Maybe we go back because we have left a piece of ourselves in that place. Maybe we go back because we have the longing to reclaim past glories presented to us. Maybe we go back because we know that change has rolled in dynamic surges that left us gasping and we are still unwilling to roll with it. Maybe we go back because we take on the former roles of friends who first led us to that place. Maybe. Whether your reasons fall under any of the ones narrated, trust me when I say that you will never fully grasp the goals you have initially set before embarking on the journey back to a familiar place. I will tell you why.
Because you are not who you were four years or four months ago.
When I moved overseas many years ago, I was running away from a heartbreak caused by a halted four-year relationship that sent me reeling. I decided to drop everything – quit my job which offered me financial security, sold my house, and was set on relocating abroad. I was not going to look back, I clearly remembered saying and at that time, Thailand offered me the ‘different’ that I was searching for. I wanted to be in a place that was so strange from what I was used to and I just fell in love with the country. I thought then, “This is what I need. This is the 'strange' that I was hoping for. This is a good strange. So I stayed, left for a few months, then came back, left again, and came back for the nth time. It was a love-hate relationship but there was always an invincible pull; and every time I was back, it was different. Every time I brought a different perspective, a different language, a different cultural influence, and a different experience. I was older, wiser in a different sense, with a whole new collection of certainties.
Because the place will change.
Just as you will change, the place that took your breath away will also change – most of the time to pave way for progress. Yes, looks like all course of action is going in this direction. Airports will be expanded, roads will be widened, buildings will be constructed, towers will not be as bright, new wall murals will sprout like weeds, prices will go higher, old special nooks will be replaced, the culture you knew will give way to a more modern or artistic one. The truth is, only its name will remain the same, everything else will have a different face. Maybe it will have the semblance of the place that was first introduced to you but that is all it will be a semblance. But if you are patient, if you stay longer, you will be given the chance to see how the colors will change right in front of your eyes (something that you may have not been able to do because you were in such a hurry).
Because you will meet different people.
On your first visit, you may have been with friends or family and together you created memories; but this may not be the case on your next visits. Maybe you will travel alone the next time and you will befriend strangers who will share a different perspective. They will sell an entirely new package of life and it will alter how you perceived the place. They will teach you how to dance just by using your hands, to kiss differently, to talk in a different manner, to understand political views, to appreciate foreign books and movies, to work in such a way that the cavewoman in you will be challenged to leave. And you – because you have exposed yourself so generously to them – will learn so much that you will be in constant awe, that your amazement and irritation will be at each others’ throats 24/7. You will learn to slow down because it is only right to give time due credit, to laugh so hard that everyone around you will laugh along, to choose which ideas you will keep, to walk away from situations that you do not want to end up in, to grow a different set of wings so you will fly with grace and do away with the grief so likened to that of a child.
Because age will tell you otherwise.
We do not just age in an intangible way, we also have our physical form as proof of how our preferences will change as years passed. Oh we all go through the process of becoming older – wrinkles will start appearing, hair strands will turn gray, bones will become brittle, allergies will start developing, some will lose weight, some will gain weight, getting sick will be more frequent, etc. It will be a struggle and you will realize that what you liked before will not give you the same highs. You might not like partying all night anymore, roaming around via walking might be limited to a few hours or might require an occasional break every now and then, trying thrill-induced activities may trigger that heart attack or may not be child or family-friendly. You opt for a different choice not because of the limitations of your physique but because your choices evolved with the changes in your body.
Maybe you will disagree. Maybe you have a different explanation, but if you happen to be on the same boat that I am in right now just remember that it is crucial to look at a place with a new set of eyes. This way, your nostalgia, boundaries, or change of perspective will not result in an aversion. Just as you have to appreciate a person for who he or she is now, you will also need to do so for all the places that you will revisit.
(Article from my blog, written on the year my father died - 2015)