Matthew is a keen traveller and a photography hobbyist. He is currently living in Japan and hopes to travel and document his journey.
When we first begin to travel, we tend to have an insatiable appetite to 'tick off places' from a list that has been accumulating on our phone's notepad at an alarming rate. But as time goes on, revisiting places can actually become more rewarding than visiting them for the first time.
It goes without saying that this is more applicable to cityscapes—the first impression of a great landscape is far more impactful than the second time. But if you're wondering whether revisiting an urban landscape you've already been to is worth it, I say—wholeheartedly—yes! Here are eight reasons why.
1. Your first impression is already made.
Familiarity can breed contempt, but it can also evoke nostalgia. You have already formed an opinion about the place and are returning because of it or in spite of it. There is no bedding-in period or first impression to be formed: you can relive the things that had a lasting impression on you the first time around, avoid the things that you didn't particularly enjoy, and then you are left to explore all the other things you missed out on.
If there has been some time between your visits, there is nothing quite like exploring somewhere that you know you have been before, but that you don't know intimately. Retracing your steps and piecing the puzzle together is enjoyable in and of itself. Returning to a place that you hold fond memories of can be equally as rewarding as the first visit. It's just another opportunity to build on your memories.
2. Nothing will be the same.
The most salient point about revisiting a destination is that no two trips are the same. You can experience an entirely different trip each time you visit—whether good or bad. This point may contradict my whole article because an enjoyable first visit doesn't necessarily guarantee a repeat upon your second visit.
There are many variables: it can depend on whether you are travelling solo or not, the people you meet, the weather, your money situation, the food you try, and what stage of your trip you are in (if travelling long term). If you are at the tail-end of a long trip, your appreciation of a new destination may become compromised. You may have seen so much in such a short space of time that it ends up all blurring into one and becoming much of a muchness. The novelty may have worn off and a fresh pair of eyes may be needed.
3. What you like changes over time.
This point works both ways. After travelling on-and-off for a number of years, you may notice that your sensibilities change over time. Things that you sought out and that attracted you to a certain place may no longer hold the same weight and vice versa. You may see a place through a completely different lens and you may have come to appreciate different things entirely. Or simply, you may have whittled down, definitively, what you like and what you dislike.
Experience brings with it greater discernment. It can be a surprise to revisit a place and have a completely different outlook on it just due to the passage of time. So if you ever had an unfavourable experience somewhere, giving it a second chance may change your mind.
4. You'll be more observant and inquisitive.
It is natural to appreciate something more after the fact. With travelling in particular, you may not take to a place instantaneously. Big, sprawling metropolises like Tokyo or Bangkok can be extremely overwhelming on your first visit. It can take a number of days to acclimatise to that sort of environment. It might not be until you return that you realise how much you like it there.
We are all prone to some recency bias—the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately feeling. If it was one of the first places you visited, you had nothing to compare and contrast it to. Revisiting the place allows you to cast your more observant and inquisitive eyes over it and develop a more accurate picture.
5. You won't be racing against time.
Everyone has met the type or been that person themselves: "I've only got a couple of days, so I need to squeeze everything in"—the race against time to see as much of a place as possible, in as little time as possible. The fleeting visit always starts with frenetic energy, but it soon dissipates as you begin to overextend yourself. The second time is so much more liberating; you are not pressed for time and can move at your own pace. Remember that time is undefeated.
6. You'll appreciate the familiarity of the place.
When you first travel, you tend to have an all-or-nothing attitude; you feel the need to try and see everything. The sooner you accept that this isn't realistic and that there is always a next time, the sooner you will start to enjoy the experience at hand more.
Gone are the days of scrambling around a city, attempting to see all it has to offer in two days. I treat it as an inevitability that I will not see everything I want to see. You tend to accumulate more information about a place after you visit, by way of conversation or by reading about it. These things just give you a greater excuse and incentive to visit again. Next time you visit, you will enjoy the best of both worlds: you will have both familiarity and a sense of adventure.
7. You'll be able to follow your own itinerary.
You may have read someone's itinerary on the Internet about where to visit and what to eat and felt particularly malleable that day. After a few days, you've realised that you haven't actually explored at all; you have just tried to replicate someone else's experience entirely.
Comparison is the thief of joy, so try to avoid comparing your trip to other people's. Don't worry about missing some places just because they were on the 'top 10 places not to miss' list. How many times have you visited a recommended place from the internet and been severely underwhelmed? I've lost count.
Travelling isn't all sunshine and rainbows, and perception isn't reality. The truth is that there is nothing more rewarding than stumbling upon a great place to visit or a fantastic place to eat, with no guidance or direction whatsoever. If you were not satisfied the first time around, make the second time unique to you.
8. You'll make the most of your experience.
All you've been hearing is how good this place is. But once you arrive, you are listless, overawed, jet-lagged, or impaired in some other way. You only have a limited time there, so the low-hanging fruits are the ones you choose to pick. There are droves of people at every turn. All you want to do is curl up in bed. Once you've moved on, you feel like you didn't make the most of the experience. You feel like it's an adventure missed and you feel the need to redeem yourself. A second visit gives you that chance.
What will be, will be.
The great irony in all of this is that my favourite thing about travelling is exploring unfamiliar places. The feeling of arriving in an unfamiliar surrounding, not knowing too much about it, and heading out utterly directionless still gives me the greatest thrill.
In spite of this, I have a number of cities that I have been to multiple times and will continue to go back to. Whilst I am a proponent of seeing new places, there's something about revisiting a place that is just so rewarding, especially when you only spend a small amount of time there each visit. This keeps the experience relatively new and doesn't exhaust the location.
I can say unabashedly that I have stopped off in Singapore numerous times just to eat mutton biryani and roti prata. Places become personal to you; you might find a coffee shop you like, a great place for breakfast, a park you like to frequent, or a daily routine you developed that you want to relive. So when you are debating about where to go next, don't rule out the path you've already trodden on.
© 2018 Matthew
Liz Westwood from UK on November 14, 2018:
I am often reluctant to revisit a second time unless I have a list of places I still want to see, which I didn't have time for on a first visit.