June 13, 2007

Is There a Golden Age of a Place?

Black Head, County Clare, IrelandIan at Brave New Traveler bookmarked an article from the San Francisco Chronicle titled, "OK, we get it: No place is as good as it used to be." I had to check it out, because the title reminded me of a comment I left on Ian's blog back in March:

"I read an article once, written by an expat in Rome who had lived there over 30 years. He talked about how it seemed like every 10 years, someone will tell him how awful Rome is compared to the last time they had visited. It was an interesting idea. When is the golden age of a place? People who go right now for the first time might love it, but hate it in 10 years. People who went 10 years ago and loved it, might hate it now."

John Flynn, the author of the SFC article, describes a phenomenon that he names "the Kathmandu Syndrome: Every place used to be better, at least in the eyes of those who were there then. Now all these places are blighted, charmless, overcrowded and hopelessly touristy." Some of it might be due to the highly competitive nature of some travelers who want to assure you that you've missed out and will never have the authentic experiences they have had. I say, don't worry about the past adventures of other travelers, just enjoy the ones you are having.He also mentions the tendency we have to remember the good experiences of travel and let the negative ones fade to minor issues (kind of like childbirth). "When viewed through that selective prism, it's all but impossible for any current-day place to live up to our idealized memory of it." So, even if the traveler isn't competitive, their memory of past experiences might not be as accurate as they think. Again, don't worry about their memories, make your own.

In any case, it is very difficult to re-live past experiences; places change and people change. General decline in the destination or skewed memories or both, this might be a good reason to never go back as Our Man in Granada wonders. If you do go back, try not to look for the same experience you had the first time around.

Have you had any experience of trying to re-capture a favorite travel experience? Please share your experience in the comments section.

*the picture above was taken at Black Head, in County Clare, Ireland

**update: Our Man did return to one of his favorite places, and it looks like it was the right decision for him this time!