Life is short and the world is big. Dedicated globe-trotters, those with a competitive streak, don’t see much point in returning to a city they’ve been to before when there are so many they still haven’t seen.
It’s their loss. Exploring a city again and again—becoming a revisitor, let’s call it—is actually one of the best ways to travel. As a revisitor, you have a charmed perspective that is shared by neither longtime locals nor first-time tourists. Every time you arrive, you’re the equivalent of an out-of- town aunt who exclaims, “You’ve gotten so big!” Your affection is easy and obvious, uncomplicated by the pain of rising rents or the inconvenience of daily chores. Sometimes revisiting is a thrilling affair, a chance to try on an alterna-life in a new city. Sometimes it’s more like monogamy, the cozy indulgence of a known love rather than a bold venture into uncharted territory.
I became a revisitor by accident, when I met a great guy in Los Angeles who happened to live in London. Over the course of our long-distance courtship, I found myself walking the same rain-slicked alleys and shopping at the same East End markets and drinking in the same pubs named after princes. Eventually I knew my way around pretty well. But I never got so comfortable that I stopped posting Instagram photos of red phone booths.
It’s no wonder my feelings about London are bigger and fuller than those I have for a city whose streets I’ve strolled only once. Travel is not just about the thrill of the unknown. Sometimes it’s about the pleasures of the familiar. Or the familiar that’s just unfamiliar enough, anyway.
This appeared in the March/April 2015 issue. Image by Magdalena Roeseler/Flickr.