The Place vs Our Experience in that Place

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November 22, 2011

The Place vs Our Experience in that Place

Last week’s Travel Philosophy Friday post It won’t be like I remembered it make me think about place and the way we view that place after our experience there. In other words, place versus our experience in that place.

Although spending a cold and rainy three days there, I left Copenhagen, thinking “Man, I love this city.” Really? Do I love Copenhagen? Or did I just love my experience there? I stayed with cool people, they showed me around, took me to some hip bars and bohemian coffee shops, led me around the city, and found an abandoned bike to let me explore the city further on my own. Bike lanes went everywhere, complete with traffic signals. The city was lively, artsy, and fun. The buildings were grand, the beer was strong. Copenhagen left me feeling good.

Often times, hanging with good people and having good experiences in a place, give our memory the impression that this place is an inherently good place. This has happened to me a number of times. I tend to be over-positive about places. But I also try to have a good time. Doesn’t everybody? We want to like places.

Should I be more conscientious about differentiating the place from the experience?

This can also happen in the reverse. We can dislike a place after having negative experiences.

After visiting Las Vegas last summer, neither was the case. This was one time in my life where I had a really fun time, but absolutely loathed the place. Las Vegas is disgusting to me in every aspect, but I remember having a blast there. We got loaded on caffeine, drove through the desert all night, hit the casino floor at dawn, had a big breakfast, and didn’t lose too much money. But still I was able to recognize that Vegas and I would not be soul mates.

Are you careful to distinguish between judging a place on its own virtue versus the experience you have in that place? What cities do you love? What cities do you think you love because you had good experiences? And what cities do you hate because of bad experiences?

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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.

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