In the travelling world, it seems like the more places you’ve seen the bigger chance you’ll win in a bragging rights competition. This will obviously cross out visiting the same place twice or more since it wouldn’t add another country to your list. The fact that there are 190+ countries in the world, you need a good amount of time, money, and energy to set foot on all of them before you get too old to travel or need to settle down and have your own family.
Personally, I’d rather spend my time and money on a new place than going to the same place I’ve been a few years back. It only makes sense especially if you travel on a budget or tied down on a limited off time from work, visiting the same place twice is just a waste of money, or isn’t it?
This generation is making everything fast phased and busy on every level, not to mention how technology is making things a lot easier and how everything is just at your fingertips.
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I personally have been to Thailand four times, in Bangkok to be more specific. Every visit left me with different experiences, different memories, different impacts. I’ve explored Denmark twice, taking into account that I’ve lived there for two years then went back a bit over six months later to enjoy its summer season.
I’ve lived and travelled Vietnam for four months give or take, and now at this very moment, I’m sitting in the shared apartment I rented here in Ho Chi Minh City. I’m a broke full-time traveller, I should just spend my money on a new destination so I can scratch them off my list. What’s attracting me back to these destinations? What’s making me want to always come back or is it something I want to do?
When I posted on Facebook that I’m leaving Cambodia, my sister messaged me right away. “Where are you going?!“, oh, I forgot to update my family about my life, for the 100th time! “I’m going back to Vietnam, but only in Ho Chi Minh City” I responded. “Vietnam again?”, she replied.
Why am I back? I’m not even thinking to stay here just for a few days or just to say hi to a friend, I’m here for at least three weeks. What is it really that dragging me back to a place I have been to, let alone to a place I have lived.
After I travelled for a year, I can feel the excitement is wearing off. The idea of meeting new people and getting lost in an unknown place is not as thrilling as it used to be. The craving for chasing sunsets and snapping an epic Instagram photo doesn’t give me chills anymore compared to when I started. Am I taking everything for granted? I am 100% privileged to be able to travel freely, on my own terms, at my own pace.
I’ve had this conversation a couple of times with my friends. Friends who I love dearly and trust back in Denmark, another friend who I learn to admire because we share the same interest in travelling. I go in circles asking the same questions, hungry to find answers, restless to decipher the codes in why I keep coming back to the places I have been.
After a couple of gin and tonics, dozens of warm beers, plus losing count of drunk calls, and long walks on the beach, I think I somehow found an answer.
For me travelling full-time is a dream come true, away from all the responsibility back home, away from the system that everyone is falling into. But just like everyone else, even I hate having a routine, I breathe adventure every day, even I know that the world is massive and I want to explore it, I still crave for normality.
I think a lot, not all of them, of long-term travellers, are trying to escape the whole concept of studying, working, paying bills, get married, have kids, then die cycle. All of us want something new for ourselves, we want to do something different from the person next to us in our office or a childhood friend who lives in the same town all these years. That’s what travelling gives me, that is moving abroad or to a new city promised us.
But for me, at the end of the day, it’s about feeling normal without feeling bored or trapped. I travelled to escape the whole system, to move on from all the heartaches back at home, to start somewhere new, to be a different person.
And then, in the middle of a busy city plus a chaos mind within me, I started waking up. One day I woke up, feeling bored and unsatisfied, feeling uncomfortable and lost. All because I seek normality. I even thought that maybe I am suffering from travel depression. I want to be in a place where it feels new to me every single day but at the same time, I can do what I normally would do. I miss cooking for myself, having a stable network of friends, or going to the gym – those simple things.
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I came back to Denmark because I miss the food, I wanted to be there for the summer season too, oh how lovely it was! I came back because that’s where my comfort zone is, my safe haven. I went back to the Philippines and I felt like an outsider, I didn’t feel like home, I am a stranger in my own home country. I watched the days pass by, I counted every month until I can leave the Philippines again. I had a constant argument with myself and people around me, I was not completely me.
When I got off the bus I took from Cambodia to reach Ho Chi Minh City, the sense of comfortability rushed through me. I don’t really know where the apartment I’m going to stay is located, but I know how things work, I know what to do, where to go, who to ask to find my way. I know how the money works, I know how to use Grab, I know what food I want to eat, I know how to say simple phrases like thank you and hello in Vietnamese, even the word vegetarian (I’m not even vegetarian).
I think after travelling for so long, the world satisfied the adventurous side of me, it showed me what I wanted to see, it made me feel the feelings I never thought existed, it made me realised I have a little control of my life. I haven’t travelled the whole world yet, but it makes me feel like I have. Going solo on a trip is amazing but there are also disadvantages of travelling alone. And now, I want to find the place where I fit in, the place where I will feel comfortable, where I can have normality without feeling bored, where I can be a new version of myself, a better one.
That’s why I keep coming back to the places I have been. That’s why I’m not worried about spending my money in cities I’ve braved before, it’s the reason why I don’t feel like I have to see everything in one sitting, in one trip. I want to stay in one place and soak up to its magic, let its charm wash over me and make me feel like home, make me feel like I found my place in this beautiful world.
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I’m not sure if Vietnam is my spiritual country as my friend labelled it, but it definitely has a special space in my heart. I wouldn’t mind going back here and spend my time and money eating the same food, watching the locals deal with their daily life task, or argue with a local who tries to rip me off.
I believe it’s the way to find the place for me, it’s accepting every country’s flaws and still find it amusing and magical. I’m not speaking here what is best for you, I’m talking all based on my own experiences, I didn’t grow up craving to see the world. But somehow, along the way, I found myself chasing this dream.
I don’t think I’m done travelling if that is your conclusion as you reach this part of this article, I still have places I want to explore, I still love the heavy backpack I carry. I still enjoy cheap beers, hostel dorm beds, and overnight buses. But now I know how to slow down as I travel, why it’s not a bad idea to visit the same place twice or more.
Have you visited a place or destination more than twice? Let me know how it feels in the comment section below.