Insights on Travel from Costa Rica Expeditions’ Founder Michael Kaye and his Expert Friends.

The “New” vs. the “Old Favorite” Paradox. Back to Cuba Again. Part #1

When we finish a trip of a lifetime to a country that we have never visited before, we are often sure we will return.  Most of the time we don’t.

The reason for this is understandable.  No matter how much we loved our past trips the lure of the new and the unknown is usually irresistible.  But not always.  Sometimes we chose to return.  Some places become old favorites.  What intrigues me is why.

In a couple of weeks Yolanda and I are going bicycling in Cuba for the third time in four years. What entices us to return?  And it is not just us; I’m told that five of the 12 people on the tour are repeaters.

Photo David Gregori.  Courtesy WOWCuba

I don’t know about the other people, but it is not as is if we are so well traveled that we have run out of new places to visit.  We have never crossed the international dateline.  With the exception of Morocco we have never been to Africa.  We have the money and we can make the time to go anywhere in the world.  Why do we choose to return to Cuba?

In future posts I will write about how we got to Cuba and in the first place and why we keep going back, but for now I want to pose the questions.

To what countries have you returned, and how many times?

What attracted you to go again?

Did you want to repeat known great experiences?

Did you want a deeper knowledge and understanding of the country than you were able to achieve on previous visits?

Did you return because you wanted to see how the place had changed?

Or was it to reconnect with people you met on previous trips?

Did you return because you wanted to repeat an experience with a guide?

What other reasons did you have for returning?

How we balance the known and the unknown influences every aspect of our lives. Travel makes the choices more conscious and in so doing illuminates the choices we make when we are at home.

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5 Comments and 1 Replies

  • At March 16, 2011
    11:50:32 am
    Meena said:

    Dera Michael , Foer now I would have to be content with only sating which places I would like to revisit . A frica wopuld be probabl;y the top of my list . we only saw S farica and that , itaslf was so unique that i just wish i could go back .
    The place i return tio , yea r after year is India , my native country . That is the place , which I visit , as much to hold on to what has not changed in terms of f amily and friends , as to see the incredible ways things have leaped forward . amazingly , there is so much I have not seen , even there . would also like to do idfferent things there to , on following trips , since ther is so much one can do with the locals.
    It is a hard choice to make , about visiting a new place versus exploring new ones , but it is fascinating to read about your trips to Cuba .

    • At March 12, 2011
      8:28:07 am
      Shannon Borrego said:

      What a great topic! Like most of you, I have traveled extensively, but there are only two places I have returned over and over: Africa and Costa Rica. The reasons for my love affair with those two parts of the world are varied. First of all, Costa Rica and the safari-friendly parts of East and South Africa offer a different experience with every visit. My primary interest when traveling is experiencing nature and wildlife. However, venturing into the “wild” involves hooking up with local guides and I enjoy making a connection with the guides. (For example, I am totally enamored of William and Felipe and wouldn’t want to experience Costa Rica with any other guide). Each guide shows you the world through his eyes. The friendships I’ve formed with the guides on these trips have provided as many memories as the wildlife sightings themselves. Also, both C.R. and Africa have an infrastructure in place so that one can “rough it” during the day and return to luxury and wonderful cuisine in the evening. And, lastly, both locations have a unique energy about them which I find enchanting. I think it’s a combination of the warmth of the people, the smells, the colors, and the sights. They call me back over and over again.

      • At March 09, 2011
        6:17:59 am
        Emily Le Moing said:

        I am an American who traveled to Europe for the first time in 1976, fell in love with France and Italy on that trip, and moved to France in 1979. I’m still living in France, so I guess France would be at the top of my list of places I’ve returned to! I’ve also made many, many trips to Italy over the years, as well as to other places in Europe and in Africa. More recently, I’ve traveled 3 times from Europe to Costa Rica, even though I could have traveled more cheaply and easily to many other places closer to my home in France. I can honestly say that Costa Rica Expeditions is a key reason I chose to return to Costa Rica; I also admire Costa Rica’s focus on the environment, education and healthcare, and I love Costa Ricans: everywhere I’ve been in Costa Rica, people have been incredibly welcoming and friendly. If I could make another trip tomorrow and longed to be in a tropical climate with gorgeous natural areas and friendly people, and had to choose, say, between Panama and Costa Rica, I’d go for Costa Rica based on its values and because of the Costa Ricans I’ve met. So, one factor I consider in choosing where to travel is a country’s values (as I perceive them from the outside and through contacts with locals). While I don’t like the current governments in France or Italy, I love the people and approach to life in both countries, so their values appeal to me. Switzerland, beautiful as it is, is less appealing because I find it too clean, too orderly and less friendly than the “latin” countries in Europe (I feel the same way about Germany, Norway and Sweden as I feel about Switzerland though I’d return to Spain in a heartbeat). As for why I’d go back to a place I’ve already been rather than to a new place, it’s depth vs. breadth. I hate trips that are like a collection of postcard memories. I find when I make a short trip to a new place, I may have a great time but I won’t feel I’ve had real contact with the place or its people. Having a real contact takes more time (and more trips). So, when I find a place I love, I tend to go back to it to try to get to know it better rather than going somewhere else. This year, though, I’m going to Morocco for the first time because I’ve met people from there whom I really like and I hope to see their country through their eyes. (I feel if I like the people from a country, I’ll like the country.) At the top of my list of countries I loved but have not been able to go back to are Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Greece and Rwanda. One of the countries I’ve never visited but would love to go to is Cuba, so I look forward to posts from there.

        • At March 09, 2011
          12:52:38 pm
          Michael Kaye replied
          to Emily Le Moing:

          Great comment, Emily. Thank you. Until I read your comment, it had never occurred to me that the ultimate in returning to place that you have visited and loved is to return for the rest of you, life which is precisely what you, Yolanda and I have done.

        • At March 08, 2011
          5:27:55 pm
          Max said:

          This is something I think about a lot. I’ve been fortunate to travel quite a bit over the last several years, but my job and budget are only so flexible. So a few times I’ve had to weigh returning to a favorite place vs. going to a new one. Usually the new destination wins out, but there have been a few exceptions.

          After we first visited Costa Rica in 2005, I wanted to return immediately. It had instantly become my favorite international destination, and I longed to come back to explore more of the country (including a proper trip into Corcovado). However, I didn’t make it back for three-and-a-half years. In between trips I ventured to Greece, the UK, Sweden, Ecuador and east Africa. And I only made it back to CR because I was traveling alone. Had Jenn been along we undoubtedly would have gone to another new place.

          My other major return involved going back to New Zealand. That occurred in part because we felt we hardly explored the country the first time, but we were also looking for an international destination where we could get married. Legally it was easier there, but more importantly, we knew it was a place family and friends would enjoy visiting. And it ended up being a fantastic trip! We’re now planning a return to Ecuador and the Galapagos in part because we’re trying to get the same friends from our wedding trip to go this time.

          So there are any number of factors that seem to pull me back, but in general I don’t feel I’ve done more than scratch the surface of ANY place I’ve been to overseas. If it was enjoyable the first time I don’t need much of an excuse to return.

          • At March 08, 2011
            3:15:12 pm
            Kristen said:

            Michael, I’m much looking forward to following this. And we of course hope to follow one day in the path of your wanderlust and explore many places we haven’t been to yet. See you both soon!