Travel often leads us towards something new, but what about when it leads us to something we already know well? Some place where we dreamed and laughed and thought of the future which we are now in. These places are often haunted by the people we used to be, the things we experienced there, and the people we were once with. Brickwork is filled with ancient possibility, parks and gardens hold the whisperings of old conversations. Monuments become our own, statues and plinths of the memories of each of us. Coffee shops still hold the books we once read there, bars hold late smoky nights with overexcited friends and the echo of loud music.
Returning to a place we used to love can feel complicated. Places are complex in the same way that we are complex; there is no space which is simply good or bad, but only spaces which hold in them an equal weight of beautiful moments, and tragic ones. Anywhere we stay, even for a short length of time, becomes sort of trapped in time for the rest of our memory. When we return, we may expect it to be just as it once was, as we remember it.
Nostalgia is a fiction of memory, a way to re-experience the things we once loved, to romanticise the moments in the way our minds choose. Travel can take us into the past, back to the sights of things we’ve already experienced, the spaces in which we’ve existed with old friends and family. Train rides pass the same spots, ferries journey over the same oceans, and planes fly above the same skylines.
When we return to these places, it’s important to remember that we don’t learn much from nostalgia alone. Sometimes, it’s only by looking at the ways we’ve changed that we can use these spaces to mean more to our lives. When we re-examine the past with reference to the present, we can reconsider who we are, who we’ve been- and who we’d like to be.
Do you like to travel to nostalgic places? How does nostalgia change your travel experience?
Featured image: Usamah Khan via Unsplash.