In a world full of travel influencers who broadcast the number of countries they've been to on their Instagram profiles, achieving legitimacy as an adventurer often feels like it has become a game of ticking off as many place as possible. As someone who proudly lists her number, too, I can understand why. Out of the 196 official territories in the world, it seems nearly impossible that I'll ever get my number, which is currently 25, anywhere close to that nearly 200 that exist.
Hopping from country to country is an incredible thing. You can get a taste of each place, and figure out if you like it or dislike it. A few days can give you a vibe that either intrigues you or turns you off. You can never know all of a city's secrets in one short journey, but for some, that doesn't matter and they're happy to move on to the next location. But when you find a country — or even a city within it — that gives you an incredible feeling of belonging and wonder, there should be no qualms about going back.
The struggle inside me each time I book flights to Europe is, "Well, I've already been to London too many times to count, so should I skip it in favor of places I've never been?" Some say it's better to get out of your comfort zone and see something new, to never visit the same place twice unless you have to. I wish I could feel this way, but there are some places I've become very much attached to. I've been to Paris five times because there's no end to the beautiful sights I can see there. Morocco has been stamped in my passport twice, and I'm making schemes for future visits. And at this point I've lost count of how many times I've been to London, but I went three times in 2017 alone — so that should be a clear sign of my obsession with that city.
But why do I keep going back to these places? The simple answer is, "Why not?" The long answer has a lot more depth to it. Unless you move somewhere permanently, you're never going to have enough time on a short holiday to truly know the intricacies of a place. Even though I lived in the UK for a year, I still don't have all the knowledge I wish I possessed. Each time I return, I am always searching for more.
Each time I land in London, I set out on a quest to experience more of the city that only a local would know. After my first trip in 2011, I saw all the traditional tourist spots and found that I yearned to go deeper into the things that make London special. It wasn't just Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. It was the historical mews streets in Notting Hill and the hidden graffiti tunnel in Waterloo. It was the off-the-beaten-track food markets in Bermondsey and the the quirky coffee shops in Shoreditch. It was the construction workers eating their beans on toast from a cafe in Pimlico and the golden-hour walks in Hampstead Heath. There's no way I could've inhaled these moments on a simple first-time highlights tour of the city.
In the age of Instagram, I've gotten major FOMO from seeing all these places I seemed to have missed out on my journeys, and the "I have to see it all" traveler in me has justified going back as a way to see for myself what the people I follow get to enjoy on a regular basis. And obviously there is so much more to the British Isles than London, so how can I consider myself an Anglophile if I haven't hardly seen any of the United Kingdom? London trips always include excursions out of the city to a place I haven't been. I think it's important to see more of the country as a whole whenever I get a chance.
Each time I go back to my favorite cities, I feel a pang a guilt when I realize there's other places I've chosen to skip in order to prioritize return visits. But that guilt comes from that idea that I, for some reason, have to be checking countries off a list, an idea that no one really cares about. On my limited millennial income, some of the places I really want to travel to are cost-prohibitive. Cities in Europe have gotten considerably easier to travel to in the past few years due to budget airlines crossing the Atlantic, and as a budget explorer, I have to take this into consideration when I'm looking for an escape from America. It also means I have spent a lot of time in Europe over countries in Africa, South America, and Oceania.
Of course, my goal will always be to visit as many locations as possible and see my number rise. But at the moment, I am 100 percent happy with rekindling my friendships with places like London and Paris, and Tokyo and Marrakech will get multiple visits over my lifetime when I can afford the transportation. That doesn't mean that I won't be looking forward to the future, though, when I can afford to make a bigger journey to the spots on my list that deserve some love. I'll make it happen eventually, and my previous travel experiences will only help me as I navigate new territories.