As a child, I went to a ritzy private school on scholarship. Many of the other kids would talk about going to their family’s vacation homes over the summer. I asked my parents about that, and why we didn’t have a vacation home somewhere. My dad answered, “why would you want to go to the same place on vacation every year? Don’t you want to go to new places? See new things?” I was convinced — it seemed silly to me to keep returning to places I’d already been when there was so much more to see and do.
Now that I’m older and have been to more places, however, I realize that I have two travel personalities, and they are constantly at war with one another. One of them, the adventurous one, is always seeking out new experiences, new places, new adventures. She revels in the unknown, prefers to get lost and stumble into opportunities by accident, make new friends, and generally lives by the seat of her pants. She’s a complete blast, but exhausting to be with.
The other personality, the nostalgic one, seeks what is comforting and familiar. She is the one who gets homesick and misses her bed, her condo, her cat. She likes to re-watch movies and television shows. She has lots of old old friends. Most of the time, she stays quiet while the adventurer takes off, popping up only on the way home. She is the one, however, who yearns to return to places she has loved. She is the one who insists on going to Disney World over and over again. She is the one who can understand having a vacation home and returning, year after year, to the same place — not for adventure, but to rest, rejuvenate, recharge, to relax into pure enjoyment without the stress that comes from the adventure.
I try to let the adventurous one rule while planning vacations (“no, you cannot go back to Zion again, you must check out a new National Park…”), because I know that there is so much I want to do and see and I’ll never get to it all. What’s more, the adventurous one pushes me to really get out there, challenge myself, and live without apology. She’s inspiring.
Sometimes, however, I need to let the nostalgic, comfort-seeking one have her day in the sun. This time, she wants to return to Paris. I’ve been to Paris several times, and the adventure I get out of the visits has changed. The adventure is now in trying out new restaurants and letting myself stroll into less familiar areas of the city to discover a shop I’ve never seen, rather than in diving into the complete unknown. A couple of years ago, I ventured to Paris on my own for the first time, and the calm that settled over me while I sipped wine at a cafe in Saint-Germain-des-Prés is one I haven’t felt since. I seek that calm again, and so the nostalgic, comfort-seeking personality is getting her way this time around. I owe it to her. She doesn’t ask for much.
Once I’m recharged, once I’ve taken the time to take a trip during which I don’t have to exert the energy to be adventurous, where I can just relax and enjoy and be comforted by a place I love, then the adventurous one will reign again. She’s already making plans.