As travellers, we’re always on a mission to check something off the bucket list, get another stamp in our passports or add a country to our count. So what’s the point of going somewhere we’ve already been? Why should we revisit a country we’ve already been to?
Since moving to Prague, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching and planning trips for Colin and I (and sometimes Ellie!) to go on. Because we’re on a budget, usually have Ellie with us, and have Colin’s work schedule to contend with, we’re a bit more limited on where we can go. For weekend or overnight trips, we likely have to stick to the countries surrounding us, some of which I’ve been to.
So I’ve been wrestling with this desire to see something new and add another country to my list, while working with the options available to us. But the whole thing makes no sense! Traveling is about the experience, not about crossing a country off a list. Why would I be disappointed to revisit a country I’ve already been to?
I know I shouldn’t be. And, in fact, I’ve had some amazing experiences in countries and cities that I was visiting for the second, third or even seventh time (hello, London). But I still have a mind block about it. And I know lots of other travellers struggle with this too. People often say, “I did France and Spain on my last Europe trip so this time I’m doing Germany, Austria and Switzerland.” What does it mean to “do” a country (5th grade jokes, aside)? How can you say you’ve finished with a country after only visiting once and seeing a city or two for a few days?
With all this in mind, here are 10 reasons why you should revisit a country you’ve visited before.
The place has changed
Even though you’ve been to a spot before, there’s a good chance things have changed since you last visited. If it’s a long time between visits, a place can change so drastically that it may feel totally brand new.
When I revisited Amsterdam last fall, after living there in 2014, I was so excited to check out my old hood. Except, it had been completely renovated! My old box of an apartment was now a row of townhouses under construction. While some streets were familiar, it was so fun to get lost in Amsterdam and experience it as a brand new city.
Sometimes, even just a change in seasons can make a huge difference. I first visited Tokyo in July of 2014 and it was stifling. It was so hot I could barely enjoy any sightseeing. But going back in February? Totally different!
You have changed
So not only has the place changed, but maybe you’ve changed too. A city can seem completely different when you’re looking at it with fresh eyes.
How interesting would it be to revisit a place you used to go to as a kid, now as an adult? Or what about bringing your own children to that place?
There’s no pressure
You’ve already been to Paris. So on your second or third visit, there’s absolutely no pressure to rush around and do all of the things you’re “supposed” to do. You don’t have to hit up every hot spot and stand in line for hours to climb the Arc de Triomphe or enter the Louvre.
No one is going to say to you, “What? How could you go to Paris and not visit the Eiffel Tower?” Because you did visit it, the last time you were in Paris. Now you can just enjoy the city. And maybe even bring your dog along to Paris!
You can go off the beaten path
On the same token, now that you don’t have any pressure to visit the super touristed sights you’ve already seen, you can head a bit more off the beaten path (though you’ll never get fully off the beaten path). It’s now time to discover a bit more about this country you’ve been to before.
Use your second visit to discover a local pub, a hole-in-the-wall eatery, or a park with a beautiful view. Indulge in some of your favourite things, whether that be hikes out in the countryside, shopping at a flea market, or checking out the club scene.
You can play tour guide
Now that you’re the expert on that country (or maybe just because you spent two days there last summer), you can be a tour guide. You’re in the perfect position to take your best friend, partner or parent back and show them around.
I got to do this twice last fall, when I took my dad to Amsterdam and Paris, and then again when I went with Colin to London and Iceland. I’ve been to all of those places before, but it was really fun to experience them with a new person and get to show off a little bit of local expertise. I loved taking my dad to my favourite pancake bakery in Amsterdam and convincing Colin, who previously disliked it, how awesome London really is.
You know what to expect
Sometimes showing up in a new country is a lot of work. You have to figure out a new transit system, learn a few words of the local language, adapt to new customs and fit into a new culture. Depending on the country, this can be really exhausting and challenging.
Of course, as travellers, most of us enjoy that challenge. But it can also be really nice to revisit a country we’ve been to and just be comfortable from the get-go. It makes the transition so much easier and allows you to get right to exploring. It also helps you to come prepapred, like bringing your old Oyster card back to London.
You know there’s more to discover
Even though you know what to expect, you also know when you revisit a country that there’s so much more to discover. Chances are you haven’t turned over every rock in that country, even if you say you’ve “done” it already. Even if you have lived there for half of your life, there’s always so much more to see.
I have been to Italy before, visiting Milan, Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast while I was on exchange in 2014. But I know there is so much more of Italy to discover. Which is why when we return to Italy this fall with our moms, I’m so excited to explore Venice, Tuscany and Cinque Terre – areas of this country I’ve never seen before.
You can revisit old favourites
It might sound silly, but I can’t tell you how excited I was to be going back to Paris this June to once again eat at the most amazing restaurant with delicious seafood pasta. My dad and I had discovered the restaurant back in October and had eaten there twice on a three day trip. So, of course, Colin and I had to do the same when we visited Paris in June!
Having the opportunity to revisit old favourites is one of the best reasons to head back to a place you’ve already been. The coffee shop with the life changing espresso, the church with the gorgeous stained glass, the incredible history museum – you get to go back and enjoy those things again!
You get to slow down
When we get to a new city, there’s always an urgency about everything we want to see and do before we have to go. But when you’re somewhere familiar, you don’t have to move so quickly. You can slow your pace and really enjoy a more local taste of life. Instead of burying your head in a guidebook and running from attraction to attraction, you can take the time to sit in a town square and just people watch.
Some of my favourite moments on trips have been casual strolls through neighbourhoods. I loved walking through Dresden with Colin just admiring the old buildings, not really caring if we were seeing all of the main ones the guidebooks want you to see. We took time to lounge at cafes and outdoor squares, making the trip very relaxing.
When you revisit a country, you learn to appreciate quality over quantity
As travellers, a lot of us take pride in our number – the number of countries we have been to. Many people dream of hitting 30 countries before 30 or joining the Travelers’ Century Club (visiting 100 countries). But that’s not what travel is about.
It doesn’t matter how many countries you’ve been to. The number is meaningless and you’re not a better or worse traveller for having been to 5 or 50 countries. We may love keeping count, but at the end of the day, no one is travelling for the number.
By revisiting a country you’ve already been to, you learn to appreciate the quality of travel, not just the quantity. You know what it means to travel more deeply and actually spend time getting to know a place. And you still have the opportunity to do new things and discover new places, just in a country whose passport stamp you already have.
Of course, I’m not saying you should always go back to the same countries you’ve been to. I believe a lot of the appeal and value of travel is getting out of your comfort box and doing something new. You don’t have that experience if you head to the same all-inclusive resort in Mexico every year.
But you can still have a unique, memorable and exciting trip when heading back to a place you’ve been before. There’s so much to be gained when you revisit a country and I can’t wait to put that into practice by exploring more of the regions all around us this year.
What countries are you excited to go back to?