Why I return to the same places I've traveled to before

I like to check places off of my bucket list- but travel is so much more than just a checklist. 

So far, in my lifetime I’ve been able to visit 27 countries. And I plan for that number to go up eventually- but despite wanting to see and experience more of the world, I’ve found myself using my travel time, and travel funds, to go back to the same places I’ve seen before.

Sometimes I’ll make it a point to see new sites and attractions when I return… but often, I’m completely content to return to the same old places I’ve seen on previous trips, and enjoy them a second time (or third time or beyond, as the case may be). I absolutely love going back to a coffee shop or restaurant I enjoyed and trying something new on the menu... or seeing the same city at a different time of year than my last visit... or, bringing someone else along to visit a place that I previously traveled to by myself.

It’s not that I don’t want to get out and explore even more- it’s just that I like being ableCoffee decorated with cocoa powder in the shape of an airplane to rediscover a place on a deeper level each time I visit. Even though it might not seem like I'm doing anything new- I find that my experience is different each time I return.

If you’ve ever read The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, then you’re already familiar with the concept that “depth beats breadth.” Basically, this means that it pays off to study and excel in a narrow range, rather than trying to learn everything at once and stretching yourself too thin. The author used this technique to become a world champion in both chess and martial arts.

I believe this concept applies to travel, too. While it’s tempting to see as much as possible… I would make the argument that there’s a lot to be gained by holding still and really experiencing a place on a new level, a deeper level that only comes with spending more time there and developing real familiarity with the place.

I’ve been on the “quantity over quality” tours before – you know the ones I mean, the ones that have you up at the crack of dawn and in a crowded bus or van zooming around between historic sites, restaurants, and souvenir shops... the ones where you spend more time in a car or bus than you spend actually out experiencing a place... and I enjoy and appreciate them, sometimes finding a hidden gem on the tour that I wouldn’t have otherwise visited. However, this type of travel is often completely exhausting. You might get home from your vacation feeling worse than you did before you left- all that looking forward to vacation time, only to get home feeling like you need another vacation to recover from your vacation.

But more importantly, while rushing from place to place, it’s very possible that you might only experience the place on a very superficial level. Not really getting any idea of the local culture or day-to-day life. And in my opinion, soaking up the atmosphere of a place is one of the most rewarding and intriguing parts of travel.

I hear a lot of people dismiss the idea of return travel as wasted time- “I’ve already seen the place, so why would I want to go again?” Just remember, there’s always something new to discover. If you have a place you enjoyed visiting- believe me when I say it might be a remarkable, worthwhile experience to go back and make a repeat visit. 

For me, my repeat visit locations include India, Slovenia, and the UAE (although the UAE was my home for two years, so it's not quite a tourist destination to me like the others are). And eventually, I'd like to return to Sri Lanka. 

What about you? Do you have a place that you love to visit so much that you've already been back, or plan to return again? Do you have a place where you feel just as comfortable there as you do at home? Let me know your favorites in the Facebook comments.