I was recently lucky enough to be able to revisit a foreign city I’d been to once before. The first time I went I didn’t really like it as much as I’d expected to. I had a good time but it didn’t really click for me.

On this visit it felt like a different place. And I didn’t even get to see much of it. I was working long days and by the time I got out into the city it was dark, with only enough time to get some food and go to bed.

So what changed?

The first time you visit somewhere new, especially a big city, you go with a checklist. There are places you have to see. And you design the trip around them. But that checklist consists of the most widely accepted top sights and no matter how great they are they reflect a consensus, a sort of peer pressure.

This pressure, along with the fact that very few of us like the same things leads to wandering around trying to capture rather than experience. Taking photos, ticking things off, feeling an obligation to appreciate. Our holiday becomes other people’s.

But that second visit gives us something completely different. The pressure is gone, we don’t need to see anything, and we begin to inhabit a place. We use it how it should be used and we connect with the deeper experience.

I don’t really think that these two, very different experiences, can be put together on the same visit. They need space between them. And then we get the pleasure of returning.

  • http://whitespaceandchips.tumblr.com/ whitespace

    hey 🙂 nice to read that you had such a good second trip!! some time ago i made the decision to always explore new cities on foot and only look at/visit things that really do interest me. i don’t use a checklist anymore and have never regretted it!

  • http://www.visceralbusiness.com Anne McCrossan

    Beautiful post. I’m glad you’ve written something about this.

    As I sit here thinking about it, I am aware I have used those landmarks as compass points from which to mentally map a city or a place, and that’s what happens on the first visit. From there, the place can begin to be experienced more deeply and personally.

    There are a few destinations I’ve been able to go to more than a couple of times. Each time my relationship with each place has become more complex.

    By not being there all the time, these are places that can’t be taken for granted, yet each time there is the feeling of being at home, just a little more.

    That cycle enables seeing with fresh eyes, with new perspectives, and the pleasure of exploring and returning, of feeling alive. It’s amazing how joyful and life-affirming that layering of experience can be.