When a city’s not for you
I think it’s safe to assume that we’ve all fallen in love, at one point or another, with a city from afar. I’ve been guilty of this far more often than I’d like to admit, but I’ve also been fairly lucky – even places that have left me a bit cold once I’ve finally arrived there have, with the passing of time, grown on me, and I’ve come to cherish my time in them nevertheless.
Some others, less so.
I had wanted to go to Amsterdam for a very long time. Maybe it was learning about Rembrandt in college, or making silly jokes about dams built out of hamsters when I had way too much time on my hands as a teenager, but there was something about those three syllables that made me think that this would be a city that I would instantly fall in love with.
I mean, have you looked up Amsterdam on Pinterest?
Those canals, the pretty flowers in spring, the bikes, the bridges, the buildings like gingerbread houses decorated with white frosting…
And, you know what? The city does look like that. So… why didn’t I like it?
The truth is, I can’t pinpoint it. Cities are more than the pictures we take of them, they’re more than other people’s anecdotes, and they, like people, can come to disappoint us when we come close enough.
And, like with people, sometimes we don’t like them. Thing is — we don’t have to.
If you’ve been in that situation, I don’t have to tell you how much that moment sucks: when you realize that you’re not having as much fun as you’d hoped — maybe you’re having no fun at all — and that you’re complaining way more than you’d like. And then, once you’ve gone back home, your post-travel opinion remains unchanged.
Visiting new places is often preceded by a long period of anticipation, and a large expense in terms of energy (as well as money) goes into planning and organizing where we’ll go and what we’ll see. Having all of that come to nothing is understandably upsetting, but it’s part of the risk we take when we expose ourselves to new things.
What we shouldn’t do, however, is let negative results keep us from traveling in the future.
So, let us not sulk. The world is too big. And there are more Pragues, Ravennas, and Florences out there for us to fall in love with.
And yes, along the way we will encounter more Amsterdams. And that’s okay, too.