Visit Playa del Carmen

How to Visit Any Country Over & Over Again & Still Love It

Derek Mexico, Perspectives 75 Comments

Visit Playa del Carmen

Here I am, back in Mexico, having decided to visit Playa del Carmen again, a town I’ve been to many times before. And I’m thoroughly enjoying my stay right now, even more than previous visits. Now one might think this would be the result of spending time at all of my favorite places in town, eating at my favorite eateries, hanging out on my favorite stretch of white sand beach, going for a swim each evening at the very same spot I used to go for a sunset swim and taking day trips to the very same locations I’ve been to, and loved, before.

But actually, the reason why this current stay in Playa del Carmen is going so well is because I haven’t done much of the above at all.

Returning to a destination that you have visited previously and absolutely connected with can be a bit, well, interesting. There are expectations galore when you do this as you automatically assume that you are going to have the same rewarding experiences you once had, simply by showing up and repeating everything you did during that original visit. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t work that way because it’s almost impossible to repeat those ideal experiences and those ideal interactions that had made a particular destination so special in the first place.

When you revisit a destination and you sit down at your favorite restaurant or you go for a beer at your favorite beach hangout or you walk through that friendly neighborhood you used to wander around so often, it just doesn’t feel the same. You’ve changed, the circumstances of your visit have changed, the destination has probably changed a little as well. And all of those factors – the people you hung out with, the goals you had at that point in life, the activities that excited you, perhaps even the weather – might no longer be the same.

Sounds a bit gloomy, I know. But alas, that’s not the point of this post!

The point is that the above does not mean that you should never return to those ‘favorite’ destinations of yours, those destinations that you visited once and can’t wait to visit again. In fact, if you’re drawn to a particular place, there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t go back for a second or third or fourth visit if that’s what you feel like doing. As I like to state often, there’s no right way to travel. Whatever suits you the best and wherever you decide to go, regardless of what kind of adventure you are seeking or whether or not you’ve been to that destination before, is your own right way of traveling.

Visit Playa del Carmen - cenote

Back to Playa del Carmen.

Yes, I’ve eaten at Dona Mary’s local tostada cafe on Avenida 30, my absolute favorite eatery here, and I’ve already gone to the same nearby street stall for some agua de guanabana, which I used to do almost every day when I lived here, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hang out at my favorite cafe in the center of town or swim at my favorite part of the beach, just as I did before. But what I’ve realized this time around is, in between those meals and those hang out sessions and those swims, I’ve ventured off into new neighborhoods, eaten at new eateries, explored new stretches of beach and searched for completely new experiences.

When I came to Mexico to visit Playa del Carmen last year, I wrote a post about how different it felt and how I didn’t exactly connect with the town as much as I had on previous trips. But now, I’ve learned some things since then (travel is about constant learning after all!) and I’ve realized that I was going about it all in the wrong way. Last year, I thought I could just repeat everything I did when I used to live here and I would have an absolutely perfect stay as a result. However, on this visit, I realized that I need to take the foundation of why I used to love this town – the overall atmosphere and the people – and experience it all in different ways.

That’s why I’m seeking out unfamiliar places to eat, unfamiliar places to hang out, unfamiliar groups of people to meet, unfamiliar neighborhoods to wander around, unfamiliar, well, everything. And the result is an experience that far exceeds what I could have ever imagined, in the most positive of ways, giving me not only a fresh look at Playa del Carmen but a set of fresh rewards that will enhance my life from this point forward.

Visit Playa del Carmen - beach

You know, the more I think about it, the more this could apply to visiting a country for the first time as well. It’s quite difficult, after doing research online before we leave for a particular trip, to land in a country without having formulated some idea of what we think we should expect. And if we stick to that list we make about what we want to see and where we want to go, those real experiences will have to match up with our real, and often quite high, expectations. And if they don’t match, if those expectations prove to be grander and more rewarding than the real thing, it’s easy to be a bit disappointed with our travels and in turn, gain less from our adventures than we could have gained.

Should you skip the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Angkor Wat in Cambodia as a result? Of course not. Do what you want, go where you want to go, check off the items on your list. But the idea is to make sure that you go beyond that as well. Try to seek out experiences that you never thought of having, try to find towns or neighborhoods that you never came across in your pre-trip research, try to find restaurants that are recommended to you by locals, not only those that you heard about online or in guidebooks, and try to spend some of your time doing activities that you never even knew existed wherever you happen to be visiting.

These are the ways to enhance every day of your travels and to ensure that your trip is filled with so many new and memorable experiences that, regardless of what your expectations were at the start, your trip turns out to be far better than you ever thought possible.

From Playa del Carmen, Mexico, a town that I’ve visited many times before, yet which I almost seem to be experiencing for the first time right now – something I’m extremely happy about – I wish you safe and exciting journeys ahead!

How do you feel about re-visiting certain destinations? Do you ever run into an issue where your real experiences don’t match your expectations? If you haven’t traveled yet, are you creating expectations for your upcoming travels?


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Comments 75

  1. Laura

    Everything you said is totally spot on! I love Gili Trawangan, and just went there for the third time after having such an amazing time only a few weeks earlier that I couldn’t wait to go back. And I’m currently a big advocate of re-visiting places one loves because I can ‘work out’ how to ‘do things right’, and make the most of things through learning. But this latter visit wasn’t quite as good as my last, and I think it’s because I just did exactly the same things and stayed at exactly the same place. By nature of repetition, I think I had lost some of the excitement. So when I go to Thailand in August (my other favourite place) for the sixth time, I’m looking forward to going to a new island, staying in new places and doing different tours at the same islands I’ve been to again and again. I can’t wait!

  2. Katey W

    It’s all about expectations vs. reality…. I guess sometimes we set ourselves up for disappointment by having expectations crafted from the things we see on social media. But when we’re actually there it feels different. Not as “glamorous” or that the stuff portrayed on Instagram is totally overrated.
    I feel sometimes the best experiences are those that take you by surprise. Like doing things differently from your previous itinerary, like being willing to wander off into a new unexplored neighbourhood or cafe, like taking a leap of faith and living like a local in a Roomorama apartment or taking a road trip and setting up camp somewhere. These experiences that cannot be replicated are the most precious to me.

  3. Mari

    I loved this post and I completely agree! I have revisted many places many times and the first few times I did the exact same things, hoping for the experience to be as exciting as the first time, but the circumstances are different: you’re not with the same people, the area has changed, and whatnot. I have gone back to Paris 8 times and the first few times I was disappointed at how bored I got, but then I learned, just like you, that you had to do new things, explore new areas and eat at different places. I now skip the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysee and whatnot. I enjoy walking down Latin Quartier, little lost streets and find random corner cafés to drink chaude vine at!! I love your blog and your posts and they just make me want to keep on travelling and see it all, eventually! Thank you 😀

  4. Annie Marie Peters

    Very good tips for repeat vacationing! It’s important to keep things fresh when visiting a place you’ve been before. Trying new things will help make sure you have a good time and will want to return again and again.

  5. Glamourous Traveller

    I’ve had similar issues, especially when I went back to Paris the second time after living there for 3 months. I wax lyrical about those three months, and constantly find myself going back and over and over the memory of the City of Love.

    When I went back the second time though, I realized it deff didnt live up to my expectations. I was a poor college student then that never ate in a cafe, and I was a working woman now able to pay for a night in a hotel (not hostel! *gasp!*) even.

    So I decided to try and make different memories. Went down to different cafes and went shopping at different stores. And created a completely different view of the city. (And being able to pay for a meal at a terrace cafe was pretty amazing!)

  6. Stacey

    Great post!

    When I re-visit places often I feel a little strange about it, like I should be going somewhere new or trying something new but it’s like this: nothing is ever the same twice in travel.

    The people you meet are different, the place you are in in your life is different, what you want out the the experiences is different, often where you stay and where you eat and what you do is different.

    You can travel and see nothing, or you can return to (or live in) a place and see everything – as long as it’s what you decide to do.

  7. victor

    Hi there Derek!

    I loved your post this time! (just as always), But I loved it even more because I was at playa del carmen at the very same time you wrote it!, I knew you were going to be there, but I totally forgot about contact you. It would have been a pleasure to finally meet you!

    This was my very first visit to playa del carmen, and I loved it! its a pretty city, so full of life!, and culture!, I don’t know, it just have something special!. I’m planning to go back on september and visit Tulum aswell, I saw some pictures and it looks amaizing!
    And about your questions, have you ever visit Liverpool? in the UK? I lived there for around 2months almost 3 years ago, and I loved it so much!, Its a city that I need to visit again ASAP. If you havent been there yet, you may give it a chance! its awesome, ceirtanly not as exciting as London, but it has someting special!, So yes, I would visit the same places where I have been before.

    As one of my mottos in life there is this “A travel without adventure isn’t a travel”

    Thanks for inspiring us all, you are great!
    Regards from the north of mexico!
    VICTOR

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Victor – Thanks for that comment and that’s excellent that you’re enjoying Playa del Carmen right now! I’m back so perhaps we can meet up at some point. And I haven’t been to Liverpool unfortunately. Seems like that was another city that you really connected with!

      Keep on enjoying your stay in Mexico for now!

  8. Nomad Revelations

    Great! I kinda love Mexico already. but I’ve never been there. I’m actually preparing my trip to Mexico, maybe in 3 weeks so it’s very nice to read all this inspiring post about it. Greetings from Rio de Janeiro!

  9. Tahlei's Travels

    I haven’t often been back to the same places, purely because there’s just too much out there to see and do! But the few times that I have, I have really enjoyed the feeling of familiarity and confidence that this brings. Just knowing where I’m going and the best way to get around takes that initial scariness or feeling of helplessness out of the equation, and allows me to relax and get on with experiencing new things in the same place!

  10. Nick - Goats On The Road

    Hi Earl,

    We just returned to Mexico after 8 years since our first visit and I must say that it was MUCH better this time! We did enjoy the feeling of nostalgia when we returned to our favourite beach near Tulum, but this time we backpacked the country instead of “vacationing” and it was a far better experience.

    We have a habit of returning to our favourite cafes when we go back somewhere. We’ve been to bangkok about 7 times and we still enjoy the same Pad Thai stand! But I agree that it’s important to branch out and see new things.

    Enjoyed the article.

    Cheers.

  11. Randy

    Hey Derek,

    I don’t know if you remember me but I commented about how you inspired me to travel. (I used to read your blog back in 2010 when I was in the Army) It’s been 5 months now and I just traveled through Mexico, Central America, and to Colombia by land. It has been awesome. I am now in Madrid, Spain and am fling to Macedonia to meet my family for the first time. I just wanted to say hi and thank you again.

    Also, there is a hostel call 3B which a really good friend of mine owns and operates. There is a rooftop bar and swimming pool there not to mention tons of interesting people. His name is Brooks and would love to have you stop and say hi.

    Hope to see you around someday! Have a great time in PDC!

    -Randy

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Randy – Great to hear from you and that’s excellent that your travels have gone so well! And it seems that there are plenty more adventures to come for you in the future. I know the 3B hostel actually, never been, but I’ve walked by it many times. I shall stop in the next time I’m in that area!

      And please do keep me posted as your travels continue. I’m sure things in Macedonia will be wonderful!

  12. Fabio Nodari

    Great article as always Earl. So far I didn’t want to visit the same country twice, but as you said visiting the same place again can be “interesting”!! Well said.. 😉

  13. Victoria

    Hi Earl, thanks for this brilliant post as ever. 🙂

    I don’t mind re-visiting destinations in the least. I love travelling to new exciting places but there is also a reason why I’m drawn to the same places again and again. Well, because I like them and because everytime I go there, it’s familiar but new. My “special” places are the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, France, Thailand, and of course, my home-country of the United Kingdom. I go back to these countries every two years but I still make room for the new.

    So far, I haven’t been really disappointed. Yes, it’s not as “new” as when I first visited 20 odd years ago, yes, the prices have gone up, and yes, there’s new development but it neverthess, gives me pride that I have seen and tracked the years and I still like it!

  14. Olga

    Completely agree! I love to come back to the same places, I’ve visited. Especially for the reason that I am not same person as I was the last time I’ve been to a place.
    I think of it as a time machine. I used to live in Jerusalem for two years, then moved to another city in Israel, but coming back to visit my parents in Jerusalem. There are so many places in Jerusalem associated with different periods in my life, when I visit them I feel like talking with my younger me. It doesn’t happen often, so I also feel like I am a traveller in this cosmic city. When will be the next time I see it? 🙂

  15. Rebekah Voss

    Oh Earl, this is SO spot on! I’m back in Vietnam after not having nearly enough time here earlier in the year. I wanted, no, I NEEDED to go back to Cat Ba because of the spring rolls, because of my wonderful guest house family, because it was so peaceful and quiet.

    Well, big surprise – they changed the spring rolls on the menu and they no longer taste the same. My guest house owner HIT on me (married man), and the town is now packed with tourists instead of quiet and deserted.

    But it’s all good – a reminder that every moment is fleeting, and that even if we return to a place, it can never be the same as it was before. It makes me appreciate the present moment and relish great spring rolls when I find them. (:

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Rebekah – Having that awareness will certainly make sure that such a situation won’t lead to too much disappointment. It is what it is and if it’s not as we expected, there’s nothing stopping us from moving on, changing our goals and seeking out new adventures elsewhere!

  16. Vickie

    I’m just back from my 4th trip to Italy. I’m 69, female, travel alone. Before this trip, I almost cancelled my flight, thinking, ” oh, not Venice again….” But I went. And had a wondrous, incredulous 3 weeks. I visited some of the same cities ( Venice, Florence, Rome ) some new (Sorrento). Somethings that blew me away every other trip just were ok this time. Some things I’d seen every other trip got me crying once more ( Michelangelos lifesize carved wooden crucifix in Santo Spirito church). I can hardly wait to go back. But this Playa del Carmen place looks pretty interesting…..

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Vickie – Glad to hear you had such a great trip to Italy again. Seems like you you could go back over and over and over again and still have a rewarding trip!

  17. Carolyn James

    In your post from Playa del Carmen last year, you said four of the six internet cafes you used to work in had closed. What is the story on that now? I started wondering about the cafe owner’s cost for the fast internet, compared to the price of the coffee and snacks for the digital nomads/customers. Maybe it didn’t balance out for them? I wonder if that is a problem around the world.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Carolyn – They actually were just regular cafes that had internet and a comfortable place to sit and work. I think the issue here is just the high rent and cost of operations as there is such a high turnover of businesses here overall. It’s definitely not limited to cafes. Places are closing down all the time because it’s just too expensive for them to maintain the business. With that said, a few new places have opened up now and there is about 6 places again that would be great places to work at, places that don’t mind at all and seem to have a strong business plan that will hopefully keep them going for a long time.

  18. Nicki

    Thank you Earl, for helping me make a decision on whether to visit places I’ve never been to before and places I have been to and love for my last two long weekend trips in Europe.

  19. Shaun | Shaun's Cracked Compass

    I’m all over visiting places again but I keep my expectations in check. Can’t say enough that travel is truly individual. My cousin is on a trip through Ireland and Scotland… his first time aboard. He’s doing all this in two weeks with way too many stops inbetween. I told him he’s going to have a blast and lent him my beloved backpack to do it.

    I’ll be hitting the caribbean soon! Thanks Earl!

  20. Firda

    I find going somewhere the first time around easier because, even when you’ve done your research, you still don’t quite know what to expect as everyone experiences a place differently and you know you’re going to have your own experience. It’s part of the thrill. Revisiting a place, you kind of already have an expectation of it and I guess, if you really enjoyed your first trip there, it makes you more prone to disappointment.

    I’m revisiting Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies in a couple of weeks. Wasn’t too impressed by it the first time around as we went during the high season and it was way too touristy for my liking. This time we’re going during the shoulder season and planning on exploring the less touristy parts of the Canadian Rockies. We shall see how it goes! 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Firda – If you have a positive attitude and seek out unique experiences that are in line with your interests, I have a feeling you’re going to enjoy your upcoming trip!!

  21. Lisa - Wee Wanders

    A small, sleepy, fishing village called Benitses on the Greek island of Corfu is one of my favourite places, and I return time and time again. Part of the reason I keep going back is that I know some things will never change, like the rugged nature of the island or the delicious Corfiat delicacies. But another reason I keep going back is that I know there is always something new to discover, somewhere new to explore, or new people to meet!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Lisa – Sounds like quite a destination. And knowing that there is always something new to discover, no matter where we go, is the key to a rewarding trip in my opinion.

  22. Erin

    I completely agree! When return to places I’ve travelled to before, I always try to explore some new parts. It’s nice to return to a few old favourites too, but I think expanding outside that really helps you to discover some new favourites also. And it rarely is the same if you try to replicate previous experiences!

  23. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling

    I have been burned by returning to a place, expecting it to be 100% the same, and learning the hard way that that wasn’t the case. But I also think that you should return to a place if you enjoyed it there. I’ve met quite a few people who take the attitude, “Why would I go back? I went there already!” but so what? A second time around just gives you the opportunity to see little neighbourhoods and streets and new restaurants, etc. that weren’t there next time.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Karyn – ‘So what’ is right! If that’s what a person wants to do, then that’s what they should do. If a person wants to go back to a particular place but they force themselves to go somewhere new simply because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do, the chances are also low that they’ll have a positive experience wherever they end up. And that isn’t how it should be.

  24. Bryan

    Our expectations were way too high for Thailand. Everyone told us we would love it. Reviews said we would love it. Our expectations said we would love it. Maybe it was poor planning on our part, but we were indifferent. We didin’t hate it… we also felt reality fell short of expectations. I blame us really. We didn’t leave the tourist path too much. I also blame being a professional in the US working world. Three weeks off after family obligations and sick time doesn’t leave much for exploring. We tried to do the beach and highlands. 10 days didn’t allow us to go deep into either, or explore.

  25. Hannah Wasielewski

    I love revisiting places, especially when friends or family is involved. I have only revisited a couple places in my life, but if it’s a big city with lots of activities, I’m sure I wouldn’t mind going several times in the future!

  26. Katie - The World on my Necklace

    So true Earl, you can never completely recreate a previous visit but you can still visit your favourite spots as well as also adding new experiences. I think you definitely have to revisit places with an open mind and be realistic with your expectations, focus on the reasons why you loved it in the first place and build on that.

  27. Liz Legg

    Great post! There are so many new places I want to see that I’m always reluctant to return to places I’ve already been. (This is especially irritating to my husband who hasn’t traveled as much as I have). It’s a good reminder that every experience is different and returning to a place can be just as exciting as venturing off somewhere new. Thanks 🙂

  28. Emily

    We’ll be going back to Paris this summer and I am looking forward to doing some of those things again that we so loved on our first visit, but also tackling those other things we haven’t yet done and just wandering and exploring new neighbourhoods, places and sights. I think a lot of it has to do with the expectations you set for yourself going into a trip!

  29. Mark

    I have to agree with you on that point, to change things up each time you revisit a place. Whoever said we are a creature of habit was right and the only way to change it is to step outside the box.

    For example, we have a family tradition where we get together at the beach every year. This tradition goes back over 40 years, and now with the 4th generation all in college or getting there soon, pretty soon there will be a 5th generation coming to the beach.

    But every single one of us always look forward to the beach because while we do revisit some of our favorites, like the boardwalk, there is always a new ride to try every two years to go along with some of the classics.

    And my generation is the adventurous generation, so we are now encouraging the fourth generation to explore other things to do during low tide (the waves sucks during that time) like go kayaking, or explore historical places, etc…

    The secret always reveal itself when you break out of your shell. That’s how I look at it.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Mark – That last line says it all. The trick is that sometimes we have to force ourselves out of our shell because staying inside can often be so much easier to do.

  30. Christina

    Hi Earl, I’m an avid reader especially since I used your blog as a guide for when I visited Playa del Carmen a few weeks ago. Sadly I never made it to Dona Mary’s. It was closed the times I visited. I can tell why you love Playa del Carmen – it has so much to offer. I was wondering where that second picture was. Is it a cenote? It’s beautiful.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Christina – Shame we just missed each other! And Dona Mary’s is a tough one…they close on Mondays and are only open after 6.00pm on other days. Not the best hours 🙂

      The second photo is from the Xkeken cenote outside of Valladolid, a town about 2 hours west of Tulum in the interior of the Yucatan. There is another cenote right across the street as well and they are two of my favorites!

  31. JP Chartier

    Expectations can get one into trouble, as I’ve found out on several occassions, so now I try and keep my expectations to a minimal and just go with whatever it is I’m doing… And realize that this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now 🙂 Don’t get bogged down with expectations.

  32. Forest Parks

    I love revisiting places. Number one reason is I love connecting again with people. That for me is the hardest thing about moving on in travel but then you get to meet more awesome people at the next place!

    As you say too things change a lot, inside yourself and at the place. New restaurants open up, new experiences become available and you learn about new places, familiarity just brings more unknown in my experience! Like never knowing a certain things happens on a special date (and you happen to be in town for it this time) and such things.

    I have to go to Mexico one day but I have not even come close yet!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Forest – Ha, you’ll get here at some point! And reconnecting with people is definitely a bonus of revisiting certain destinations, especially because it is so easy for us to think that we might not see someone again once we leave a particular place. Always great when we do!

  33. eli

    Great post Earl.
    And really in the right time, I just arrived to a location I have been at for few times, and I also have this confusion.
    I still think going to a new place is better than trying to find the flow to the places where you aren’t automatically drawn to, but sometimes we have to get back to the same place, so the strategy of always aiming to see something new is very clever, will do it from now

  34. Susun

    I love going to the same place 🙂 the first few days I spent the first time figuring out the busses or where things were… I don’t have to worry about! I especially love going back with someone new… I can show them all these wonderful places and sites. It’s awesome!

    Of course new adventures are special as well.

    It’s all good. Lol

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Susun – That’s a great point as well about traveling with someone who hasn’t been to the place you’ve already been to. There is something rewarding about being able to show someone around a destination and help them enjoy their experience even more!

  35. mzuri

    Hi Earl – based on your interest in an animal shelter in India, consider a visit to Playa Animal Rescue – some good people are involved in this dog (and cat) rescue … PAR sometimes looks for people flying back home to the U.S. or Canada as escorts for dogs being adopted by folks there. If you stop by, please give a hello to Phyllis or Barry, frequent volunteers there. http://playaanimalrescue.org/

    1. Wandering Earl

      Thanks for the link Mzuri! I remember hearing about them the last time I was here and met a few people who were helping out over there so I’ll have to pay a visit during this stay.

  36. Steve C

    Hey Earl, I think you’re back to the place where you’ve been looking for to call a place you call home. It’s just a hop to your family in the states, it’s warm and the food is great. And, with this post, I think you’ve found the key to traveling reruns.

    As I live here in the wine country of California, everything revolves around wine. 🙂 There’s a lot of snobbery when it comes to evaluating wine. I use this as an analogy because too many people can only listen to others to form their own opinion. I personally, know what I like. It’s got nothing to do with a gold metal at the fair or a good write-up by the wine experts. I like what I like because I use my own senses, regardless of the price.

    My point is that with infinite communication and information availability, we are turning into a society of sheep. And, the people who think for themselves are considered weird.

    I’ve been to Mexico, and the Yucatan many times and I plan on returning many more. You never know what’s just around the next corner. But, you’ve got to turn at that next corner to see what’s there. Going straight is like reading the same book over and over or watching reruns on TV. That comfort zone is a no-fly zone for me.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Steve – That’s a great way to put it – that comfort zone is a no-fly zone for me. Not a bad phrase to live by and constant reminder of it will ensure that we don’t always take the easy route. As for this being a good option as a ‘home’ for me, it is definitely one of the best options on my list. Sure does have everything I need or would like in a ‘home town’.

  37. Sugar Plam Fairy

    Hey Earl,

    This is actually my biggest fear when I travel- going back to a place you thought was once magical, and realizing on your second trip it has lost its spark. However, I have come to the idea that nothing feels like the fist time, so why bother? In fact, you can never feel exactly the same way twice. The closest you can get is the memory of how you felt then that makes you think you feel the same way again.

    For me, the thrill of going back to a place, the anticipation of what’s in store, the memories that might be revived or not (you always wonder) is as exciting as revisiting the place. I try to not have expectations to top off my last experience, and this saves me from being disappointed. And you are right- trying new things always brings new experiences and creates new memories, so in the end, it is like a first time again!

    I went to Playa last year for the first time. I must admit I was slightly irritated that my boyfriend decided to leave on October 31st, which meant we were going to miss the Halloween parade and the fun on the streets and in the bars that night. If only I knew what I was going to witness the following days for the Dia de los Muertos! Wandering along the downtown area late at night the day we arrived, just observing and absorbing… my reaction could only be described as Anna Paquinn’s when receiving her Oscar: Inhale- “ahhh” Stop. Exhale. Repeat x10. What a great week it was!

    I am planning to go back later this year. Glad you are enjoying your stay and not trying to recreate your past experience. Thank you for taking me back to one of my fave places; it was a joy to read as always:)

    1. Wandering Earl

      @Sugar Plum Fairy – That’s interesting about the excitement generated by the curiousity over what will happen when you revisit a certain destination and I think that as long as you are aware that the experience (at least the initial experience) might not live up to those memories from an earlier visit, you’re well on your way to a rewarding trip. You can navigate the destination once you arrive depending on what you connect with and what you don’t this time around, free to try the new and experience the old as you see fit. Glad to hear you’re coming back here once again!

  38. matthew

    Repeat visits give you a freedom in not feeling pressured to ‘do everything’ during a single visit. Also lets you visit places that might not have been a priority when first visiting, but now that you have seen your priority picks they may be more desirable.

  39. Mishfish13

    I love this and have been contemplating this question recently… so far, I have only been able to return one country because for me, there is so much more out there to explore. I think I’m in a place right now where it’s hard to justify returning to a country… even though there are certain places I KNOW that I didn’t have enough time to do it justice.

  40. Sean

    It’s always a challenge returning to the same place; sometimes without the “newness” factor, a place doesn’t sparkle as much. I think a combination of visiting the familiar and finding new gems works best for us. Also, great timing on this post for us — we’re heading to Playa in a few weeks, and we’ll need to visit Dona Mary’s. For the record, that tostada eating video was a strangely fascinating combination of disgusting and delicious for me!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Sean – Ha…well, make sure you create your own video. Eating tostadas just has to be one part disgusting…there’s no way around that!

  41. Mike

    Another interesting and thought provoking post, I think it is an excellent point you make. I can relate to a similar experience during a road trip to the southwest. While I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, I must confess the Grand Canton was not quite the highlight I expected simply because I had seen pictures of it so many times. Rather it was the unexpected places I visited like Valley of Fire or a walk through the flowering desert that surprised and excited.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Mike – And that’s often how it works. What we don’t even know exists usually turns out to be the most memorable experiences wherever we venture!

  42. Scott Bloom

    Austria, Prague, and Budapest…..all places I return to and love. There is just something about Austria, and I mean anywhere there that tugs at my heart. It’s not really the people, as they can be a bit stand-offish, but the country, and it’s cities. Prague is just stunning, with the nicest people, always willing to help. Budapest….simply a place where I can get lost and not mind.

    Munich used to be my favorite place. I used to say that going to Munich was coming home, and frankly it seemed the only place that ever felt like home to me. Sadly, that ended last Fall. I went back in September 2013, after not having been there since 1999, and felt…nothing. Oh I loved the museums, the city was vibrant as ever, but the “home” feeling was gone. Maybe I had been away too long, or maybe i have just grown. Now I always try to add places I’ve never been, along with ones I have been. So, next year will be a first in that everywhere we’ll go will be new, Istanbul, and a few Greek islands.
    I feel bad about Munich, as at one time I was drawn to it…perhaps I am simply growing up.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Scott – Things change all the time, everything is changing in fact. So you just have to take memorable experiences you once had in Munich and that feeling of ‘home’ that you once experienced, appreciate it all and realize that it’s time to move on. I’m sure you’ll connect just as much to a different destination at some point as well and if not, you’re still going to have an endless stream of rewarding travel adventures it seems!

  43. Jason

    Hey Earl, I totally agree with you. I visited Playa del Carmen for years before moving there only to find that the town was different than I had remembered it. At first it was very disappointing to find out that the sleepy little town I’d expected had been replaced with a bustling city ringing with the sounds of ever more construction.

    However, as soon as I let go of my preconceived notions and expectations of how it “should” be the disappointment disappeared and was replaced with a feeling of wonder (and a touch of shame). How could I possibly have thought that I “knew” a city of such diversity and energy just because I had been there before? After living there for over a year I still find new and interesting things about the city on a daily basis. Everywhere you turn there are new restaurants, cafes, stores and even entire neighborhoods springing up. So many new things to try, so many new people to meet!

    That experience has helped me to approach new experiences in a slightly different manner than I had in the past. I can now allow myself to fully embrace the moment as it’s actually happening, not as I am expecting it to happen. This might seem to be a minor difference but it makes all the difference in the world and I hope more people try it.

    Hasta luego y nos vemos pronto,
    Jason

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Jason – That’s the thing, I will always believe that no matter where we are, no matter how big or small the destination, no matter how exciting or boring it may appear, there are always new things to try and new people to meet as you said. Always! And that fact alone allows me to travel anywhere without too much expectation, simply because I know that it’s up to me to possess the right attitude that will ensure I have the experiences I seek.

      See you soon indeed my friend!

  44. PassportDave

    Perfect timing on this post… fits right in with my life. I actually just got back to Chiang Mai, Thailand. The only city I have revisited since I left home. I came back here looking for a solid place to work for a bit in a city that I know and love.

    However, it hasn’t quite been the same. Things have been a bit more dull this time around. You have just given me the solution though. I am doing the same things in the same places that I did my first time here.

    I am doing these things because it is comfortable. Falling into the same trap, doing the same things, that I went traveling to get away from in the first place. I don’t really want a comfortable life where everything is the same…

    Time to go check out some new neighborhoods and meet some new people! Thanks for another fantastic post Earl!

    1. Wandering Earl

      @PassportDave – And there are plenty of new experiences to be had in Chiang Mai! Just walk into any random neighborhood and let the adventure begin!

  45. We Travel Together

    A great post! I can’t say I can relate to it, but that’s only because we haven’t re-visited a place before, country yes, but not the exact same place. But this year that will change. We’re revisiting Rome in Italy and the Riviera Maya in Mexico. We loved those two places so much that we thought we had to give them more time 🙂 But we wonder whether it will feel just as good the second time , better or maybe we’ll be a bit disappointed? Who knows 🙂 But I think it’s important to go there with an open mind.
    Last time we had HIGH expectations when we did visit Mexico, but we felt so satisfied and wanted more. So wonder how it well feel the second time 🙂

  46. Nick @ theboywander

    This post reminds me of the by Heraclitus “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
    I ran into this problem when I first got to India, I’d had all these expectations and as I’ve learnt India is just not a country where you can expect things, you have to surrender to it and let it happen as it will.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Nick – That certainly sums up the proper attitude to have when visiting India! You just have to be present, remove all expectations and take it all in. Great quote as well…life is all about constant change for sure!

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