Prehispanic sculpture of an old couple

So many countries, so little time, so why go back?

Seen it, done it, still got the T-shirt?

“You’ve been there already. Why would you want to go again?”, Melissa asked me when we were first planning our round the world trip. I’d visited Cape Town, the first destination on our travels. I’d spent three months in Mexico City, our first stop this side of the Atlantic. I’d travelled a year in South America, where we plan to catch highlights ranging from Machu Picchu to Buenos Aires. So why wouldn’t we plan to only go to other countries I hadn’t been to?

It would be easy to justify some of this by saying that my visit to Cape Town was short, and it’s not really representative of Southern Africa as a whole, just a pleasant city to acclimatise to the continent. I could say that I wanted to enjoy Mexico City without the threat of Swine Flu. But really, what’s my excuse for going back to South America? 

So I might have seen a lot of these places, done a lot of things and got the T-shirt. But fourteen years on and that T-shirt has holes where holes aren’t supposed to be. Fourteen years on I’m not sure that I remember half of the places I visited, and those that I do remember are likely to have changed, a lot. 

In the thirteen years I lived in the States, I visited New York City many times, as I had an office I needed to visit in midtown regularly. Of course NYC is a big place and there were always new things to see. But I enjoyed the sense that some parts of it were familiar, that I could be comfortable just being there. Being back in Mexico City was like that too. The three and a half weeks we spent there were great because I could comfortably navigate the major highlights of the city with some confidence. I could remember some of the landmarks I’d seen before, refreshing my memory, while getting a chance to notice new sights along the way. And of course we have travelled another three-and-a-bit weeks in Mexico visiting all new places, the vast majority of which were absolutely amazing.

What’ll happen in Peru, Argentina and Brazil? Of course the archaeological sites in Peru shouldn’t have changed much. But the cities will. Same with Argentina, some things will be oddly familiar, the cities will have moved on, hopefully improving along the way. At times maybe déjà-vu will be an issue where the old memories are lurking but have got mixed up over time. The places I’ve forgotten completely will be like new.

What’s truly different this time is that I’m going to be sharing this travel experience with Melissa. We’ll decide together what’s important to visit and what can be skipped. We can enjoy the new sights and experiences, different activities, fun cities and cold beers. And with all the other travel experience under our belts, I’m sure we’ll get to appreciate how amazing each of these countries is, whether I’ve been there in the dim and distant past or not. 

Have you gone back to a country you visited years before? Did you discover new things, or got stuck reliving the past adventures? Share your story in the comments below.

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