The Return

You can go ahead and laugh at the superstition behind the Wishing Tree. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll just stand off to the side, arms folded, with that ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI know better?¢‚Ǩ¬ù look on my face. By the time we arrived at the airport in Bali, my wayward bag was sitting there with a red ?¢‚Ǩ?ìrush?¢‚Ǩ¬ù tag on it, next to the luggage carousel. I just know that that orange, tied to a wish, hanging up in that tree in Hong Kong, had something to do with it. Now, the other wish about lording over the known universe is looking more in the bag for me.

It seems to take me at least a couple days to transit the mental space between here and there, in this case between Hong Kong and Bali. The typical adjustments of travel; changes in currency and climate, orientation to the new lay of the land, etc, take some focus to achieve. It usually takes me that long anyway to begin to feel a part of each new place. Inside that time frame I usually feel a little disjointed.

Since I was here once before, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m also dealing with ?¢‚Ǩ?ìreturn visit syndrome?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. My first urge is to tell Stefanie, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìyou wouldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t believe how nice it was here 15 years ago?¢‚Ǩ¬ù. Well shut your cake hole you big fat travel snob. OK, maybe Ubud (our home in Bali for the first week) was less crowded back then. On that basis maybe it was marginally nicer since less of my touristy types always equals better (forgetting for the moment that I am one of those tourists). But isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t it curious how memory manages to sift out all those nasty little problematic negatives associated with distant experiences. For example, the last time I was in Bali I was also nearly broke and struggling to finesse a bank transfer to pay my lodging bill. Memory makes the grand positive out of the past. It can use that as a bludgeon then to pummel your appreciation for things during the return visit.

Our memories of first trips are unique. Eye opening. Revelatory. But I have to remind myself that they are also a fabricated assemblage of glowing details seen in the sweet gloss that comes from having a positive initial experience. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve sifted out all the negatives by now to create a nice little romance story. The return visit I experience now not only lacks that gloss of novelty, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s also a much more vivid mixed bag of good and bad. So it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a false comparison. Of course that first trip to Bali kicks butt?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ because god, it sure was great back then.

Total illusion. The classic downfall of the travel snob. And the big reason I think that this is a problem is that it begins to interfere with my ability to appreciate the events as they occur and people I meet. If I decide that I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m having a bad time then guess what, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s no picnic for the people I meet either. Each encounter during any given day has the potential to transform, for good or bad. And those moments are abundant. Sometimes I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m amazed at how small gestures or behaviors from others affect my mood, and my opinion of people and places. To think that my attitude towards others has the same effect?¢‚Ǩ¬¶

We were talking about these things over dinner and Stefanie gave a good illustration. While we were waiting for the plane to take us from Vancouver to Hong Kong she began to get a little anxious about what comes next. The flight attendant who took her ticket greeted her with such open warmth and measured calm that she instantly forgot her concerns and understood that all would be well. It transformed the moment for Stefanie and she was left not just impressed with that one Chinese woman but helped her believe that those she was yet to meet in Hong Kong would treat her the same.

Part of the problem of thinking, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìit was all so much better the last time I was here?¢‚Ǩ¬ù is that I may miss out on all that.

It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a complaint I hear all too often among frequent travelers. Don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t ever believe it when you hear that a place is not worth visiting anymore. If you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve never been there, go. It will probably be spectacularly worth it. Don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t use someone else?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s take on how someplace has changed for the worse as your guide. You?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve never been there before. Enjoy the first moments. Let second moments and return visits be what they are. Someone else?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s fiction (or your own) can lead you off the trail of a treasure.

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