For a 21-year-old from Fosston, Minnesota, I’ve done a lot of international travel. I have seen plenty of places and spent time in Asia, Europe, and Central America. One thing I have never done though is go back to a place I have visited before. Since I’m in Europe for such an extended period of time this spring, I’m going to change that. In one week, I’ll be revisiting London—the site of last year’s spring break trip—and two weeks from then I’ll be in Scotland, retracing part of my hike up the West Highland Way.
I have written about my experiences in both Scotland and London. I’ve revisited my photos and journal entries from those trips time and time again, looking for something more I could write about. So far, I haven’t found anything new calling out to me. That’s why I’m returning to both places. I’ve been to each place once, so now when I go back I know what to look for, and what to not. I know that the walk from Leicester Square to the Victoria theatre is much, much farther than it looks on the map of the tube. I also know that I should make that walk again, but this time without the deadline of a show looming over my head. I know that the British Museum has the Rosetta Stone and the crowds that inevitably flock to it. But there again I know that there is also an extensive clock exhibit that draws a very select group of people to it. Let’s just say the room isn’t very crowded. I know where to get fish and chips in Scotland and where—if I ask nicely—a bartender will teach me how to play the bagpipes. I also know that it’s not necessary to take a picture of every waterfall I see.
By going back, I’m not just giving myself a good dose of nostalgia, I’m giving myself a chance to slow down and look for the things I missed. What was it about the man’s accent that made it so hard for me to understand his directions to the theatre? The clock exhibit is huge and expensive and beautiful, but why does it only draw a few people? And why these people? What about the clocks interests them? Are these really the best fish and chips, or am I just so hungry after walking that anything would taste like “the best” of its kind? How does one actually play the bagpipes? Is it hard to learn? By going back and looking for the things I missed the first time around, I’m opening up the opportunity for a new story (or two, or three..). I am going back to see the details, to see what I didn’t see the first time, to enrich my experience in each place by adding a little more to the picture that I already have in my head.
Not only am I going back with a bit of previous experience behind me, I’m going back with some new resources and a different frame of mind. Living in the U.S. and traveling to Europe from there is a hassle and a half to say the least. Now that I’m in Europe though, the worst part of the trip will be the bus ride from Glasgow to Dublin. The ease of travel here not only makes it more convenient to get to a place, but keeps me from feeling like a zombie for my entire trip as I try to fight off jetlag and general travel exhaustion. Also, my roommate introduced me to an app called CityMaps2Go. It allows you to download a map of a city to your phone and (without using data) it tracks where you’re at so you don’t have to get lost if you’re not trying to. Armed with that and a map to all of the privately owned bookshops in London, I’m set to wander the streets of the city like never before. As far as a new frame of mind goes, when I was in both Scotland and London I was on a strict schedule. Be here by this time on this day for this long. I had the mindset of a tourist who is trying as hard as possible to not act like one. Now, I’m returning on my own terms. I don’t have to do anything but sit in a bookshop or pub the entire time. I am free to experience these places as I want, and to experience the things that matter the most to me. And then, I’ll write about it.
Editorial Assistant Lauren Wilson is a junior at Concordia College, double-majoring in English writing and global studies. After study abroad experiences to Scotland, England, and France, she’s pursuing her interests in travel writing. She’s spending her junior year abroad: Fall 2015 in India, Spring 2016 in Ireland, and Summer 2016 in Australia. She will be posting monthly about being a writer-in-progress abroad.