Living life as a travel photographer, it is not uncommon for me to be away from home between six to nine months out of the year. Most of my time is spent working internationally, however, during my free time, I always try to sharpen my landscape photography skills a little closer to my home in Idaho.
I have visited 29 countries in the world, and have been fortunate to have returned to 11 of those on multiple occasions. While my primary reason for returning was for work, I had developed such strong personal connections on my first visits that I jumped at the chance to return time and time again.
When I first read about the Flights.com holiday campaign to“Don’t Skip the Trip”, immediately I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me. The purpose of the campaign is to inspire travelers to revisit the places and people that made a lasting impact by recommending flight deals based on previous Facebook check-ins. Having revisited over a third of the countries I have explored, the tag line hit home for me. I knew how my initial love for a destination was only solidified and multiplied on my return.
While many travelers base their worldly knowledge on how many unique stamps they have in their passport, I think returning to some of the locations you had experienced before can be just as rewarding, if not more so.
So naturally, I compiled a list of reasons why I think you should never ‘Skip the Trip’ opportunity to return to the destinations and people you miss most.
Life is Short
It is the truth. I have previously talked about how a tragedy in my life led to the way I approached travel. I learned that every day we have on this planet counts, and according to Expedia’s 2015 Vacation Deprivation study, Americans left 500 million vacation days unused. 500 MILLION. That is the equivalent of Americans tossing over 1.3 million years of vacation time in the garbage every 365 days. That is simply a mind-boggling stat, and in my opinion, completely unacceptable. I understand how fortunate I am with the field of my employment. I travel for a living and don’t have to request to use my vacation days. But I didn’t always have this life. I worked as a popcorn shovel boy at a movie theater and a bartender in a dirty dive bar before joining the technology workforce in Silicon Valley. In all of those years where I had vacation days, I know for a fact none of them went unused. Usually, I would take more vacation days than allotted, which wound up coming out of my paycheck. But I didn’t care. I worked hard for those vacation days. I deserved them, and even if I loved the job I was at, I could definitely find something to do and somewhere more appealing to place myself than my office desk.
I understand life can throw us many curveballs, and maybe traveling isn’t in the cards for everyone in a given year, but surely, even spending a sunny summer day at the park tossing a frisbee while lighting the charcoal is a better way to spend your time than at the office, no? Please America, use those vacation days. They are good for your soul.
Give Back to the Community That You Will Come to Love
With my work with The Giving Lens, I lead an energetic group of photographers around the globe to experience the sights, sounds and culture of a far off land. But more importantly, we work with local non-profit organizations to help the communities grow and become stronger and more self-reliant. Before I had begun working with non-profits, I made my first trip to some countries just as a normal everyday traveler. In fact, I wasn’t even a traveler. I was more of a standard tourist, but when I started working within the local communities, doors began opening to experiences that that would never have been available on my first trip as a tourist. Local non-profits provide a great way to meet passionate local people and see the world that most tourists never see. Returning to a previously visited location and working with a non-profit will also allow you to acquire a deep knowledge of the local community and culture that you were initially drawn to on your first visit. And most importantly, you will make new lifelong friends.
Establishing personal connections, ones that help inspire you to leave the community stronger and more empowered than when you arrived, will quickly become ingrained in your memories once you leave. These experiences will soon have you impassioned and planning your next trip to continue the work that you started.
Revisiting a Location Opens Your Eyes to New Experiences
We all have a favorite movie that we have seen time and time again. Why do we keep returning to the Netflix queue on a rainy day to watch it yet again? It’s not just for the expected emotions the film invokes. Every time you see it, you learn something new, you notice something you hadn’t seen before, and most important, you view the same scenes from a new point of view. Travel is no different. Each return visit draws us deeper inside the culture, learning about the rich history, and seeing the beauty in things that we may have glanced over the first time, not realizing the deeper meanings behind what was in front of you all along.
Forget the Money. Become Rich With Experiences
Remember those 500 million vacation days that go unused every year? That equals a lot of money. Money that most people will never see, as most employers don’t pay on unused PTO. Whether you could get paid for those days or not, there is something worth much more than your daily salary. Life and travel, and the experiences both of those hold, especially when returning to one of your favorite destinations with more comfort and confidence the second time around, will help you find deeper and more meaningful experiences with the people and their culture.
Get the Most out of Every Destination Before it’s Too Late
Too late isn’t the right word. More like “different”. The social media age is both a blessing and a curse. We have so much information coming at us at lightning speed. This helps travel junkies discover new locations and plan their first trips. But on the flip side, everyone is sharing their experiences in almost in real-time, which instills the inspiration to travel to that destination in others. This is a great thing. Travel is something everyone should experience, and growing tourism industries help inject money into the local communities. But with that boom in tourism, it is almost a guarantee you will notice many changes when you return to a destination. Some are great, some not so great. But no matter the changes, you will always find something new in an old location to fall in love with.
Rekindle and Build Personal Connections
I have seen the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, and Petra. But by far, my favorite part of traveling is the people I meet along the way. I have met some of my best friends in random adventures, and saying goodbye is usually the hardest part of any trip. So for me, maintaining these long distance friendships is by far the best reason to return to the places I have visited before.
Deep in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, there lives an Egyptian man named Shaban. Known as “The Shisha Man” at Captain’s Camp, Shaban can almost always be found around the fire, packing up flavored shisha in water pipes for the overnight guests. On my first trip to Wadi Rum, I stayed up with Shaban until the early morning hours, sitting by the fire, drinking tea, and puffing on the flavored tobacco. That night turned into one of the best conversations I had ever had. But the kicker was, I don’t speak Arabic and Shaban doesn’t speak much English, aside from “Awesome” and “Obama”. I showed him a photo of my dog, he showed me photos of his camels. His smile can light up a dark desert night, but I had never seen it as bright as when he showed me photos of his family back in Eygpt. The next day, when we left the camp, Shaban and I embraced and both began to wipe tears from our eyes. It was a friendship born despite the cultural differences.
I vowed to return to see my friend Shaban, and the next year, I did just that. This time, we spent two nights sitting by the fire, ‘chatting’ and laughing like no time had passed. Again, when it was time to leave, Shaban came to embrace me once again. But this time, he gave me his handmade shisha pipe that he had used every day for countless years. Through our interpreter, I told him I could not accept the gift, but the joyful tears in his eyes and his insistence left me no choice. He was proud to give me this as a sign of our friendship. To this day, that Shisha pipe is the greatest gift I have ever received.
About every two or three weeks, I will get about 50 Facebook notifications showing me that Shaban has liked and shared a number of my travel photos. Yes, the Shisha man of Wadi Rum was given a laptop. But, not knowing how to read or write, the laptop gift giver created a Facebook account for Shaban and showed him to press “this button” to like and “this button” to share. Even though he is over 7,000 miles away, I get so excited knowing that my ‘Sadiqi” is seeing the stories I tell through my photographs, even though he cannot read the captions.
I have not been back to see my friend in two years, but that will change in 2017. I have made a promise to myself to stare at the millions of stars in the Wadi Rum desert and chat with my friend Shaban. The connection I have made with him, and countless others in my life, is the main reason why I will never let myself ‘Skip the Trip’. The smiles and the memories that come from returning are worth much more than those unused vacation days.
View personalized flight recommendations to return to the destinations and people you miss most by using the Flights.com social media integration feature.