“I’ll do that next time!”
“Can’t wait to do that when I’m back!”
These are common phrases amongst travellers. I’ve said a lot of them myself. It’s what we say when we leave a place and realize there was so much more to see.
Sometimes we know it going in. We know we’re only going to be in a place for a short amount of time. We realize the number of impressive sights and experiences are much greater than the number of hours we’ll have in that location. And so we resign ourselves to just hitting the top spots, leaving everything else on the list for next time.
That’s what happened on our weekend trip to Scottsdale. We knew we wouldn’t have enough time to do everything. We were only there for 2.5 days. I held out hope for a little while that we could fit in a quick trip to Sedona. But I quickly realized that wouldn’t be possible. And if we couldn’t make it to Sedona, we certainly couldn’t make it to the Grand Canyon, which is even farther away. So, those quickly got added to the list for “next time.”
Other times, you have no idea you’ve missed something until you’re already back home. I remember coming back from my very first solo trip to Europe, feeling like I had crammed in so much. I really thought I had seen it all. Of course, this was my first big trip so I was kind of naive to what “it all” really meant. When I came back home, my cousins gifted me with a book showing off the top landmarks of the world. I flipped through and discovered – I had missed so many things! I didn’t make it to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of St. Paul’s Cathedral. I remember my aunt being astounded that I hadn’t seen that. And I was astounded too – how did I miss something so iconic? (I did make it to St. Paul’s on my next trip!)
Over time, I’ve learned that there is no way to see it all. Even if I lived in a place my whole life, there’s no way I would see everything. Take Vancouver, for example. I’ve lived here off and on for eight years and there are a million things I haven’t seen yet. I haven’t been to Deep Cove, I haven’t been to any of the local mountains and there are tons of restaurants I’d love to eat at but haven’t yet.
I get that it’s impossible to see everything. If I can’t see it all in my own city, how would I possibly be able to see it all in a city I’m visiting for just a few days or a few weeks? I can’t. And I get that. I understand it’s about prioritizing. It’s harder to do so in a social media age when you are constantly seeing all the amazing places out there. It’s hard to feel great about the places I have on my list or the places I’ve been when I see that someone else went to that same place and saw something else – maybe something better. I have so many more thoughts on social media, comparing myself to others and the almost competitive nature of travel – but more on that in another post.
But what happens if you’re not going back to a place? What if this is a one time visit? What if everything that didn’t make your priority list never makes the list?
It can be hard to say that you’re never going back to a place, ever. But sometimes, you just know. I know myself. I know that I value new experiences and I have a desire to see places I have never seen before. I’ll admit it, part of the reason is because I like collecting passport stamps and crossing countries off the list. But it’s more than that. Even though I know it’s impossible to see it all, I want to see it all! So that’s why I’m always itching to see a new place. And unfortunately, that means there are some places I know I am unlikely to go back to.
I loved the time I spent in Vietnam. Traveling to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi and Phu Quoc, I got to see so much and experience so much. But I missed things. There’s a spot in Hanoi where a train goes right through a row of houses and shops – but I missed it. We chose to forgo our few days in Sapa, because we didn’t have enough time to get there and back. When I see pictures of these places, I cringe inside. I say to myself, “I’ll see it next time!” but I am kind of thinking there won’t be a next time.
Don’t get me wrong – I loved Vietnam. It was an amazing experience. But I know that I would much rather go to nearby countries of Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore, all before I go back to Vietnam. And that’s just a part of Southeast Asia – there’s so much more world to see!
It’s sad to think about not going back to a place. And it’s even sadder to stand in a place and think you’ll never return again. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I will end up back in Vietnam. I shared this sentiment with Colin the other day and he reminded me that he had never been to Vietnam. So maybe I’ll go back with Colin one day. Heck, maybe we’ll even live there or something! I doubt it, but you never know for sure.
Maybe that’s the thing about traveling. When you don’t travel, you have no idea how big the world is. And as soon as you start traveling, you realize it’s so much bigger than you ever could have imagined. As travellers, we think we’re crossing countries and places and experiences off of a list. But really, our list is just growing. We see a waterfall, and hear about another amazing waterfall we have to check out. We spend time in a city and run out of time to try every awesome restaurant someone recommended to us. We’re constantly trying to see more, do more and experience more but in the end, we know it’s not possible to see, do and experience it all.
But hell, we’re going to try!
What’s a place you don’t think you’ll be going back to?