Should You Return to the Places You Love?


Venice beach

There’s a danger that comes with returning to the places you’ve fallen for.

There’s always an underlying fear that on second visit, it doesn’t feel the same; that either you’ve changed or it’s changed, and I’m not sure which of those feels strangest.

I’m a firm believer in change being a Good Thing, but it’s always kind of heartbreaking to return to a place you once adored only to discover it no longer holds a place in your heart.

As I write this, I’m travelling across the Not-So-United States, and I’ve been thinking a lot about returning to my favourite places while I’ve been here. Mostly because I just spent a full two weeks doing exactly that. Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland are three of my favourite destinations in the U.S., and I try to return to all of them as often as possible. On this specific trip, I had just two weeks to reconnect with these cities and enjoy being back in a part of the world that never fails to make me happy.

Seattle skyline

Long-term readers of Never Ending Footsteps will know that of my west coast loves, Portland is my clear favourite. I adore the city, and its food scene is easily the best I’ve ever delved into. From the moment I first stepped foot in Portland, I was obsessed, and I’ve returned to visit on a near-yearly basis ever since.

Dave and I have even been known to book flights to Portland purely because we wanted to eat at its incredible restaurants.

Soooooo…

It’s with a slight tinge of horror that I announce to you that I’m not actually enjoying my time in Portland this time around.

Before, Portland was all about the food. I would eat out for three meals a day there, declare each and every meal to be the best version of the dish I’ve ever had (they really were), and — of course — gain a shit ton of weight. Eating there was one of my greatest joys in life.

Tasty and Sons breakfast

Then, it turns out, I changed.

A couple of years ago, I suffered from a fairly intense mental breakdown, and one of the main things to drag me out of the darkness was overhauling my diet. I cut out dairy. Gluten. Sugar. Caffeine. Alcohol. And I felt the best I’ve ever felt in my life. My anxiety and panic attacks disappeared. I stopped getting motion sickness. My hayfever faded away. I no longer found myself on eight courses of antibiotics a year. I was happy, healthy, strong, and in control of my life. It was the best thing I’ve ever done, and I was the best possible version of myself.

There’s no doubt that experimenting with my diet was life-changing, but there’s one huge downside that comes from cutting out the food that makes you unwell: adding it back in to your diet makes you want to kill yourself.

Often, when I eat dairy now, I end up hunched over for days, suffering from cramps are so strong I can barely stand. I start having panic attacks. I get anxious and begin withdrawing from life; staying inside and cancelling hanging out with friends. I feel nauseated. I want to cry all the time. Gluten, sugar, and alcohol also make me feel this way, but are thankfully nowhere near as severe.

Let’s be honest, though: sticking to a diet that involves eating nothing but fresh, organic foods with no additives or preservatives, no sugar, no sauces, nothing but extra virgin olive oil, and no alcohol is damn near impossible to stick to while travelling. Especially when I don’t like to stay in Airbnb apartments that would give me access to my own kitchen.

And plus, diving mouth first into the local food scenes when I travel is one of my favourite aspects of my life on the move. Having to stick to an extreme elimination diet wouldn’t just be impractical, but would take away from my enjoyment of travel, too.

So, Portland.

Helser's breakfast in Portland

Dave and I came to Portland to eat, but this time we had his parents in tow.

Back in 2013, I led my parents around the city on an eating extravaganza that they still gush about to this day, so Dave and I were determined to show his family just how delicious the Pacific Northwest can be.

Of course, that involved pretty much nothing but eating, and, for both me and Dave, a lot of nausea.

And sure, we could have not eaten at all of our favourite restaurants and instead dragged his parents around the paleo hotspots of the city, but we’re not dicks and that would feel like a dick move. Because as much as I value my health, I’m not going to start forcing my diet on other people, especially when I’d pitched Portland’s amazing food as the main reason to visit.

And so I sucked it up and I felt dreadful.

And by the end of my time in Portland? I no longer thought of it as my favourite city in the U.S.

To me, Portland was incredible because of its food, and now that I can no longer eat that food, I no longer feel an urge to keep returning. And don’t get me wrong — the food still is incredible, and my favourite restaurants there are still full of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. I still want to write the ultimate restaurant guide to the city. The problem is, whenever I eat those delicious dishes, the after-effects aren’t worth it for me.

I kind of feel heartbroken about it, like I’m going through a breakup. Like I need to grieve losing Portland, and process the realisation that what we once had is unlikely to ever be a part of my life again.

I don’t know if I’ll ever return.

Food in Portland

And this leads me to the rest of my west coast trip.

Fun fact: back when I first started this blog, I wrote in an early post, “Santa Monica will always be my favourite place in the world and that will never change.”

I first visited Los Angeles back when I was 19, when my first serious boyfriend stumbled upon some cheap flights and whisked me away for a week of summer sunshine. And despite me having panic attacks over the fear I had DVT for five of the seven days we spent in town, I fell hard for Santa Monica.

Here’s another fun-but-weird fact: I used to kind-of-sort-of be allergic to the sea. For almost all of my childhood, dipping into the ocean would result in a head-to-toe rash and itchy skin over the next several days.

But in Los Angeles, for whatever reason, I was finally able to splash in the sea without having to tear my skin to shreds afterwards. And weirdly, I’ve never had that reaction to saltwater ever again.

Part of the reason why I loved Santa Monica was because it was the first time I was able to be carefree in the water. Part of it was that it marked my first time heading outside of Europe without my family. And part of it was that I liked really touristy places.

I loved Santa Monica pier. I loved eating funnel cake. I loved shopping at Ed Hardy (lol, the 2000’s were ridic.) I loved cruising around Hollywood in a convertible. I loved desperately scouring the streets in search of celebrities. I loved paying far too many visits to the Hard Rock Cafe. I loved eating crisps for most of my other meals. I loved spending most of my time on the beach and doing anything that didn’t involve walking.

I always say that I had essentially no travel experience when I first set off on my never-ending journey in 2011, and part of that is because my previous trips overseas were usually spent having panic attacks inside fancy resorts and doing anything that didn’t involve diving into the local culture.

Venice beach

Once again, it’s me who has changed.

With an additional 70-odd countries now under my belt, I think it’s safe to say that Santa Monica is no longer my favourite place on the planet. That’s likely not a surprise to anyone, because damn, I’ve  been to some incredible spots over the past six years.

The destinations that speak to me have changed — I think I’ve stayed in just three or four resorts over the years I’ve been travelling long-term. I don’t like to shop when I’m on the move because I don’t have space in my backpack, and hordes of tourists are rarely what gets me going.

But I still like Santa Monica for what it is. I like getting to relax on the beach, wandering the length of the boardwalk, people-watching in Venice, eating healthy foods for much of my meals and tacos for the rest. I’m sure I could base myself there and be happy and content, with a good quality of life. I’m sure I will return in the future.

But it’s nowhere near my favourite place in the world.

Despite me saying that would never be the case.

Lauren in Seattle

And Seattle?

I’ve spent several months basing myself in Seattle over the past few years, and I’ve always felt as though I could take it or leave it. I mean, I liked the city, but it had always paled in comparison to Portland. It felt a little too big. A little less weird. A little more damp. A little less affordable. A little less life-changing when it came to food.

But on this visit, I couldn’t stop talking about how liveable the city felt. I loved it.

It turns out that when Portland’s food scene is no longer as accessible to me, Seattle wins on practically everything. It feels like a city I would be so happy to live in.

And I could sit here and list the many logical reasons why Seattle would make a fantastic home for me, but most of the time, I come to that decision based on a feeling I get as I explore a city on foot. I can’t explain it, but there are several cities in the world that just seem to fit. Where I turn up, spend an hour walking the streets, and immediately declare that I want to move there.

I got that same feeling in Seattle on this visit, and I’m already plotting my return.

Pioneer Square in Seattle

So, back to my original question and the point of this post: should you return to the places you love?

Maybe?

Wow! What a ground-breaking conclusion, Lauren! 

There are some spots on the planet I know I don’t ever want to return to.

Maafushi, in the Maldives, is one that immediately springs to mind. Back when I first visited the island, I was only of the first independent travellers to do so, and it quickly became one of my favourite places in the world. But the Maldives have quickly become a budget travel hotspot and Maafushi is now paradise ruined. Friends who have visited recently have labeled it awful. Told me it’s now overrun with tourists. That they’ve dug up the beautiful beach, leaving behind something that vaguely resembles a concrete slab in the ocean that’s covered in plastic waste. That it’s packed with so many Chinese vacationers that even the road signs and menus are in Chinese, which hints at a sad erasure of Maldivian culture. I know it’s now unrecognisable from the island I fell in love with, so I know I don’t want to return and taint my memories of it.

On the flip side, when I first visited Taipei, I fell hard for the city to the point where I was nervous about returning. I didn’t know if Taipei had meant so much to me because it had been the first Asian city I ever visited, so on second visit I was concerned it would bore me to tears. I was worried that flying back would mean having to find a new favourite country. Instead, on my return, I fell even deeper in love. I discovered the city’s incredible food scene, which had passed me by in a terrifying blur on first visit. I appreciated the order and somewhat-serenity that’s often hard to find in East Asian cities. I experienced kindness on a whole new level that has yet to be replicated in any other countries. I have to confess that the one city I find myself dreaming of on a weekly basis is Taipei, Taipei, Taipei.

So here’s what I think: return to the places you love but keep your expectations in check. Do your research, so you can prepare yourself for any negative developments to the destination you adore. Stay aware of how you’ve changed and ponder whether you think it’ll affect your return visit. Don’t go if you think you’ll hate it on your return and don’t want to ruin the wonderful memories you have of it. Or do, because it’s your life and you can do what you want.

I guess this was a long-winded way of saying Portland’s out, Seattle’s in, and I am bad at coming up with neat conclusions for my blog posts.

Have you ever returned to a place you once loved and discovered it no longer held a place in your heart?

53 Comments

  1. October 9, 2017
    Reply

    OMG the food issues, I can totally relate! I never had the wonderful results from Whole30/Paleo like you did, but it did teach me that I’m much better off not eating gluten, dairy, and excessive amounts of sugar. Plus I can’t eat eggs or beans. Traveling this year, I ended up in several places where the food was such a struggle because it was so hard to find decent options that didn’t include gluten, dairy, and eggs, that it feels like it’s ruining travel for me. I’ve learned that I can tolerate small amounts of gluten on occasion, and if there’s something I really, really want that’s dairy, I’ll take lactose pills. But yeah, I can totally understand how difficult it would be to return to a place you loved for its food only to realize now the food makes you feel awful. It sucks that Portland has moved down on your list, but it sounds good that Seattle gained some points at least!

    • October 9, 2017
      Reply

      Yes, yes, yes! Avoiding gluten *and* dairy is really tough. I feel as though it’s taking away from my travel experience, too. I feel as though I can’t properly experience a place if I’m only cooking meals in a kitchen, but then when I do jump into the local food scene, I end up feeling terrible. I still haven’t found a balance, but I have felt sick on most trips I’ve taken this year.

      Sometimes I wonder if I should go back to my old ways of eating and just deal with a baseline level of feeling mildly crappy so that I don’t have days where I feel truly awful, but that also seems ridiculous to deliberately be doing something that isn’t making me feel as good as I could. I don’t know what the solution is yet.

  2. October 9, 2017
    Reply

    Yeah, I’m torn answering this question. I always want to return to places I love. But they’re often never the same for me… the magic has disappeared. I always end up thinking that the place has changed, but really it’s just me.

    I end up going back a second time and then never again.

    • October 10, 2017
      Reply

      Ah, that’s interesting that you’ve yet to enjoy visiting anywhere for a second time! But at least that quickly shortens your list of places to revisit :-)

  3. October 9, 2017
    Reply

    This brings up a thought for me: how weird will it be to visit “home” now? When we go, we will have been away for 7-8 months.

    I currently don’t have a favorite city I want to visit again, except home. My husband has already been back once because of work and he said it was “weird.” It was weird for me to be here (Mexico) while he was in the US, too. I can’t put my finger on why, though.

    • October 9, 2017
      Reply

      I found it weird, too. It feels as though everything has stayed the same, but you’re so incredibly different. After a year in (mostly) Southeast Asia, I hated returning home and felt miserable being back there. I missed the warm weather and laid-back backpacker lifestyle.

      Buuuuut, on my second visit home, something had changed. I’d spent enough time away that I could see the downsides to travel and the positives of home. I realised that I’m unlikely to ever feel like I truly belong outside of the UK, and the things that once irritated me about home were now comfortable and familiar. London transformed from a city I said I’d never return to if I didn’t have family there to somewhere I dream of one day settling.

  4. October 9, 2017
    Reply

    I forgot to address food issues: I’m celiac so I can’t eat gluten. I still understand what it’s like to be eating things that you know don’t make you feel that good (I can barely tolerate alcohol anymore or maybe the mix of sugar and alcohol). It does stink. Thankfully, I don’t have any problems with coffee (though I prefer it the “whole30 way” now instead of with cream). I do feel better when I eat in a more Whole30 style way.

    Maybe, if you ever choose to return to Portland, you can seek out the pales restaurant’s and enjoy the city again.

    • October 10, 2017
      Reply

      Uh paleo. And restaurants. That’s one embarrassing autocorrect!

    • October 21, 2017
      Reply

      Yep, that would definitely be what I’d do, and would be a lot easier if we weren’t showing other people around!

  5. October 9, 2017
    Reply

    We visited Cinque Terre about 10 years ago and I think due to the prevalence of Instragramming/Facebooking people are starting to flock there. Granted, 10 years ago there were tourists, but I’m worried a return will be wall to wall people. I like the out of the ordinary places most people travel, or at least which hadn’t been discovered yet.

    I’m venturing over to Eastern Europe later this month to check out some places which don’t seem to be on most people’s radar yet. Plus it’s fall/early winter time, so I’m hoping for little to no crowds. Can’t wait!

    • October 9, 2017
      Reply

      Oh yeah, I’ve read that Cinque Terre is ridiculous now, with so many people trying to score perfect Instagram shots. I understand why you’re worried it won’t feel the same on second visit.

      Eastern Europe is fantastic! One of my favourite regions of the world :-) Especially recommend Bosnia, Romania, and Ukraine.

  6. October 9, 2017
    Reply

    I feel completely the same about Seattle! Didn’t like it much my first visit, liked it a lot more my second visit, fell in love with it completely on my third visit and have now also visited a fourth and fifth time and still love it to death – my favorite city in the US. I can take or leave Portland – I find it a bit of a dull city visually and although the food is great, I love the breweries and Powell’s World of Books is awesome, I wouldn’t be fazed if I never visited again. But Seattle – again and again and again :)

    • October 10, 2017
      Reply

      I’m firmly on Team Seattle with ya! For now, anyway… :-)

  7. Alexandria
    October 10, 2017
    Reply

    I think it’s true that oftentimes you can’t go back to the same place twice. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that places and people change. Also, the nature of tourism in the social media world means that places don’t stay secret for too long. It’s also really easy to like a place because it’s your first time there, sort of like falling in love with a person and then noticing all the warts the second or third time around. That’s how London was for me. I loved it the first time but that was before I went to Berlin, Budapest, or Lisbon. I went a second time recently and it just felt grey, depressing, incredibly capitalistic, expensive, somewhat soulless. But I know that this could also change if I go back…The first time I went to Iceland a few years ago, it still felt sort of like a secret place. Now, over half of my Facebook friends seems to have gone there to travel and it’s impossible to find affordable places to stay for New Years. I can’t believe this is the place I booked a hostel for only a few weeks before New Years because it’s the beginning of October and almost everything is sold out already!

    I also just wanted to say one thing. I notice that you complained about the Maldives being discovered by the Chinese and how that has ruined everything. I notice that this is a complaint that I’ve read from a lot of travel bloggers, especially white, Western bloggers. This kind of mindset and attitude has really hurt Asian-American travelers like myself who are NOT Chinese. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people harass me, call me names, ruined my trip countless times because they assume that my Asian face is Chinese. It is exhausting having to constantly be on my best behavior all the time because of stereotypes that Western, white travelers carelessly like to toss about. For example, every time I stay in a hostel/AirBnb,/apartment, I am always cleaning everything obsessively because I worry they will think I’m messy and assume I’m Chinese. I realize when I travel, I rarely take selfies, pictures of my food, or even with loved ones, because I subconsciously worry that someone will look at me and say something, because the few times I have, I HAVE gotten people muttering things under their breath, how all those Asians love to take pictures (ironically, the same people usually are carry a huge camera around their necks that is made in Asia). It’s a huge double standard as I see countless white tourists who go to Asia, treat the locals (especially the women) terribly, and take selfie after selfie or video after video of themselves and go on slum tours without thinking twice about it. And yet, I rarely see bloggers write about how that has “ruined” places. I rarely see bloggers calling out this kind of double standard. I rarely see bloggers complaining about how Australians have ruined Bali or how Western tourists have destroyed Thai beaches during Full Moon Party. Instead I’ll hear things like, “Oh, I need to go to North Korea before it gets discovered (as if they are some modern day Columbus) or Ukraine or Cuba before it gets discovered or I need to go to xyz place before the Chinese find it)” thoughtlessly without thinking about the struggles the locals have to go through each and every day. If I could write out the amount of insulting, demeaning, countless comments/actions I’ve had to face due to people’s negative attitudes about the Chinese on top of the recent Sinophobia (Oh Chinese people are buying up everything!), you would be amazed. And I AM NOT EVEN CHINESE. And guess what, even if I WAS Chinese, it does not justify people saying those things. I’ve seen countless Western tourists do bad things while travelling, and I rarely, if ever, see the Asian, African, or Latinx community calling them out on it, especially on travel blogs. Then again, travel blogging is a pretty white space so I guess I’m not that surprised. Plus, is it even necessary to write more things about the Chinese? Like seriously, if there’s one community who could do with less xenophobic media in the travel community, it’s them.

    I would love for a travel blogger to write about how China is a HUGE country, the largest in fact, and how there is a wealth of diversity, and so many lives, none of which are the same, and to stop boxing people in.

    And for what it’s worth, I’ve traveled a lot and I rarely come across these “rude Chinese” as often as you would think based on the travel media is around. I’ve been treated more rudely, been pushed, been spat on more from Western travelers. And yet, you do not see me writing a travel blog bemoaning how white, Western travelers have ruined Asia and oh no, it’s so discovered now! I mean, can you imagine I write a travel blog entitled HOW AUSTRALIANS HAVE RUINED BALI or HOW STAG PARTIES HAVE RUINED POLAND or how THE BRITISH HAVE RUINED BERLIN. I mean, I can’t even imagine doing that so it’s always amazing to me how stereotyping and writing about the Asian community/travelers is so normalized.

    • October 10, 2017
      Reply

      Hi Alexandria!

      Thanks for your feedback. I think, however, you may be reading too much into my comment, although I totally understand how you would after what you’ve experienced when travelling. I know that at times in the past, I’ve been quick to drop into conversation that I’m teetotal when travelling, because British travellers don’t exactly have the best reputation overseas and I didn’t want people to think I was going to get obnoxiously drunk and behave like an asshole!

      I wasn’t saying Maafushi had been ruined because it had been discovered by Chinese travellers, but more because it doesn’t even have a beach anymore! I admit I could have worded it better. If you read my post about the island, I commented on how it felt like a big slab of concrete in the ocean that was covered in trash in certain parts, but that the amazing beach more than redeemed it in my eyes. Without a beach, I would say it totally has been ruined! There’s basically no reason to visit if it’s been dug up and no longer exists. I wasn’t saying the tourists that are visiting are badly behaved, either, or perpetuating any of the negative stereotypes that exist around Chinese travellers. And in the next paragraph, I talk about how Taipei is my favourite city, and Taiwan my favourite country, in the world, and that’s a place that obviously gets a shit-ton of Chinese tourists and few other visitors of other nationalities. If I was so anti-Chinese tourism, and thought the Chinese were the absolute worst, I sure as hell wouldn’t be spending months upon months in Taiwan!

      Having said that, I guess I didn’t need to point out that it was an upswing in Chinese tourists specifically that had been crowding out the island. I’d heard from a friend who visited that signs and notices were sometimes just in Chinese and not even Maldivian, and that it felt like the local culture was rapidly being erased because of this. I was giving those details. I’m fairly certain I’d say exactly the same if I’d heard the street signs that had been around for decades before tourists were allowed to visit were being replaced with any other language, though.

      For what it’s worth, I have an entire section in my book focusing on how Bali has been ruined by Australian tourists. God, Kuta is the absolute worst. I’ve written here about how Playa del Carmen has been ruined by obnoxious American tourists. How the same has happened to Sihanoukville. How the Algarve has been ruined by the British to the point where I refuse to visit in the summer months. When I had the opportunity to visit Lesotho earlier this year, but realised I could only do so on a slum-like tour, I refused to visit the country and wrote about why you shouldn’t treat people as a tourist attraction — and Lesotho was somewhere I’d always dreamed of seeing. And finally, after learning just how much of a negative impact European tourists have had on Lisbon, I’m actually going to be leaving Portugal, partially because I don’t want to be part of what’s causing locals to have to leave their homes and lose their culture. That’s something I’ll be writing about soon.

      Of course, if you think I’m just making poor excuses for any problematic behaviour, I’m happy to be told I’m being offensive as hell so that I can deep-dive into any prejudices I don’t realise I have.

      • Alexandria
        October 14, 2017
        Reply

        No, don’t worry about it. Thanks for your explanation! You are actually one of the few travel bloggers I like (I also struggle with anxiety and I really relate to a lot of what you write about in regards to that).

        I am definitely sort of sensitive about it because it has affected the reaction I get in certain countries. I only started travelling in Western Europe recently and I was really surprised by the booming tourism from Asia (due to the very recent middle class, I know) and sort of the negative feelings that lots of locals have about that. So I hear a lot of negative/ignorant comments and I always feel like I have to be on the defensive by saying I’m not Chinese or speaking English loudly and then I’m like, gah, why do I care so much! And then I feel sort of bad because I’m like, am I being racist towards Chinese people by being so upset about being called Chinese? I should just brush it off but it does get on my nerves sometimes. I do sort of find it fascinating how in Europe, people have pretty strong identities about being German or French or Italian but then they assume that every Asian is either from China or Japan when Asia is also pretty huge. I never know when to correct people either…I had a guy from Australia pass by an Asian group once and he was like, oh, they are definitely Japanese, you can tell because they are paler!! Then he was all like, I know because I had an Asian girlfriend and I traveled to Asia blah blah…but I’m like, is it my place to say something if it makes me feel uncomfortable? I also realize in some ways that my American-ness and the fact that I pretty much spent the bulk of my adult years in New York means I’m probably more sensitive towards casual racism. I remember meeting a group of Spaniards in Budapest who kept screaming “negrita” at this girl from the UK and I kind of got upset so I said something but then I’ve been told from travelers that this is normal in Spain and they don’t mean to be racist etc etc…so then I’m like, what’s the proper way of handling that? Anyways, I’m just rambling!

        Hmm…that’s an interesting thing that you say about Portugal. This is really a global issue, with the gentrification. My boyfriend is from Berlin and we are seeing a lot of the same issues there. I think there are ways to get involved with that though. Being aware and also making sure that you know what the rent is in the area and try to make sure you don’t pay so much more so that it doesn’t up the rents for everyone in the neighborhood. It’s a tough issue to fix though because so much of this has to do with greedy real estate developers and a lack of legislation that protects locals…I read somewhere that a good amount of the properties in New York are empty and just investments for foreign investors. It has really destroyed the city. It also leaves me with complicated thoughts for liking things like the High Line because that led to the rapid development and hypergentrification of that area which pushed a lot of locals out. Anyways, that’s a long topic and I have no answers! I can barely afford New York myself anymore and I know this is a problem for people in London as well (I think my visit there recently just depressed me because I saw the changes and it’s too similar to New York in many ways).

      • Alexandria
        October 14, 2017
        Reply

        Random but I’ve always been curious if travel bloggers ever have secret places they don’t write about for fear that it will change the place. I used to want to blog but there are so many times when I’m like, I kind of want to keep this place a secret (not that that’s even possible really)!

        • October 21, 2017
          Reply

          I personally don’t, because I figure someone’s going to let the word out eventually. And because everywhere changes and there’s not much you can do to stop it. But having said that, it definitely gave me pause to see the changes that have taken place on Maafushi, and know that it’s in part due to me. I rank first for Maldives on a budget in Google and recommend going to Maafushi if you only go to one island, and, well, it looks like everyone’s done that. I can’t say it’s all down to me, of course, but I have definitely played a role. It might change what I do in the future, but probably not. Everywhere gets discovered in the end :-)

  8. October 10, 2017
    Reply

    This is a great post! And I laughed at your conclusion because I totally agree – I always worry about re-visiting places I love, and there are some places you just view differently the second time around. And other times it completely strengthens how you felt in the first place. In a weird way I think it can actually be nice to fall out of love with a place because then you can make peace with missing it every time you leave. …Does that make ANY sense?

    • October 10, 2017
      Reply

      It totally does to me! Sometimes I feel like I might explode from my never-ending list of places I’m desperate to return to, and it never seems to get any shorter! So yes, getting to strike somewhere from the list always feels good for me, too.

  9. Krissy
    October 10, 2017
    Reply

    So sad to see Portland was just about the food for you! It was my home for a few years and I absolutely adore it and food was least on my radar there. It was much healthier than what I’m used to at home in Philadelphia which made me miss all my greasy favorites, Italian American delicacies and decent American Chinese food lol. If you ever do go back there’s plenty to do and see and love I promise you that!!!

    • Jenn
      October 23, 2017
      Reply

      I most definitely agree with Krissy here! I currently live in Portland and am bummed that food was the only focus, since there is SO much to do here outside of eating. That said, eating is probably my favorite thing to do, so I’m also sad you didn’t experience the oh-so-so-so-many vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free/dairy-free options we have in restaurants here (vs. the incredible food you guys checked out but was outside of your preferred diet). Most restaurants, even if vegan-focused (for example), offer up a ton of options for the people in your life who don’t have such a strict diet to adhere to. All in all, maybe next time if you ever end up back here! :)

      • October 24, 2017
        Reply

        Food was the main focus, mostly because we’ve spent months and months there, so we’ve already done a ton of stuff in Portland. And yep, we would definitely aim to check out paleo-friendly restaurants if we head back — just wasn’t possible on this trip, because Dave’s parents were excited to visit the places we’d spent years gushing about. Aaaand we didn’t know they were going to make us sick until after we visited.

    • October 24, 2017
      Reply

      Oh, so interesting! Most people I know in Portland are obsessed with the food.

  10. Say
    October 11, 2017
    Reply

    Ignore the person above Lauren. I was reading her comment and thinking “But Lauren HAS written about all of those things.” This was probably her first visit to NEF and she doesn’t know your writings.

  11. Caroline
    October 11, 2017
    Reply

    I’m an American, but the only one of those three places I’ve been is LA! The other two are on my list, but Seattle has always been higher than Portland. Not sure why. Maybe because Portland became super trendy and Seattle stayed less so? I think there’s a contrarian streak in me that doesn’t want to go to Portland (or places like Iceland, for example), just *because* everyone else thinks it’s so cool, haha. Glad you enjoyed your trip overall, and I am selfishly glad to read coverage of America that isn’t about (a) Trump or (b) New York. I know both of those things are (unfortunately, in my opinion) big parts of American culture, especially in the international press, but it’s a big, beautiful country with 320 million people, and there is so much to see and appreciate that has nothing to do with those two topics. So thank you for exploring Seattle and Portland instead :)

    I have food allergies too, so I’ve never been much of a foodie. I LIKE food, but I don’t travel specifically for it, and I’m largely content with eating at the same kinds of places over and over. The one thing I feel like I HAVE to try in a new place is ice cream (gelato, sorbet, etc) from a local place. Long story to say — maybe it would be helpful to pick one thing you can eat on your diet and specifically seek that out in a new place? That way you can still have the “hunting down the best of X” foodie experience without feeling nauseous afterward. Just thinking out loud :)

  12. What a difficult subject. On the one hand, I love revisiting places I love. I had lived in Edinburgh for three years, and now that I’m back in the Netherlands I still can’t get enough of visiting the city. I can’t think of a place I didn’t like when I revisited, but I can imagine if I visit some of my favourite places again I would feel different about them. Simply because I had a certain state-of-mind when I visited it the first time.

  13. October 12, 2017
    Reply

    Totally understand where you are coming from (RE: should you revisit a place). After a few times, it becomes very routine and familial to me. Thus, my biggest concern is boredom more than anything else. To avoid that, I try to re-visit places with someone who has never been there before. Having that set of fresh eyes allows me to see that place in a different way that I would never have seen without that person being there with me.

    • October 21, 2017
      Reply

      Yeah. That was the big problem with me — when I would visit in the past, I didn’t have a homebase, so going somewhere familiar felt like a novelty. Now that I have that in Portugal, it’s less exciting to just go somewhere else and pretend that I live there.

  14. October 14, 2017
    Reply

    I really loved this post and especially the conclusion – sometimes a non-conclusion can be the best one :)
    I’ve been dreaming of two countries – Greece and Romania. I last visited Greece in 2011 for study abroad and though I was super lonely and anxious the whole time, the food, the natural beauty, and the way the heat perfected my frizzy hair won me over. I was in Romania last summer and despite having a stomach virus when I arrived, that didn’t ruin the wonderful experience I had there. I am itching to go back to both places and I’m just worried that my previous really positive experiences won’t live up to the hype.

  15. Mark
    October 16, 2017
    Reply

    I came across your blog today. I live in Seattle, visited Lisbon for the first time earlier this year (loved it), and am currently saving to eventually move there and start my digital nomad journey.

    I have enjoyed reading your posts! Please keep it up.

    Cheers,
    Mark

    • October 16, 2017
      Reply

      Ah, amazing! Best of luck :-)

  16. Isabella Jones
    October 16, 2017
    Reply

    Funny and interesting read. Quite an insight about how tourism affects the local society and economy.

  17. October 17, 2017
    Reply

    Come back to Taiwan! And not just Taipei, but also Tainan, Taitung, Orchid Island – all over! I grew up in the US but have been back countless times. I just love the land my parents grew up in because of the people, food, and convenience. The MRT now goes from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station! It really does get better every time!

    • October 17, 2017
      Reply

      I’ve been all over! I’ve spent over four months travelling around the country! I usually do a big loop when I visit, not just stay in Taipei :-)

      • October 19, 2017
        Reply

        Awesome! I just flew into Lisbon from Taipei. First time here! Was doing a search but can’t find an entry specifically on Lisbon in your blog. Only in Portugal for a few days. Is there something you can point me to?

        • October 20, 2017
          Reply

          Ah, sorry! Because I put so much of my life on the internet, I keep my home life pretty private, so don’t write about Portugal here. Feel free to drop me an email though and I’m happy to give advice!

  18. Evan Kristine
    October 22, 2017
    Reply

    I love your post! I love visiting places that I visited before because of the good sceneries, good people, and food there, I feel so relieved and refreshed after. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Laura Greene
    November 1, 2017
    Reply

    Great post. I feel the same way about both Portland and Spain. Ironically, being able to eat healthy is one of the only things I miss about Portland, because there are so many gluten/dairy free alternatives in the restaurants there. That being said, as someone from Portland, who now lives in Edinburgh, every time I go back to visit family, I am disappointed in how crowded, expensive, and downright rude people have become there. So I don’t like going back now because the Portland I loved is gone. The fire in the gorge was the last straw, I don’t know when I will go back now.
    Now Spain on the other hand, I lived in for two years, and was completely and totally DONE with Spain by the end of it. I never wanted to return, yet a year or so later I was back. Now, from where I live in the UK, I return to it again and again. Just long enough to get some great food, sun, visit friends, swim in the sea, and enjoy all the things I love about the place before I get burned out. Spain is one of those places I could never live, but need to visit on a regular basis to get my fix. Funny how you can develop a relationship with a place that only appeals to a certain side of you. Cheers.

  20. mike s
    November 9, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Lauren, Just found your site. nice work! wish I knew you were just recently in Portland. I’ve been GF and DF for 12 years here and I must say it’s one of the best places to have food allergies. I would have shared my favorite spots. Although I totally understand your thoughts about not being so stoked on Portland any more I think you may have acted a bit too prematurely. There are soooo many options here it’s stunning. We are sooo lucky to have a city with so many food options for people with dietary issues. I predict you will be near us again and think you may have to try Portland again. I bet it will win you over. On that note I predict that many other cities will start to catch the Portland food revolution. In particular places like Paris and other European cities seem 10 years behind but will see the tremendous fun and flavor of Pacific NW scene. Best wishes and good luck with your diet. It gets easier with time and urges to slip diminish. Cheers to great health!!

    • November 9, 2017
      Reply

      Yeah. My point wasn’t that it’s not possible to find that food in Portland, but that I wanted to slot back into the way of life I used to have whenever I returned and visit those same restaurants, etc. I know I can go back and find new restaurants, but I can also do that anywhere in the world. The reason why I continuously returned to Portland was so that I could live in Alberta and eat at Tasty n Sons and Pok Pok and…

      But anyway, if I find myself back in Portland, I’ll definitely be searching out new places to eat at, and I’m sure everything would be incredible, as always :-)

  21. November 13, 2017
    Reply

    Wow, another great post. I felt almost how you felt in Portland, before I went to Thailand. I was vegetarian at the time, and now vegan. But I was worried I wasn’t going to find many vegetarian options. I didn’t do much research but figured it out once I got there. LOW AND BEHOLD. There are endless vegetarian options in Thailand, and full blown vegetarian resturants. I was AMAZED. I do semi also feel that if we go back to Thailand in the near future it wont be the same as the first time around, but then again there is still so much more to see in Thailand.

    I felt heartbroken reading about the Maldives. :( But then reading out Taipei made up for it and now I have that on my list too. And Singapore !

    Thanks for the post !

    • January 2, 2018
      Reply

      Oh, I’m so happy to hear that, Alicia! Definitely try to get to Taipei — it’s an incredible country with the friendliest locals ever.

  22. Stephen
    November 16, 2017
    Reply

    Human-generated change is rarely a good thing as it relates to physical places. There are exceptions, but usually, such change degrades what was there before.

    • November 17, 2017
      Reply

      Yeah, it’s a tough one, isn’t it? I try to do everything in my power not to contribute to change in a place, only to learn from it, but there’s not much you can do to prevent a place from transforming. And sometimes change is good in a place, even if it becomes a less likeable place for me, as it may mean the locals are in a better situation before.

  23. November 16, 2017
    Reply

    If it turns out you didn’t enjoy Santa Monica/LA, swing down to San Diego next time you’re in the area. Rent a car, head up to Encinitas (so many amazing paleo/vegan restaurants), enjoy the better SoCal beaches.

    Taipei—I had the same reaction when I went! I almost moved there after graduating college and when I ended up in San Diego instead, I was checking flights every couple of weeks to find one. I dream of moving there, too.

    • November 17, 2017
      Reply

      Ah, I would so love to visit San Diego! It’s one of my big California oversights and a place I’m certain I’d love :-)

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