With 195 countries in the world, it can be overwhelming to decide where you should travel next. This problem is further complicated when you have already travelled somewhere and fallen in love with it. You want to explore somewhere new but you also know that you will have a guaranteed amazing time if you revisit a place you love.
I felt conflicted when my boyfriend and I booked plane tickets to Japan for three weeks in March next year. It has only been two years since I last went to Japan for my 21st birthday. On that trip, I visited the main sights of Tokyo and Kyoto, with an overnight side trip to the castle town Matsumoto. It was a tiny taste of an incredibly diverse and fascinating country, and I knew that I would return one day.
However, choosing Japan again this time means delaying our plans to buy a van and travel around Australia, or visit other much-coveted destinations like Germany or Cuba. I’m absolutely thrilled that I get to go back to Japan so soon, but there is a tiny part of me that is disappointed that I’m not going somewhere completely new.
So how do you decide whether to explore somewhere new or revisit a place you love?
Revisit a Place You Love.
Culture shock is lower when you revisit a country, because the social etiquette, language, and food have already been experienced. Your stress levels will be lower when you already have a good idea of how to communicate and navigate the country.
I’m less intimidated about visiting Japan this time around because I know what to expect. I know how to navigate the public transport, where to find ATMs that accept international cards, and some basic Japanese phrases. The trip will still be stimulating and exciting because of the vast cultural differences, but logistically it will be easier and less stressful.
You will always feel nostalgia for a place that you visited and loved, which motivates you to return and try to recreate those positive memories. It’s also likely that when you last visited a country, you realised that it has so many more amazing places that you didn’t have time to visit. This time around in Japan, I am revisiting Tokyo and Kyoto, but we are also adding Osaka, Hiroshima, the Lake Kawaguchiko region near Mt Fuji, and a rural village in Gokayama Prefecture. This is still all within the main Honshu island, and so I would love to visit the other islands on future trips.
Revisiting a place you love is less stressful because you already have a good idea of what to expect, and there’s always more to discover. However, you may feel like you’re missing out by not exploring somewhere completely new.
Explore Somewhere New.
There’s always something exciting about a country that you’ve never visited before. The culture, language, and sights are completely different from anything you’ve seen. It also means that you can add a new stamp to your passport and another country to the list of places you have explored.
The novelty factor of exploring somewhere new is high and even the mundane sights of a city or town are exciting. Doing things that are completely new is psychologically pleasing to our brains. This article explains how novel experiences stimulate dopamine in the brain, which makes us feel like we are being rewarded. Novelty motivates us to seek out new rewarding novel experiences, and has even been shown to improve memory and promote learning.
Exploring somewhere new is also more stimulating for personal growth. Travel entails using a lot of problem solving skills, especially when you don’t speak the local language. Especially if you travel alone, you are required to solve all of your problems on the spot with little to no help. Getting lost, trying to take public transport, ordering food, and making new friends all become very challenging in a completely unfamiliar environment. If you can overcome these challenges, then you will be more resilient and skilful at navigating difficult situations.
So should you revisit a place you love or explore somewhere new?
Ultimately, there are benefits to both options. I know for myself that there are lots of places, like Japan and Colombia, that I would love to revisit. I also have a list longer than my arm of new countries that I want to explore one day.
My personal preference is to mix up trips between revisiting countries and exploring new places. I don’t feel disappointed about going back to Japan again so soon because I’ve been to South America and Vietnam between the trips. Japan is also different enough from my country that I feel like it will still be a highly stimulating experience.
When faced with the choice, a lot of factors like costs, seasons, and the interests of your travel partner can sway you into revisiting a country or exploring somewhere new. It is also important to ask yourself how much of a personal challenge you are looking for. Travel is a wonderful privilege and whatever you choose, it is sure to be an incredible life experience.
Are there places that you revisit time and time again? Which new countries would you most like to explore?