Should You Revisit A Favourite Destination?

Foggy Golden gate Bridge, SF- Joella

In 2007 I went to San Francisco for the first time. I was travelling by myself; I’d just left South Korea (for the first time- we would return for another stint later) and I was on the way to work and live in Venezuela for a while. Most importantly, I was on the way to be reunited with Justin.

The journey from Seoul to Caracas is long and I decided to break it up with a 4 day stop in San Francisco. It was certainly not the first time I’d ever travelled by myself, or even the first time I had been to the US alone, but San Francisco made a real impact on me. I spent 4 days in a hostel near Union Square, checking out the touristy sites, shopping for a few new clothes (it’s hard to believe after my most recent trip, but South Korea didn’t have any of the popular international shops like H&M and Zara back then!) and hanging out with the girls from my dorm room.

San Francisco Water
Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

I made the most of my jet leg and enjoyed waking up at the crack of dawn to have the city to myself. The first morning I was there, I decided to hire a bike and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. Not really knowing the tram routes, I took my hostel map and walked. I waked through China town and watched elderly Chinese- Americans practise Tai Chi (little did I know I’d be watching my own neighbours do this when I moved to China 6 years later), I walked up and down hills and I revelled in the freedom of exploring a brand new city by myself (and all with a paper map. I didn’t have google maps back then!).

San Francisco Hills

San Francisco Skyline

The ride over the bridge was exhilerating and I arrived in Sausalito on a very quiet, early weekday morning. I enjoyed a coffee in a local cafe and continued my ride. Coming from Asia, Sausalito seemed so different and quaint. I loved drinking coffee in a small cafe and looking at the the houses on the side of the hills. I got lost and found my route again and, eventually, after about 18 miles, took the furthest ferry back over to San Francisco.

This time round, things were different. I was far from alone as San Francsico was the last stop on our road trip. We had a fun first night there with Tamsin and Guido and some of their Dutch friends, easting Thai Food and watching a baseball game (though obviously, I was not cheering the Giants, being a Dodgers fan!). The second day I wanted to recreate that special trip I had had 8 years ago.

This was a mistake. It could never be the same.

The Golden gate bridge  was extremely foggy when we cycled over it and we couldn’t see anything, there were no pretty views like I had last time.  It was a busy August Saturday and Sausalito was packed with tourists. We left late and  had to get the closer ferry back rather than doing the really long bike ride. I felt kind of frustrated. I had fun but I felt like I was letting Justin down- that this place wasn’t how I had described or remembered it and he wasn’t getting the same experience as I’d had before.

But in the end, it was all ok. We had a good lunch in Sausalito. The sky and sea turned a beautiful blue. The ferry back took us right by the eery island of Alcatraz (last time the ferry route I took passed much further away) and we had a good laugh. “Look behind you”, I said to Justin as we bobbed past Alcatraz. He turned around and there were about 80 people pushing up behind him, holding their cameras and selfie sticks high above their heads trying to take photos. It was almost like being back in China again!

One of the best parts of the day was Justin found a fantastic vegan Japanese restaurant for  dinner. We love Japanese food, especially after our recent trip there, and the food here in San Francisco was delicious. It’s called Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar and Izakaya if you want to check it out.

Golden Gate Bridge J and J

Sausalito Boats CA

Lessons In Travel

I learned that you can’t recreate a trip again. It’s great to revisit a place you love (just like when we revisited Korea for a couple of weekend trips, while living in Beijing ) but you can’t expect it to be the same. You need to find new things to do and it’s not worth pressuring yourself to have the same experience. Every trip is different. My first time in San Francisco was special because I was 22, alone and embarking on a new adventure. This time was special because it was the end of a road trip with Justin, Tamsin and Guido and was at the start of me and Justin living in California.

Tips For Revisiting A Favourite Place

  • If you have beloved or nostalgic memories from a previous trip, don’t put pressure on yourself to relive it.
  • It’s fine to do some of the same things as your last trip, but find new activities or restaurants too.
  • If you did a lot of touristy things last time, choose some more off beat activities or different neighbourhoods to visit.
  • If you’re in a pair or group and one of you has been before, let the other person/people choose the activities and restaurants they want to try.

I still had a great time in San Francisco and I learnt some important travel lessons! I’ve no doubt we’ll be back in San Francisco again sometime and I can’t wait to see what new things we try!

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Tips for revisiting a favourite destination

So, what do you think? Would you revisit a favourite destination? I’d love to hear about your own experiences in revisiting places- let me know in the comments below. ♥

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19 thoughts on “Should You Revisit A Favourite Destination?

  1. I made also the experience that revisiting a place is never like the first time. Sure you make plans on how to make the experience even better the second time but it doesnt feel that special anymore. Oh well, what troubles people have 🙂

  2. I would revisit a favorite destination – if I had friends or people I would like to see again there. I do agree that if you revisit a destination, you should find new activities. Now that I think of it, Hiroshima is the most beautiful city and if I went there again, I would like to the revisit the Peace Memorial Museum and pick up things I didn’t during my first visit.

    Also, when I return to huge cities such as Bangkok, Tokyo, London, etc., I try to hit up new places or new activities (such as festivals). That always makes those visits fun.

  3. Hey Joella, great points you make. We got married in Thailand and decided to go back for a 3 month trip a few years after. We had that anticipation of will it be the same, will we still enjoy it. But we ended up doing different things, staying in different places and kind of forgot that we had been there before. I think it would be a lot different if we had tried to re-create the experience. Thanks for the post!

  4. I completely agree with you! I love revisiting my favorite cities (NYC, SF, Paris, Budapest…) but the experience can never be the same. Instead, I look at revisiting cities as a chance to dig deeper and get to know them better! The first time usually consists of seeing the more touristic sites, and afterwards, you have the opportunity to really get to know a place. Last winter I went with a friend to Berlin for NYE and then Prague and had an AMAZING time. This year, I’m doing the exact same thing, but I’m bringing my boyfriend along, and also visiting some other places afterwards. I can’t wait to revisit these cities, but create new experiences and memories!

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  5. I totally agree with you in not putting pressure on yourself to recreate what you once experienced. The 1st time I went to NYC I absolutely loved every moment of it. I thought it was so magical. Then when I returned at the beginning of this year, I saw such a different side to it. Everything felt cold and abrupt and just not at all glamourous. It was a little disappointing but I guess I’d taken my ‘tourist goggles’ off and was seeing it as just another big city.

    I loved San Francisco when I visited it. I’d love to go back because I definitely didn’t spend as much time there as I’d have liked. No pressure next time though. 😉

  6. Thanks for sharing your story, I know it can be hard to admit when we are even slightly disappointed in a trip! From my experience, the key to revisiting an old love is trying new things while you’re there, even though it’s so easy to slip into the comfort of the familiar. Especially food! #guiltygirl

  7. One of the things I love the most about re-visiting a destination is that after almost 5 years of travel it is novel to have some familiarity with our surroundings and I love it! It is so exciting to actually know what is going to be around the next corner for a change or to get to see how a city changes over the years 🙂

    1. That’s such a great way to look at it, Jenny! And I can completely understand that after all your year son the move! I know when we went back to Korea it was really cool to see how it had changed (and it had changed a lot since we were there in 2006-2008) and how it parts of it still felt familiar.

  8. I spent the most incredible summer in Wildwood, NJ when I was 19 … and part of me has always wanted to go back, but I mostly know I’d rock up and be half-horribly-nostalgic and half-WHAT-ON-EARTH-DID-I-SEE-IN-THIS-PLACE!? Haha. So for now, I’m staying away. 🙂

  9. Awesome tips, and so true. I’ve been revisiting a few destinations this year, and I’ve seen them in such a different way. Not only did I go to new areas or hike new trails, but I’m a slightly different person and that place has changed too. It’s actually pretty interesting!

  10. This has become one of my biggest travel dilemmas. I so love most of the places I end up visiting that they’re nearly always some of the first destinations I think of when I start planning new travels! Still, I think you got the lesson exactly right here: it’s about exploring new faces of places you love, not trying to recreate old experiences. On a different note — would love to visit San Fran! Still haven’t made it to California yet…

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