I renewed my passport in January. My somewhat ragged, nearly full (including those extra pages) blue book was replaced for a new clean one. It’s kind of a bittersweet experience and a great chance to revisit all the places I’ve been over the past ten years.
Also a great incentive to start filling those blank pages back up. By the time I publish this I will have earned two stamps in my booklet: Iceland and Japan. These are both places I’ve been before, but I’m just as excited this time around as I was the first time.
I’ve discovered there are generally two schools of travelers: those who think life is too short to visit the same place twice, and those who return to their favorite spots again and again. After over 10 years of travel, I’m definitely of the second school. Here’s why:
Revisiting Reykjavik in February was really interesting. When I visited in 2009 the country was reeling from the 2008 economic crash. Tourism was just starting to pick up but it wasn’t a major destination yet. In fact, I remember my coworkers being totally puzzled about why I would vacation there of all places.
Now, Iceland is a bonafide destination and tourism is clearly booming. Reykjavik is much less sleepy, buzzing with new hotels and restaurants. The economy is thriving in large part to the influx of tourists and every local I met spoke glowingly about the jobs that have opened up thanks to them. They are smart, with a strong emphasis on sustainable tourism and visitor experience.
It was pretty neat to visit the Harpa, Reykjavik’s amazing performing arts space that had barely been conceived last time I was there. And of course Iceland’s natural beauty is just as mind-boggling as ever.
So Do People
I first visited Iceland in June 2009. This was pre-blog, pre-Mike, pre-quit-my-job-and-travel. It was seriously just a 10 day vacation with a friend, but in many ways it changed my life, setting events in motion that would push me onto the path I eventually traveled down. Iceland inspired me to start my blog, to focus on travel and to really make some major changes in my life.
Which was why it felt so surreal to return. Nearly 7 years later I found myself on a plane from Seattle to Reykjavik. This time I was coming on assignment with a major airline, the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like a bonafide travel writer. I was leaving a home in Seattle, with a husband and a dog.
Looking at a familiar place with older, more experienced eyes is one of the reasons people travel in the first place. As our lives change and our vault of knowledge gets bigger, our perceptions change too.
Traveling Deeper, Instead of Wider
Revisiting a beloved place is kind of like seeing an old friend: you get to catch up, learn more about them, explore different facets.
Perhaps the biggest reason I’m excited to revisit Japan is the food. The first time I visited Japan I reviled in the historical sites and the cute street culture, but I wasn’t much of a foodie. It would take a few more countries and a bit of adventure for me to really develop a strong appreciation for world food.
This time, I’m all about experiencing Japan’s many culinary offerings. I’m making lists of ramen shops, food courts and tofu restaurants. I’m psyching myself up for gyoza, udon and katsu curry. And then there is the sushi of course. So many possibilities and Mike and I are basically planning our trip around them.
So instead of racking up an insane country count, my goal is to travel deeper, not wider. To truly know and understand a place is a valuable thing that takes time. And I’m up to the challenge.