How do you know when you really like a place?

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Dostana   (Hindi: दोस्ताना, translation: Friendship)

Did you ever like a place enough to return to it?
This weekend I was doing my fall file cleaning and came across some India photographs that I thought I’d share. Every so often, I revisit old photographs to see if they still resonate with me the way they did when I first took them. This particular series, Dostana (meaning Friendship in Hindi) is brief and came about simply when I met some children who lived in the neighboring backstreets of Varanasi’s ghats. This series wasn’t an immediate favorite of mine (reason: some have technical flaws); it took a while for me to realize why I kept wanting to come back to it, despite its imperfections. I figured out later- what captivated me was the resolute and truthful expressions on the faces of the children in them and how it conveyed the hardened lifestyle they lead.

In fact, it was two years (and a week) ago that India had accidentally turned into my crash course as a solo traveler in a developing country. Shri Varanasi was my teacher and she wasn’t easy.

In an old blog post, I wrote (of one of the boys in the photos):

“Today, the father (or older brother) of a young boy, Rajesh, I was photographing walked straight in front of my camera and gave the child a hard slap on the cheek, shocking both, myself, the child and a group of friends who had gathered around us. [*Only days later, I realized that it’s probable that it was due to the boy, Rajesh & his sister’s insistence of me entering their home to take pictures of them in front of their altar that was the reason for such punishment].” –Varanasi Stains

No. She was very hardcore, raw, rough and at times, very ugly and frightening. But somewhere in my short time there, Varanasi got under my skin like a drug and her raw truth transformed into something very beautiful; admirable even. Today, she occasionally breathes inside me; like hearing a distant call, I find myself sometimes returning to her in my memory with a desire to relive her grit.  That said, while I may not know my immediate future with Korea, I already know my future with India. I’m looking to return to India upon the break in my contract. Fingers crossed. I’ll be visiting new places but also returning to Varanasi. Why? I’m still not quite sure. But that’s how I can tell if I really like a place… enough to return.

Have you ever liked a place enough to return to it?


Rajesht & Sister

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Great, great post! I’m not sure I can even answer what seems like such a simple question. I think about smells and sounds, but I feel like maybe the things that would draw me back somewhere are more abstract than just sensory perceptions.. it’s some kind of.. pull? I don’t know.

    • @Evan: Yeah, sometimes it can hit you like “BAM! I love it here, it’s awesome. I want to do it again!” but sometimes, it’s not so immediate or obvious. We can’t always put a finger on it. Maybe it’s an intuition or maybe there’s something in a place which his like a drug or a soul mate?…

  • Interesting question. For me, it’s about the food, the fun, the people, and the culture. If there’s a great mix of those, then I’m down for a return trip, if not an extended stay. In my travels, I’ve found myself at home in too many places, which is why I’ve settled on staying in Asia for the foreseeable future. My current love, the Philippines, will find me returning this December for more adventures.

    • @Steve: I agree, sometimes it’s a whole handful of places that you want to return to. What you’re doing in locating yourself centrally to all the places you want to revisit is a smart choice. Travel is much cheaper (well, not always if you’re flying from Korea) as these places are much closer! Looking forward to watching your tales in the Phillipines.


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