Yeah, yeah, travel is great for seeing places totally different from your home, meeting new people with different perspectives, and discovering new cultures.
But the coolest part of travel? When it takes you through time.
Okay fine, I might not mean that entirely literally. Though sometimes it does feel quite real.
They say that listening to a song can transport you back to a particular point of time in your life – I’m guessing when you used to listen to that song all the time. I say “they say” and “I’m guessing” because, why no, I have not stopped listening to that same M2M cd I fell in love with in sixth grade, thank you very much. My musical tastes might still be waiting to hit puberty.
However, there are some places I haven’t visited since that age and one of them is Amsterdam.
So when I flew into Schiphol last weekend to spend a few days in Amsterdam with a college friend it was just a tiny bit like squeezing into that old DeLorean and setting the flux capacitor to the year 1999 (or 1998 or 2001 or whenever it was that my family spent a few days in Amsterdam). As I walked along canal after canal towards my Airbnb all I could think was preteen me was soooo smart, I should totally move to Amsterdam!
Because as I suddenly remembered, I had fallen hard for Amsterdam on that first trip. I even remember blogging about Amsterdam, posting a photo of the cute little canal apartments and writing how much I would love to live in one! Except that was before blogs or the Internet or computers had been invented, so instead it was a drawing in my notebook with some excited scribbles underneath it. I think we used to call them… journals?
Thinking about that girl with the notebook, I kept feeling like I had somehow jumped forward in time to where I am now, back in the same city, walking down the same streets and admiring the same buildings, but now with a whole new slew of life experiences under my belt. I thought about what preteen Silvia would have thought about who I am now, and how excited (or freaked out?) she would have been if she could have caught a glimpse of grown up me walking down those same streets so many years later.
I know, I know, sentimental much? I guess it was just one of those nostalgic weekends. Not only was I visiting a city I had fallen in love with a long time ago and then never gone back to, but I was also there with one of my closest college friends whom I hadn’t seen in years.
I last saw Chloe in London, just a few weeks after finishing my time in Japan. And before that? We last saw each other at college graduation.
Often I worry about how moving around so much fills my life with so many faltering starts and stops instead of the smooth journey I could probably enjoy if I were in one place.
But there’s something really lovely about it too. With all their different backdrops, the chapters of my life are so distinct, and while I’m still mostly the same me in all of them, I’ve also been a little bit different in each place. And there’s something really cool about getting to try out so many different versions of myself – and something quite surreal when revisiting a past haunt and seeing my current version and past version come head to head.
Catching up with Chloe was so fun and weird and bizarre, I can only imagine what going back to visit my college campus would be like (apparently they’ve built a new library!). I kept referring to “college us” and really did feel like Chloe and I had just taken a leap forward in time, to where she’s now teaching undergrads and obsessed with grown up things like growing potatoes in her little Chicago garden and I… have a blog? I think it would make college us laugh.
And while I do hope that I can see a lot more of Chloe and Amsterdam now that I’m based in Europe, it was sort of fun getting back in touch with them after so long, because it was like getting in touch with former versions of myself. In fact, it’s something I’m excited to do a lot more of now that I live in Norway.
Because the truth is, I’ve sort of been avoiding Western Europe. My family was all about those European road trips when I was growing up, to the point where I just felt so over it. Like, there are so many more interesting places in the world I have yet to visit, you know?
Except these places are popular and loved for a reason, and even if I’ve seen them many times before they’re still worth another visit. So while I do have a bunch of new destinations on my travel itinerary for the rest of 2016, I’m also excited to reconnect with some old ones.
Next up will be Tübingen later in the fall, which I don’t think I’ve visited since I was 17 and spending my last year of high school as an exchange student in Germany. I’m excited to reacquaint myself with Silvia circa 2006!
And you? Do you enjoy revisiting places, or are you more excited about new destinations?