And honestly, life was a lot simpler back then.)
It’s easy for travellers to muse over past adventures, but it’s incredibly difficult to fight the longing to go back. I took this longing one step further and committed the traveller’s faux pas—I went back.
As I discovered this summer, it’s impossible to go back.
Things will never be the same.
The hostel I stayed at again in Edinburgh hadn’t undergone any major changes in the 6 months since I had initially left. Even some of the backpackers I had met previously were still staying in the same rooms.
Nearly everything was identical. But my experiences weren’t.
If anything marks and colours a backpackers’ personal impression of a place, it is experience—the people, weather, activities, and appearance of the places you go. The sun shone on Edinburgh Castle in July, making it glow gold. It looked nothing like the dim, damp stone building I had experienced in the fall.
If anything, returning to Scotland only made me miss it more. The memories were fresh and suffocating, surrounding me—pouring salt on my wounds. I missed the people I had been with before. I saw the adventures I had undertaken everywhere around me. And it was so, so difficult, because even though everything was the same, I wasn’t.
I cannot express the importance of moving on. I longed for Australia uncontrollably for two years until I went back to Europe. Now I long for the UK, but regard my past experiences in Oz with a glossy smile. I still tell stories from my adventures in Australia, but reliving the past doesn’t fill me with regret. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling: closure.
Now I know not to bother trying to refuse the past its place. I’m trying to fix my eyes forward, keep dreaming, keep travelling, and move on.
Very good post and I love how you said the traveller’s faux-pas. I guess it’s often like this. It will never be same again whereever you go for the second time. There will be other people, other circumstances and you will have changed to probably. I try to go back to Argentina in about two weeks. I spent there three months in 2010, lived with a host family and was in love with the country. I’m a bit scared I won’t like it that way when coming back as it will definitely won’t be the same. I made so many experiences, saw so many different places in the meantime. But I needed to come back. I hope it won’t be the faux-pas you’re talking about 😉
You definitely can’t expect it to be the same – but if you take it as a new, different adventure, there are endless possibilities for a fantastic trip! Things will have changed, and most importantly, you will have changed. Don’t compare to how things were – just take them (and yourself!) as you are. Best wishes!!