Revisiting the places you love

My places page remains mildly pathetic compared to those of other travel bloggers. I always sheepishly admit that I’ve only been to 28 countries – like that makes me a lesser traveller or something, or as if that number isn’t large in comparison to those who don’t do this for a living.

But I’ve always believed that if you find a place you really love – and I mean truly, truly love – your owe it to your soul to go back, over and over again.

Of course there’s always the risk that things just won’t be the same. That you’ll come back and have a different experience, or a worse experience, and you’ll leave with a bitter taste in your mouth. When I boarded the Bus Eirann from Dublin to Sligo a few weeks ago, I was full of nervous, anxious energy. I bought a book but couldn’t concentrate. I obsessed over my route, worrying if I’d get off at the right stop. I hadn’t seen Julia, one of my best friends, in nearly a year. And then my bus pulled up at the stop in Strandhill and there was my tall, blonde-haired leggy beauty waiting for me. We hugged so hard, a man walking by paused and smiled. “Well, isn’t that a lovely sight,” he said.

Maybe he was being creepy. Who knows.

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I’ve been to many places, but there are only a handful of destinations to which I am truly committed. Newfoundland is at the top of the list, obviously. I will always belong in Newfoundland. And Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the sheer surprise of it all. Then there’s Sligo, Ireland’s little adventure capital that’s become my second home.

It had been over two years since my last visit. I had assumed by that point my old Sligo friends would have forgotten about me. Nobody had forgotten me. The hugs I received were as genuine as me returning home to Canada. The most bewildering of them all: I walked into an old haunt and an elderly gent immediately said, “I know you, you’re the Canadian girl.” I had met him on my first visit, in the same place, and we had talked for hours about life in Canada and my ancestral research. He had worked in Canada many years ago, and missed it dearly. I was floored. That was over two years ago, and he had not forgotten. He sang me Newfoundland ballads.

Julia and I stayed with our friend Art in Strandhill, and his three other roommates I had not met my first time around. In just two days we had a whole new little family. Meals were cooked for us, barbecues hosted, drinks bought. We were basically mooching off these people for an entire week, and not only did they not want anything in return, they went out of their way to do stuff for us. Some of my favourite memories stem from just sitting around the kitchen table with a pot of tea after all the nightly shenanigans were over, chatting and laughing and listening to good music. I’m still itching to play the fiddle.

Every night we’d head out to see live music, and we’d run into friends from years ago. The fiddler from Rackhouse Pilfer, one of my favourite bands, recognized Julia and me and came to chat after the show. Then we’d dance all night and come clawing home at sunrise. Happiness is a pint of a Guinness and an Irish trad session in a cozy pub. That little sense of community is the kind of thing I yearn for in Newfoundland: teenagers, handsome bearded men, punkish folks, and older women all joined together in music.

On one of our last days we headed out with David from SUP for all to check out his new digs. A lot had changed since our first paddle with him. We boiled the kettle, made tea, cracked open a beer, and lounged by the fire. (Why does tea always taste so much better when the water is boiled over a fire?) Some of the men cooked burgers. Children ran about, paddling on Lough Gill, pushing each other into the water. Then we all paddled out to the Isle of Innisfree, where David’s young daughter perfectly recited the entire W.B. Yeats’ poem with the same name. We trod barefoot through the muddy trails, buoyed on nature and Irish air.

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SUP Boarding in Sligo
SUP Boarding in Sligo

You know a place is special when you return to Berlin – one of the coolest cities on the planet – feeling dejected and depressed. When I headed for the midnight bus on my final night in Ireland, one of my Sligo pals embraced me and said, “This is your home.” There were tears. I’ve never been anywhere, not even in Newfoundland, where a community has accepted me so readily.

At one point in my life I vowed never return to the small town lifestyle. I love Berlin madly and am thrilled to spend a year here, but I know it’s a temporary home and I’ll never be completely happy in a city. I love the anonymity, but I miss the sea.

I made a promise to my Sligo friends that I’d be back, and I will be, once my time is up here. So where is the shame in revisiting the places you love? Do we limit ourselves by not going further? Or do we latch onto those special places, in case we never find them again?

Are you in the habit of revisiting?

  • September 04 2015
    RW

    I’m in the same boat. Living in Newfoundland is like a fairy tale. I mean, everything and everyone is generally nice here. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But we miss out on a lot of the multicultural experience of a big city. One of many reasons why I LOVE visiting Toronto every so often, It’s like a second home to me. The food, the events, the people. Alas the hustle and bustle can be overwhelming. My last experience was a disaster. Once home sickness sets in, the big cities lack the cozy St. John’s.vibe. Usually after 2-3 weeks. It’s good to jump out of the pages to see the full story cover to cover. But remember to keep that bookmark close for home.

    • September 13 2015

      I know what you mean. :) So happy for the big city Berlin experience. Feels amazing to have so many different restaurants on every corner, so many international friends, etc. But I’m still always pulled to the ocean.

  • September 04 2015
    lindsaypunk

    This really resonated with me. My *countries visited* number is even lower than yours, even after 10+ years of travel – both because I prefer to travel slowly, and because I like to revisit the places I love. I already spent a year studying in Australia, and 9 years later I’m back to live here again because this country speaks to me like no other. I’m finding my experience this time around to be so much different than it was last time: though I’m revisiting many of my old beloved haunts, I’m also exploring new places and growing so much as a person. I don’t know that this growth would have happened had I chosen to move to a new country instead.

    I’m a firm believer in following your gut and doing what feels right – in this case, returning to a place that calls to you rather than country hopping just for the sake of it. I say hold on to that feeling while you can – if/when it fades, you can always move on.

    • September 13 2015

      I love that you’re revisiting your favourite place and then looking at it with new eyes. LOVE that. It’s funny, but I feel the more I travel, the more I appreciate Newfoundland as well. Not that other places aren’t amazing, but when you go back to a place you love it’s like wow…I really took this for granted before

  • September 04 2015

    I am definitely in the habit of revisiting the places I love. I am currently in my favourite country in the world for the fourth, and definitely not the last, time – Canada. I also adore France and have returned eight times, US six times, South Africa three times and the list goes on

    • September 13 2015

      Oooh I love that you love Canada!!! Yay! What part of the country are you in?

      • September 13 2015

        I’m living in the tiny town of Field in Yoho National Park at the moment, have 10 more days here then heading to Vancouver then into the US :)

        • September 13 2015

          AWESOME. Didn’t get to spend much time in Yoho, but I love that entire part of the country.

  • September 05 2015
    Maggie BB

    I probably don’t need to tell you I’m a huge fan of revisiting ;) If I enjoy a place I always feel a pull to go back. Which makes it hard to find time to visit new places, since I’m always trying to find time to go back to all the places I’ve fallen in love with.

    • September 13 2015

      Hahaha I was thinking the same earlier. But I mean, when it comes to places like PEI, who can blame you?

  • September 05 2015

    I absolutely agree, besides, not revisiting a place you love just because you’ve already been there just makes you sound like you’re only trying to tick off countries on your list – and that’s no way to travel, right? If you found a new favourite meal, you wouldn’t only eat it once. For me travelling is not only seeing new places but also looking for a future home, in a way. Sometimes revisiting a place makes it even better than the first time as it sounds it was for you :) I remember the second time I went to Melbourne (within half a year of the first visit but still) and as I was walking towards my hostel at 6 a.m. with a huge backpack and probably an even bigger smile, a stranger as he was passing told me: ‘Welcome to Melbourne.’ Would go back in a heartbeat. I was miserable, upset and down there so many times but god dammit, you just can’t stay mad at a city like that.

    • September 13 2015

      “For me travelling is not only seeing new places but also looking for a future home, in a way.” YES! I agree, although I don’t know why, because I’ll always return to NFLD haha. I really, really wanna go to Melbourne. I was thinking about Australia for a year after this trip, actually.

  • September 06 2015

    Reading this makes me want to visit Sligo! I can totally understand why you plan to return again and again – it sounds like such a special place. There are a few countries I’ve fallen in love with and want to revisit badly, but the only place I’ve actually managed to revisit so far is Edinburgh – my favourite city in the world!

    • September 13 2015

      You should totally go! I miss it so much! Edinburgh was my all time fave city too but it’s been so long since I visited, I feel like I don’t know anymore. Must go back!

  • September 09 2015

    I revisit a lot of the same places I love, too — hence I’m replying to this from Barcelona which I’ve been to about a gazillion times :D

    • September 13 2015

      I NEEEEED to get to Barcelona. But I need like, two weeks. Haha.

  • November 27 2015

    There are certainly as many “ways” to travel as there are people, no way of any lesser or greater value. I, however, have never regretted for a minute going back . . . I have a place in India, Varanasi, where I’ve spent just over a year in total: two six-month trips and a two week/Introductory stay (with a total of just over two years in India). Something always opens when something else is closed and for the places I’ve not seen, the ones I have have been deeply seen and lived.

    • December 01 2015
      Candice

      I have yet to hit up India, but the country seems to resonate with so many travellers. Must get there eventually.

  • January 11 2016
    Becks

    There really is something about Ireland, isn’t there? My last trip was in June last year and I’m already itching to get back. The people, the scenery, the music *sigh*.
    Have you done the horseshoe drive near Ben Bulben? It took me to Glencar Lough and the entire drive was AMAZING :)

    • January 15 2016
      Candice

      I haven’t! I wanna go back to Ireland and hit up all the places I miss. And drink Guinness in a pub and listen to the fiddle. Dreamy.

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