Tuesday, September 17, 2019

When you travel to the same city later once more

Lisboa, by night, with my new friends - 2012
It has happened to me more than once. But this year was a prominent example. I visited Porto precisely six years later. Porto was so unique and close to me. It had so much of romantic and energetic memories cramped in - all from 2013 summer. After that, we planned to visit it on multiple occasions. But somehow, we always ended up choosing a new city, instead of Porto every time we had time.

Deciding whether to repeat a city that left us with good memories, or finding a new country/city to visit is also a tough choice. Sometimes, we leave a town with such positive memories, and it is hard to resist the desire to go back. Porto was one excellent example. Since we did not revisit it until we left Portugal in 2018 summer, it almost felt like visiting Porto maybe a distant dream.

Lisboa, same places, alone - 2019
But then my Ph.D. defense was scheduled, and my university in Belgium was managing my flight. I found that flight via Porto was much cheaper than flying to Lisboa from Brussels. I used it as my opportunity to visit Porto once more!

Porto was still charming. However, it was much colder. Interesting, given that it was the same days as in 2013. I could not jump into the ocean although I was walking by the Matosinhos beach, the same beach we visited last time. I almost felt like having time-traveled, if not for those differences in the weather and the minor changes in the city. For once, the metro line between Sao Bento and Jardim do Morro was closed for renovations. On a night, I took the bus from Sao Bento to Jardim do Morro and walked along the metro line from Jardim do Morro back to Sao Bento. The silence and noise from far restaurants were an exciting mix.

However, it is always hard to experience those moments from the first trip as they are, even when we try our best. We always have the memories of the past, and it is not easy to have the same excitement. The longing - the saudade. We are back - but we are not entirely back. Time changes everything. It is not the same place that we experienced years ago anymore. Climate changes, environment changes, and everything else changes also - sometimes for the better, sometimes towards worse. We end up with disappointment when our expectation from the previous visit was not met during the second or a later visit — for instance, the weather. Not a single sunny day in Porto this time to enjoy a beach day, during the three days of my visit!

Porto Sao Bento Station, 2013
Even if the city itself did not change much, the people have most certainly moved - or at least grew up or changed. Depending on how we kept interacting, the people who were your friends there once may have become strangers. Unless you bring the same set of people from the past, the memories will not be the same. Sometimes friends from high school try to organize such trips after 10 - 20 years. But, what we will meet will not be those youths we remember from our school days. Rather, some middle-aged people with their own family and jobs. Bringing back everything to reproduce the same feelings and excitement is challenging - although I tend to believe it is possible.

We happened to visit Houston recently. It is one of those cities that we will revisit. Not because we like it so much. Of course, the city was lovely - at least the food and its diversity. But the actual reason to revisit is its Chinese consulate. Since the Chinese consulate is in Houston, I have a feeling that we may revisit it in 2021. I am looking forward to seeing how Houston will treat us next time!

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