James and I enjoy traveling to Germany, and sitting with a maß of Helles beer in hand in a Munich Biergarten underneath blooming chestnut trees is our idea of perfection. We’ve returned many times and continue to enjoy each time we visit, but I started thinking that maybe we should leave Germany off of our destination list because there are so many other places to see. But I’m already planning our next Germany trip, so that thought didn’t last long. And that’s okay. Let me tell you why.
“Travel as if you’ll be returning” is at the top of our travel philosophy list. It’s a state of mind. It encourages you to slow down. Thinking of a return visit gives you the freedom to ignore the checklist and to wander and relax without sticking to specific plans. And, more importantly, forgiving yourself when you miss one of *the* highlights of a destination because you can tell yourself you’ll see it on the next trip. I know it’s hard. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is real and is a struggle to overcome, but once you travel again to the same place, you’ll feel a familiarity, and it’ll be like visiting an old friend.
We’ve had the opportunity to learn this first-hand. When we first started traveling, a long time ago (seriously, you could still smoke cigarettes on flights), we did what most folks do. You’ve gone through the guidebooks, you’ve watched videos, you’ve scoured the internet, and you have a list of ‘MUST DOs’, and then once you’re on your trip, you’re following the schedule, hitting the all of the ‘Can’t-Miss’ items. You’re hurrying and trying to fit it all in with the limited time you have at a destination. I get it. I’ve done it. It’s exhausting. And at the end of the day, you struggle to remember exactly what you did because you did all the things. I’m getting stressed just thinking about it. If you go back a second time, though, you’ve already checked off the list, and you’re free to discover new things, get off the beaten path, and really dig into a destination. Why not travel that way on the first trip?
Particularly when we’re traveling to a foreign country, we can be overwhelmed with the different language, the new food, the scenes, the daily activities that aren’t as easy because they’re, well, foreign to us. Your brain is trying to process all of it, and you’re trying to do as much as possible, but it’s taking longer than it should because you’re trying to figure it all out. How do I pay? Is this receipt for the bus or the ferry? What is this word on the menu? Wait, is this even the menu? Where is the rental car return? Did we just order an entire lamb? Why is the hotel locked at 9 pm? It can be frustrating. But when you return on your next trip, you’ve already got it (somewhat) figured out, you know your way around, you know a bit more of the language, a menu isn’t as intimidating, and your ‘must see’ list is much shorter (if you even have a list this time). You don’t have the same anxiety and unease you did on the first trip. You’ll be more comfortable in the place, and the second (or third, or fourth…) trip can be much more enjoyable.
I’m all about traveling to new places, don’t get me wrong, but a previous destination can also be new-to-you if some time has passed since you were there last, especially if it’s been a decade or two. That place has probably changed, and you have, too. I know that the late-night (or all-night) bar and club scene isn’t a part of our plans in our 40s like it was when we were in our 20s (is grunge still a thing?). High-end and Michelin-starred restaurants weren’t on our priority list when we were younger and on a tighter budget. We’ll experience a destination differently in our different stages of life, and find things we didn’t know about or weren’t interested in the first time. With the comfort of having already been there, the confidence of knowing your way around, and the excitement of discovering new things, what’s not to love about revisiting a place (again, and again, and…)?