Revisiting Old Haunts: Then and Now

2014 has been the year of revisiting places we love.

We stopped by Prague on the way to Vienna.

We spent a month in Radovis, Macedonia, the first place Jacob and I traveled to once we left Germany.

We saw old friends in Istanbul.

We returned to Italy at Jacob’s behest. It’s now my third time to that charming country.

We speak often together about the places we’ve been. And long to be many places at once in order to experience that which we’ve already come to love, and miss.

What was it like to return to so many beloved places this year?

Here’s a run-down of our repeat visits:

Prague

The second time around, I could recognize how truly touristy Prague is. Hordes of people with cameras around their necks, English everywhere. It is reasonable: Prague is beautiful. And so kid-friendly. I appreciated it more the second time for that reason.

Then and Now

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2006

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Vienna

Vienna recaptured the beauty of life for me the first time I visited it. I was going back again eight years later. I had barely left the country, besides Paris and Cancun and London, when I arrived the first time. Now I had 40+countries under my belt. Would it match my expectations?

It did and more. I saw more sides to it than I did the first time, though the reasons I loved it first remained. The infrastructure had only improved, the gentle people were as easy to befriend, the music festivals were still just as dream-like. But now I also saw the unique and varied playgrounds everywhere; the elevators at every metro station for stroller-laden mothers. The burek and ayran street food options; the convenient grocery stores; the libraries, the outdoor amusement park. It really is magic. Vienna will always have my heart.

Then and Now:

study abroad

green and black attack are back

2006

tichy

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Maibaum festival

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The highest swings in the world at Prater

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Radovis

The first time we visited here I was totally uninterested in coming to a small town in a country I’d never heard of. Then I was blown away by the hospitality. We returned and I more than ever saw the allure of living in a small town with kids. Everyone loves and looks after your child. You are known—this is also the downside of course—there is no hiding and very little privacy.

Then and Now:

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Mr Branco’s store, 2008

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Istanbul

We lived a totally different life the second time around in Istanbul. The first time we lived in the old town in a grungy hostel with Kurdish friends; the second time, we lived in a large apartment next to the biggest mall in Europe. Istanbul has changed so much in five years. It’s now the most popular city on TripAdvisor; the number of tourists has burgeoned; and it really made me realize how many layers this massive megacity has—because our two experiences were entirely opposite from each other. I had to acknowledge that the magic that came with when we first started traveling is not the same. It was like the first experience of falling in love. We are now in a different stage of travel love.

We saw friends again but things had changed. I learned one friend had been a prostitute; one had been in jail; one had a disability, wracking pain in his back and his hair had gone white; one had died. In five years a lot can change.

In some ways I feel I’ve come full circle since the last time I visited Turkey. At that point we were just starting out on our nomadic journey; and this time around, our full-time nomadic journey was beginning to draw to its close. I had one mission that I needed to fulfill. We sold our old computer to our friend just before leaving five years ago. It broke one week later, after we’d already left the country. As a shoe maker in a factory, he doesn’t have much of an income. We saw him the night before we left, and surprised him with a gift of an ipad. His countenance changed—he was so happy. He said he would give it to his daughter for school.

“Kurdish girl Sue,” he said fondly, and fed me a sandwich with his fingers. I let him, though it was meat and I stopped eating meat years ago, for old times sake.

Then and Now:

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Jacob and I as Newlyweds! 2009

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The tallest building in Turkey

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Busking on the ferry

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Biking on Prince Edward Island

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Cevahir Mall, the biggest mall in Europe

San Gimignano

I have literally dreamed of the gelato and of returning to this town for years now. The anticipation of walking of the hill and knowing I would find the best gelato in the world again was tantalizing. Everything blurred as I approached the sign: “The Best Gelato in the World.” I ordered 9 euros worth of gelato-7 flavors worth-and we went to sit at the steps of the church. Each flavor I tried—was not what I remembered. Jacob didn’t even finish his. Did they change their recipe? I wondered. And as I pondered the experience, I realized the sum of what it means to revisit a place once beloved:

Then and Now:

lusting after gelato

2006

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Is that the ghost of Gelato Kalli coming back? No, it’s just an iphone dropped in water two too many times

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Ryder garnered a lot of attention on his scooter and stopped my heart often because it’s very hilly.

You can have beautiful experiences, again and again, returning to places once loved. But they won’t be the same. You will be different. Embrace the changes: remember the good times; create new ones. But don’t go in with expectations that you can recreate the exact same experience by going back. People change. Places change. Gelato changes.

Change is the only thing that lasts.

Returning to former haunts helps me to embrace this fact.

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 361 awesome articles for us.

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