We tend to focus on checking off boxes. Been there, done that — no need to go back. The more exotic the destination, the better. But, can the continual seeking of new places and experiences leave us empty? And, can revisiting destinations actually provide more satisfaction? Studies show this may be the case. Thanks to the mere exposure effect or "familiarity principle," we may actually enjoy ourselves more in a place we've visited than in entirely foreign surroundings.
Still pondering your next travel experience? Here are five reasons you should revisit a previously familiar destination.
You Can Leave the Beaten Path
On your first trip to a city, it's easy to get caught up in the "can't-miss" mentality. After all, you can't go to Paris and not visit the Eiffel Tower, right? But, when you visit a city for the second time, you get to immerse yourself in its culture more fully. On your previous trip, you focused on seeing the obvious attractions. This time, you can focus on exploring the city's local spots.
Try this on for size: Head away from the Seine to take in the hip restaurant scene and waterways of Canal Saint-Martin. Or, spend an afternoon enjoying the nature scene at the Jardin d'Acclimatation, north of the Bois de Boulogne. For a world-class art experience without the crowds at the Louvre, catch an exhibit at the dazzling Louis Vuitton Foundation (adjacent to the Jardin d'Acclimatation).
The idea is to take yourself off the beaten path and go beyond a city's most famous attractions. You'll gain a better appreciation of the local culture. And, if the thought of interacting with locals seems intimidating, sign up for a Meetup.com experience. You'll meet locals and get to participate in activities you enjoy. That way, even if you don't make any connections immediately, you'll still have a great time.
Your Expectations Will Change
Remember going to Los Angeles for the first time and walking from Hollywood Boulevard out onto the Santa Monica Pier — only to discover that the city was more expansive than you thought? Those travel brochures didn't do Los Angeles justice, did they? No matter how much you've read about a location, you're still going to have unmet expectations the first time you visit.
On your second visit, however, you'll be able to make more realistic plans on what to see and where to go. For example, you'll know that you need a full day to see all the sights in Hollywood. Or, you may choose to bypass the city altogether. The decisions you make will depend on your travel goals. If hip, indie stores are your province, you know you'll be better off spending most of your time in Silver Lake rather than hobnobbing along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. And, if you're looking for a trendy Bohemian experience, you'll head to Venice Beach. On the other hand, you know the beaches in South Bay are your best bet for a more surf-friendly experience.
When you return to a destination, your knowledge of it will be augmented by authentic new experiences. This allows you to put whatever you've read about the location into perspective. And, if you're a traveler who researches a destination before a visit, you may even find that your readings resonate more with you the second time around.
You Can Revisit Your Favorite Spots — And Find New Ones
Every traveler has a favorite location. Perhaps, it's a restaurant that serves the best fish and chips in the world (to you, anyway) or that secluded bench at Hyde Park that's perfect for quiet picnics. You could only visit these places once during your first trip to London. After all, you had a full itinerary on your hands. But, you've been thinking about going back to your favorite spot ever since.
It's exciting when everything is new. But, thanks to that aforementioned psychological effect, there's an entirely different sort of enjoyment that comes from returning to a familiar place. You know you'll love it, and you get to relive some of your memories from your past travels. Plus, you get to make new memories.
Remember that adorable coffee shop in Southwark where you spent a rainy afternoon? Why not stop by on your second trip and see if anything has changed? Or, you can ride the elevator again for lunch at Duck & Waffle London, order new dishes, and enjoy skyline views of the Gherkin (London's most iconic skyscraper).
Visiting the same city twice also gives you the chance to explore neighborhoods you missed. Hello, Tufnell Park! This little-known tourist attraction boasts elegant homes in a residential neighborhood. But, that's not all. It also hosts a gastropub called The Bull and Last, which offers a substantial menu and amazing craft beers. And, if you're on a special diet, try the Stingray, which serves gluten-free pizzas and pasta. Whatever your destination, there's always more to see and new experiences to discover.
You Can Challenge Yourself in New Ways
A second visit offers new opportunities. Perhaps, you couldn't speak Spanish the first time you visited Barcelona. This time, with an introductory Spanish class under your belt, you're ready to chat up the locals. Or, perhaps, the heights at your favorite national park have inspired you to tone up at the gym. You'll be ready to go further on your hiking excursions this time.
And, foodies, take heart. The second time around, you've read up on local cuisines and are ready to sample delicacies you rejected on your first visit — like the wriggling butod in Malaysia or China's century eggs.
By returning to the same place, you get to compare your past and present experiences. That will allow you to set goals in areas that may lie completely outside your comfort zone.
What may have seemed impossible or crazy the first time may be more achievable the second time around. By leaning into those things that intimidate you, you can push your own limits and carry that attitude to other areas of your life. This leads us to our final point.
You'll Grow by Leaps and Bounds
The final reason it's worth visiting the same place twice? You'll expand your personal horizons and gain new perspectives about life. Whether it's been a year or 15 since you last visited, you'll have changed. And, that will alter your experience.
We all know the feeling of visiting much-loved childhood destinations, only to realize that they're less impressive than we remembered. Perhaps, you were drawn to the lights and excitement of Times Square when you were six years old. Today, however, you find the entire experience overwhelming.
This phenomenon can work both ways, however. You may gain a new appreciation for a place you didn't give much thought to the first time around. The waterfront views of Battery Park may have bored you as a teenager. But, the beauty and serenity of its 195,000-square-feet perennial gardens may be what draws you back to New York City today.
Often, your experience of relating to a place in a new way will reveal how you've changed. Perhaps, you've developed an interest in the architecture of the past, or you've become less intimidated by large crowds. Everything the experts say about traveling is true: you'll gain self-reliance, experience a new level of confidence, and develop more empathy for others. And, as so many quotes about travel highlight, that personal growth is priceless and will enrich your life in more ways than one.