‘Do we have to go there every year?’, whined my childhood self to my parents; the ‘there’ in question just happened to be one of the least whine-worthy destinations on earth: Yosemite National Park.
Every year, my parents reserved a campsite in Lower Pines Campground along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Every year, we stopped for breakfast at the same diner, where every year I’d quickly regret ordering the biscuits and gravy. Every year, my brother and I moaned like young boys on overlong car trips are expected to. And every year, the sight of Yosemite Valley made us shut our traps immediately.
If you love travel, you’re likely aware of a simple but unfortunate truth: in one lifetime, you’ll never be able to go everywhere you want to go, see everything you want to see, or do everything you want to do. There isn’t enough time, and (unless you’re incredibly fortunate) not nearly enough money. So travelers are forced to choose: given your limited number of trips, will it be new destinations, or oldies but goodies?
As soon as I set out on my own, I unceremoniously dumped the familiar destinations in favor of exotic locales. In retrospect, my parents had a nicely balanced recipe: an annual short and affordable trip to a beloved place, and an occasional longer trip somewhere new and distant that they saved up for. Back then I whined about the repetition; now I count myself lucky.
Repeat travel doesn’t get a lot of love because collecting passport stamps simply seems more alluring. Travel writers try to catch a reader’s attention with the new, the shiny, the bold, the distant, the strange: you haven’t lived until you’ve had a fish pedicure in Chiang Mai, seen Maui by submarine, or eaten at New York’s newest sensory-deprivation restaurant…
It may not make for a splashy story, but if you never revisit your favorite destinations, you’re missing out. The places you really connect with (like great music, great literature, great people, great everything else) tend to reveal themselves slowly and demand deeper exploration. Even if you fall madly in love with Rome on the first day, it contains enough surprises for a lifetime of repeat visits. For me, decades later, Yosemite’s magic has only become stronger.
On a practical level, a second visit has advantages: you’ve already got lost and missed the exit for the airport – now you know the lay of the land. On the repeat trip, you can check off the things you missed first time around. The stress of having too little time diminishes on trip number two; you’ve come back, and, for that matter, may come back yet again – so relax, enjoy it.
Perhaps the biggest benefit, though, is the chance to get to know people. You rarely build relationships on a first visit. But on our annual trips to Yosemite, we saw the same faces year after year: families in the campground, staff at the concessions. Long-time waiters at the Mountain Room restaurant would greet us warmly; we timed our trips to coincide with the repeat visit of friends made in the campground. For years I thought they were distant relatives connected to us in some way my parents had neglected to explain. Yosemite wasn’t home, but we were regulars.
So the next time you’re faced with a decision between somewhere new and somewhere you loved, why not give the old fave another try? If you’re lucky, you’ll hear two of the happiest words in the life of a traveller: ‘Welcome back!’