By Travel Writer Tracey Ellis
Skip the bucket list and experience the familiar with fresh eyes.
Have you ever been drawn back to a place you’ve visited in your travels, somewhere that resonated with you more deeply for reasons you can’t always pinpoint, you just know you want to go back and explore more?
When we travel, there are always certain places that stick with us more than others; perhaps the smell of coffee brewing in a riad in Morocco, the intense scent of lavender from fields in Provence, or a memorable moment at the top of an epic hike in the Canadian Rockies – all of these experiences, however small, can sit with us for a long time, making us long to go back and experience it again, or rather, experience it anew.
Yet many of us don’t want to ruin the ‘magic’ of that one-off moment, for if we go back, surely it won’t be the same? Best to keep that experience locked in our nostalgic box to pull out as and when we feel like reminiscing. But what about making the effort to revisit that place with fresh eyes and an open mind, to see if there’s another moment waiting to be had? Yes, there’s a risk of disappointment (things are never as good second time round, right?), but there’s also a possibility of a different experience that is only enhanced by the familiarity of being there before.
But there are so many places in the world to see, how can you justify a return visit?
Consider this; that second, third, or fourth cinnamon bun from your favourite bakery that you keep buying because they taste so good, those ‘favourite’ restaurants you return to often, precisely because of the good food, comfortable atmosphere and familiar faces, your hairdresser or clothes shop you return to time and time again for consistent products and service.
Why do we keep going back to these places in our day-to-day life? Simply - because it was a good experience. If we had a bad first experience or impression, it is unlikely we’d return. So why not apply this principle to travel
The ‘been there, done that’ mentality towards travel is changing, to quality over quantity of destinations, and that’s not a bad thing. Ticking off your list of destinations like a To-Do List is not exactly the best way to get the most out of your travel. After all, much time and money is spent in planning and getting to these destinations, so are there better ways to make the most of our trips?
Factors influencing repeat visits to a destination:
A study done by Science direct shows that overall satisfaction had the biggest influence on whether to revisit a destination, whereas the least important was the tourist’s perceived image*
From a tourism perspective, repeat travellers are crucial, and tourism boards are constantly thinking of ways to draw tourists back to their location.
Destination loyalty is a concept that many tourist boards rely on, but it is more complex as it includes both tourists’ behaviours and attitude.
It is important to differentiate between destination attachment and destination image. First-time visit intentions by travellers is usually based on image – what they’ve seen and heard of the place before experiencing it themselves. Attachment to a destination obviously comes after the first visit, wherein the traveller’s intention changes, and this is where the magical transition lies when it comes to a different experience in the same place; once we are attached to something we start to see it differently and invest ourselves more into that experience, resulting in more of a holistic, immersive experience that is overall far more satisfying.
The type of relationship you have with your destination will determine the type of experience you have, and if you’re a dedicated traveller, this relationship is very important to your overall quality of time spent there. Going back to a place you’ve been before allows you to dig a bit deeper and uncover a few more layers of the area you may not have noticed the first time round.
Benefits of Second Visits:
“They are definitely more relaxed, more spontaneous, and more enjoyable. I always discover new things when I return to a favourite destination”
Familiarity – you know how to get around, that subway map rings a few bells, landmarks stand out more, and your basic local knowledge will take your farther than you think. As soon as you leave the airport you feel more confident about where you’re going which starts your trip off on the right, relaxed foot.
Famous Sights – this is when you can tick off your ‘To-Do” list and skip the queues. There’s a certain relief in knowing you can explore freely without feeling the pressure of seeing a famous monument. A street art tour or cycle ride can be so much more enjoyable, and less crowded.
Seasons Change – Every place changes during different times of year, and though you wouldn’t visit a beach destination during their rainy season, exploring a city in a different clime can be much more interesting, especially if there are seasonal festivals or events occurring which can instantly change the vibe of a city compared to quieter times.
Local Insight – From your first visit you may know the best form of transport from the airport where you don’t get hammered, the best boulangerie near the Eiffel Tower, where the locals like to eat and drink, if it’s better to take a bus or taxi, so many little details which make it so daunting the first time round become so much easier on a return visit.
When does a destination deserve a second chance? If you weren’t impressed by a place due to the weather, the busyness, the lack of atmosphere, does it mean it will always be like that, every day of the year? Perhaps if you went back and stayed clear of the tourist spots, had sunnier days, tried different tours/experiences, you’d see the place in a different light.