We tend to take these destinations in stride because one of our major travel mantras is that a poor experience abroad is often still more enjoyable than being at home working. But what happens when those poor experiences start fading away over time? As it turns out we end up starting to like the destination more in retrospect and, as the saying goes, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. But why is that the case?
Our Least Favorite Destinations
On the topic of travel ruts, Hong Kong has always been my go-to example. A busy metropolis is definitely not the place for someone like myself who enjoys smaller cities and generally less people in a given area; but this is not why I had a bad time in the city. All of my negative examples of Hong Kong are purely due to the fact that I was in the middle of the biggest travel rut of my 150 day trip. After spending four weeks in China and having a hard time with sickness and finding foods I was interested in eating, Hong Kong just happened to be the place that I took my frustrations out on by sleeping a lot, eating bad fast food, and all around doing very little.
At the same time, Hong Kong had some really amazing attractions that are some of my favorites in Asia. Going up Victoria Peak and watching the sun set over the city and night time laser show is quite possibly one of the most enjoyable ways to enjoy a skyline in the world. A day trip over to Lantau island with the mega-cable car ride to the giant Buddha statue is something I have fond memories of and would love to do again. From that description you'd think I love Hong Kong, but only when reading the previous paragraph do you realize that I had a pretty crummy time when I was there.
But looking back on it, I seem to only recall the good while only mentioning the bad in a half-hearted "yeah it happened, but I got over it" style. This is not an isolated incident, and Hong Kong is not the only place this has happened at.
Paris is another fine example of this phenomena for a very similar reason. My time in Paris was at the very end of my European trip in 2008 and I was only a few short days away from having to fly home for a summer internship before starting graduate school. While being surrounded with amazing churches, beautiful artwork, and a wonderful city I started falling into the end-of-the-trip rut about returning home and became fixated on it until Paris just became another city I happened to be in at the time.
But now that we are approaching the 5-year anniversary of my visit I can only think of Paris as the city that has one of my top 3 favorite museums in the world, the amazing underground catacombs, crepes, and orange duck. What do I not think about as often? Why I was so sad during my time in the city. I'm home now, and that dread has no significance anymore. But man do I love Paris, and am looking forward to our visit there in June.
Priorities are Important
These cases truly highlight the importance of keeping your priorities straight even during the bad days of travel. The recurring theme with all of the instances like those above are an external factor at the time (travel rut, pending end of trip, etc). Going home, having a bad travel period, a fight with a friend or significant other are all reasons to get upset. It happens, and can impact how you perceive travel for a few hours or days. But as time goes on these poor instances are remembered not so much for how they made you feel at the time, but how insignificant they truly are in the grand scheme of things. For that, time really is a great thing.
But Is A Revisit is Needed?
In your least favorite destinations, it is hard to pass judgment right away when there are other issues clouding your opinion. If you were to ask me what I thought of Hong Kong when I was there versus now two years later you'll get two different stories altogether. The same is true for Paris, Nha Trang, Beijing, and just about every other city that was not on my favorite list during my stay. But I'd go back in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. There was nothing about any of these places that I truly hated, and I feel like I would owe it to them to give a second chance to find out if it was not them, and in fact my own issues that made me have a poor experience.
While time may truly heal all wounds like in most of our travels, it also makes memories fade. Where you stop feeling upset about a poor experience could also include other reasons you didn't like a city. In these cases you'll only rediscover them after you go back and give the spot a second chance. But as our mantra goes, a poor experience on the road really is often better than being at home, and we've been home for far too long. For that, the risk of not liking a city the second time around is worth it.
Have you ever visited a destination and left felt like you were not a fan but then ended up having fonder memories as the months went by? What did you think of the experience? Comment below and let us know!