When you return from a long trip encompassing a variety of countries and places, one of the most common questions you hear is: “What was your favourite place?”
It’s a terrible question. Not only because I couldn’t possibly decide, but also because one person’s experience is so subjective, that it wouldn’t necessarily translate to anyone else.
After the first few times this question was asked following my first big trip in 2011, I worked out a standard response. “Croatia, because it was a week of blue ocean and relaxing; Ireland, because I just can’t get past the green, rolling hills and laidback way of life; and Syria, because it surprised me the most.”
But this is the thing. The reason you love a particular place is only partially because of the place itself. The rest of it is made up of your experience there.
And you get judged. Oh boy, do you get judged? How could you not like Paris, they ask? The city of love! When I was there… blah blah blah… you know exactly where this is headed. They also judge you on your favourites. Ireland? But that’s just like home. Or… Syria… uh… I can’t imagine why anyone would want to go there. Even if they don’t say anything, they judge with their expressions, the screwing up of noses, the raising of eyebrows, the quiet ‘oh’.
Every single place I have ever visited was amazing in its own way. But circumstances dealt at the time sometimes meant that I didn’t love every second. San Sebastian and Cordoba in Spain were amazing cities, but I was stuck in rooms with very loud snorers. Grenada with its Alhambra was beautiful, but I made a poor hostel choice and felt lonely most of the time. There was the incident with the double bike hire in Innsbruck that tainted that city, and the incident with the overnight train that ruined both Budapest and Bratislava (but only the first time).
Whereas another person might have loved them, I had different experiences, and that affected my time. But you know what? It’s ok. It’s ok to say, I didn’t love Paris. It’s ok to not want to go back there ever again (especially if the second time your plane gets delayed and you arrive at a ridiculous hour of the night – just go away Paris, I’m not returning). But you shouldn’t hate on people that love it. And they shouldn’t hate on you for not loving it either.
And in the end, there’s always a chance these places will get a second visit. Or third. Budapest was still tinged the second time I visited, but I was there last August with one of my besties and we had a great time. The thing is, a different trip, a different time, it will never be the same. It won’t necessarily be better, or worse, but travelling anywhere is better than not travelling at all. That’s how we find ourselves – the good, the bad, the ugly.
It’s all out there waiting for you.