It won’t be like I remembered it

Photo from the Road: Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
November 11, 2011
Disaster in Cinque Terre and How You Can Help
November 15, 2011

It won’t be like I remembered it

Looking for answers in the cracks at Angkor

In response to last week’s Where’s your old home?, Juno Kim mentioned in the comments that she might be afraid to return to New Zealand because “it would change everything”. I think she was worried that it wouldn’t be the same New Zealand she remembered when and if she returned.


That is one important thing to remember: we can’t recreate travel experiences. We can return to places, but our experience won’t be the same. I believe this has less to do with the destination changing and more to do with our own self changing.


We human beings are constantly evolving. Every day, every experience, changes us, shapes our new self, leaves new imprints on our soul. Personally, I know my philosophies, attitude, values, and beliefs are changing and evolving as I grow older.


When we revisit a destination, we are by that time a different person, with a different outlook on the world. This is a good thing. We need to be open and accepting for our mind and spirit to develop over the course of our life. We experience the world differently at different ages, different stages of our time here on earth.


I lived in Madrid for nine months back in 2008. I know if I return to Madrid it will be a much different Madrid than I remember. I remember loving Madrid. Loving the people and places there. I remember loving the atmosphere.


If I think to myself that I miss Madrid, this is not necessarily the case. Perhaps I’m just missing that stage of my life. Perhaps I miss having a close group of international friends nearby. Perhaps I miss steady employment and dedicated students. Perhaps I miss lingering in the bars and cafés of the old city til the early morning.




If we revisit a destination, we should enter that place with no expectations, except that we will have new experiences. This is true even if we go to the exact same sites or do the same activities in that place. We should not burden the destination by demanding that it live up to the way we once knew it.


When I revisit Madrid, I may sit at the same outdoor cafés eating the same tapas, view the same Velázquez in the Prado, and stroll the same grounds of Park Retiro. But it will be different. And it will be good.



What place might you be “afraid” to return to thinking it may not live up to your memories?

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Noel says:

    Nice article.. Congrats! Indeed we are constantly evolving and we’ll never have the same experience in the same place ever. Moreover expectations usually ruins any chances we might have at having a greater experience. Maybe that’s the reason why I don’t go back to places I’ve been to, hehe.. One place I’m a little apprehensive about going back to is, El Camino de Santiago…

  2. Stephen Bugno says:

    I think you should give the Camino another try some day. Maybe you could walk a different route. I think your second Camino would be entirely different than your first for all of the reasons mentioned above. I thought my second Camino would be like my first, but by that time I was a different person and it had an entirely different significance. So will your second Camino. You will do it for entirely different reasons than your first.

  3. Hey Stephen, this a really thought provoking post. I know personally I’ve gone back to places expecting them to be the same and they never are. I totally agree with your suggestion of treating the experience like a blank slate and allowing new memories and impressions to be formed.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with you! As you say, what we miss the most are the people and circumstances that made our trips interesting/ fulfilling.

    After having finished university I used to miss the town where I had been living for 6 years, so I would go back from time to time… but each time it was less homely than the previous one. Until I realized that what I really missed were my former mates and friends, who made possible all the special moments and who were currently working and living in other places.

    Obviously, the same happens traveling. I won’t argue that there are some spots truly breathtaking… however, what we remember with the greatest fondness are the people who accompanied us or who we met there.

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