3 Reasons you should return to your happy places

The virtue of being in the place you love more than once in a lifetime
Daily Life in Barcelona
Daily Life in Barcelona / Anadolu/GettyImages

I am an avid reader and once in a while, I'll contemplate getting rid of a book that I first loved as a teenager or a picture book that I've read so many times that I can quote my favorite pages. And then I remember that each time I read those stories, I'm a different person.

Travel is a lot like that for me. I can't tell you how many times I've been to Boston's Faneuil Hall, but I remember going there with my nephews as much as stopping there on the way home from school when I was a teenager. Likewise, I've been to Rome several times and never come away with the same story twice.

Here are three reasons why you should give an old memory a new beginning.

"I'm Not the Man I Used to Be"

Hot weather in Athens
Hot weather in Athens / Anadolu/GettyImages

In 2000, I spent New Year's Eve in Greece. I was 20 and loved everything from the restaurant that served history-based meals to the temple at Delphi. I climbed the Acropolis and enjoyed telling my dad about the history of the olive tree near the Parthenon and the amphitheater closer to the base.

In 2013, a friend announced that she was going to Athens and wanted me to come along. I didn't refuse her and spent months getting in better shape because "I want to hike the Acropolis like I did when I was twenty." To me, that meant having the same age at 32 that I did the first time I went to Athens. I wound up hiking it with an avulsion fracture in my ankle because I fell the night before the trip, but I'll never forget that afternoon overlooking the city or the reason why all of my pictures feature a cane and ankle brace.

'Returning gives travelers a second chance at a first impression, whether of the location or the person who makes the trip to be there.

"Once More With Feeling"

A group of young tourists recently arrived in the city are...
A group of young tourists recently arrived in the city are... / SOPA Images/GettyImages

For this example, it's not my return I'm describing, but a family member's. I decided to be in Barcelona, Spain on my 35th birthday. My dad told me many stories of that country when I was growing up and I was the only one in my immediate family who hadn't had the chance to travel there. It was also going to be my first time going to a country where my second language was the preferred method of communication.

I found that Barcelona is the place I'd like to make my second home. I loved the architecture of the cathedrals and the history of the Civil War that marked the city. I found the best gazpacho I've ever tasted and bought myself a mantilla wedding veil for myself.

Where the returning comes in is my dad. Remembering that I was going to be around his old stomping grounds, he e-mailed me suggestions of where I should go next and I'd delight him by sending back a picture of Las Ramblas or the Gothic Quarter. I climbed one of the spires of the Sagrada Familia cathedral and photographed the city at sunset, not realizing that my dad's old apartment building was in the lower right-hand corner of the shot. I got to hear stories of his nine months in that apartment.

Returning can give space for memories to be emotionally tied to the people you share the new experience with.

"Be Afraid Only of Standing Still"

48th Vogalonga
48th Vogalonga / Stefano Mazzola/GettyImages

I mentioned having been to Rome a number of times and I'm fortunate that I have been to many other places in Italy. Because I've been this lucky, I've made a real effort towards being less of an oblivious visitor.

On my first visit, my traveling companion got into a cab in Lake Como and gave directions to the hotel where were staying. She did this in Spanish with an Italian accent. Slightly mortified by that idea, I resolved to learn as much oof the phrasebook we'd brought along as possible and language study is now an essential part of my trip planning.

Most recently, I started a trip in Venice and had watched a YouTube video on less common phrases that are helpful to tourists. On our second night there, I used one of these at a restaurant in Santa Croce. The waiter had been polite before, but he was downright friendly. I'm still only conversational in Italian, but making progress was something I was proud of and it helped me have a richer experience. The same held true days later in Sicily when a man gave us an impassioned tour of a cathedral without checking if we knew his language. I didn't catch everything he said, but it was fun to realize that I understood more than I spoke of Italian.

Whatever progress you make between visits to a place, you can find a reason to celebrate it.

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