The affection that comes with familiarity versus the energy of an unfamiliar destination

Only two of the nine countries we visited in the last six months were new to us, places we hadn’t been before and were experiencing for the first time. Obviously, as travel writers, it’s inevitable that we end up returning to places time and time again, particularly as we develop expertise in certain places, as my husband Terence and I have with the Middle East where we’ve been based since 1998.

But while I love the excitement and energy of the new and relish opportunities to get out of our comfort zone and go somewhere we haven’t been before (there’s nothing quite like that first drive from an airport into a new city, is there?), I also enjoy returning to places we’ve been before, some times many times before.

Because there is a certain affection that grows over time as you become more familiar with a place, don’t you think? The more you visit, even if you’re not exactly besotted by the destination, the more you come to develop a bundle of warm feelings for it. And when you return… well, it’s just like seeing an old friend again. Love them or hate them, you just want to hug them!

What do you think? Know those feelings? Which do you prefer? The familiarity that comes with the known or the excitement of the unfamiliar?

Pictured? Dubai, the closest thing I have to a home, and a place I love more and more each time I return after being away.


About the Author:

Lara Dunston is a Cambodia based Travel & Food Writer and has regular gigs with: The Guardian, CNN, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, The Independent, Telegraph, National Geographic Traveler / Traveller, Get Lost, Wanderlust, Travel+Leisure SEA, DestinAsian, AFAR. Read more here.


  1. Caitlin December 11, 2009 at 8:40 AM - Reply

    Yeah I know exactly what you mean. I can't believe you've been based in the Middle East for 11 years though!

  2. Lara Dunston December 11, 2009 at 8:48 AM - Reply

    I'm glad you understand. I always have people ask me why we keep returning to places… partly it's because that's where we get sent (that's where the commissions are), but I also love returning to places I feel at home in, like Venice – which Terence has a love-hate relationship with!

    Nice to have you stop by!

  3. Rachel Cotterill December 12, 2009 at 12:39 AM - Reply

    I absolutely love both feelings. It's the same as how I love going on holiday, and then I love coming home back to my house. My #1 need is for variety 🙂

  4. Sarina Singh December 12, 2009 at 6:13 AM - Reply

    I was just mulling over this yesterday, Lara! Given I am to India what you are to the Middle East, I can totally relate. I've actually been toying with the idea of starting afresh, so to speak – launching into a new country (as both traveller & writer) for the reasons you state….I guess it's about balance in the end. Both the familiar and the unfamiliar have their plus points and deliver different rewards: 'New' love versus 'old' love: for better or for worse..

    Sarina Singh

  5. Lara Dunston December 12, 2009 at 6:50 AM - Reply

    Hi Rachel

    I love both feelings too, but I increasingly meet people who say "well, I'm never going to return here, so…" It's interesting, isn't it?

    Thanks for dropping in again!


  6. Lara Dunston December 12, 2009 at 6:52 AM - Reply

    Hey Sarina

    Nice to see you here – so how do you propose to start afresh in a country you're so familiar with? I'm dying to know what your strategy will be!

    Thanks for calling in!


  7. jessiev December 12, 2009 at 6:02 PM - Reply

    i love going to places i've been. i know the accessibility, have already sorted out how to get around, etc. it is much easier for me, then – and you're right – you have favorite places already.

    that said, we can't limit ourselves! and so it is fun to explore the new, as well.

  8. Abi December 12, 2009 at 11:24 PM - Reply

    It's so difficult to beat the thrill of that first time in a new place – and there's so much of the world to see – that whenever I get to choose where to travel to, I pick somewhere new every time.

    However, through work, friends and family, the airports of New York, Toulouse, Paris and London now feel like second homes. While the excitement fades, the familiarity, the comfort and the tolerance increases…

  9. Lola December 14, 2009 at 8:14 AM - Reply

    For me, it's definitely a mix of both. I love writing about places I know well like Stockholm and also the excitement that comes with discovering new places.

  10. Linda January 4, 2010 at 9:44 PM - Reply

    I've just started reading your blog, and I appreciate the reflection this and the previous post have brought on. I tend to think I'm always going to revisit a place, especially if my first visit is only a few days (or even hours). I figure if I really want to get back to a place, I will.

    Then again, there are so many places I still want to see, I realize I may skip going back to Rome when I could go anywhere in South America, instead. I do love revisiting, but getting lost in a new place is unbeatable. But I guess there are always new corners of a familiar city left to be discovered.

    I'm just flip-flopping here.

  11. Radhina June 26, 2012 at 6:49 PM - Reply

    I love the drive from the airport. That’s the bit that always sticks in my head even years after… I don’t know what I’d choose as my favourite, guess it’s different sorts of feelings altogether each time. The best part of a new place is discover, the best part of one been to before is rediscovery 🙂

    • Lara Dunston June 26, 2012 at 7:13 PM

      From the airport to your favourite destination or from the airport home? 🙂

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