Why Travel Never Gets Old

"When you cross the country, you are always crossing a new country, a moving destination." I read a good chunk of Robert Sullivan's Cross Country while staying with my parents in Maryland last week, and this particular sentence stopped me in my proverbial tracks. As I paused to reflect on the journeys I've repeated thus far in my life, I also considered how this idea summarized one of my favorite things about travel: its inconstancy.

Sure, there are places that have been designed to essentially deliver the same experience to people no matter how many visits they make, but I suspect that even in those cases, the destination has, in one slight way or another, moved. The restaurant you always visited on vacation may look the same, but perhaps a new chef has changed the menu since you were there last. Or could it be that the landmark you relied on to remind you where to turn is gone?

At home we often miss the smallest changes to the landscape, prone as we are to routine. But when we retrace routes we've taken before, unfamiliar sights and sounds contrast with the topography captured by our imperfect memories, causing us to view the scenery anew. This happened to me nearly every time I drove back and forth from college in Ohio and again during a return trip to Norway several years ago.

On my first visit I'd spent most of my time with a close friend who showed me around Oslo, introducing me to some of the places that made the city dear to her. One such spot was Cafe Amsterdam, an unassuming brown bar just around the corner from the National Gallery. Fondly remembering a long evening of conversation over dark beers, I tried to find it again one afternoon while wandering the city on my own. When I turned up at the address however, I was met with an unpleasant surprise—Cafe Amsterdam no longer existed. While my first instinct was to mourn the bar's disappearance, I stopped to reconsider. This wasn't a loss, but rather an opportunity to continue exploring Oslo. A chance to begin looking for a new destination.


  1. True! I'm spending 6 months in Sardinia (where I was born, raised and have lived for 19 years before expatriating) and am finding "new" places everyday. Admittedly, there haven't been so many changes, but maybe my fault, I've never appreciated our places, culture and traditions like now that I'm a "tourist". I came to research some articles and this is giving me the opportunity to re-discover my homeland. Very exciting!