Second Time Around: Better, Worse, or Just Different?

Note: I have made it to Kenya now, and my internet use will be pretty sporadic. Please be patient with comments and contacting me… it may take a minute :)

It’s April 13th, and I am approximately halfway through my five-hour flight from Doha to Nairobi. Looking out the window there are clear skies with a smattering of clouds in the distance. I feel refreshed from my complimentary hotel stay last night, and am headed for a long anticipated return visit to Kenya. But as of yesterday, I’m actually kind of nervous about it.

Watoto Wa Baraka
Watoto Wa Baraka, 2008

I first went to Kenya in July 2008 for a six-week volunteer post at an orphanage north of Nairobi. I loved every single second of it (well, all but the bad B.O. that hangs in the air on public transport). I love the landscape, the lush green rolling hills. I love the genuine people in Kenya who are a breath of fresh air and embrace you with such warmth, as one of their own. When I left Kenya 20 months ago, I knew I would be back. I didn’t know if it would be one year or ten years, but the country was a wonderful experience for me, and the children were such a delight. I made lasting friendships with other volunteers and locals. Many people in the States have an apprehension to travel in Africa in general, so I get asked about my trip quite a lot. I’m free publicity for Kenya tourism, speaking fondly of the time I spent there with a deep appreciation. Sure, there were tough times: getting accustomed to bathing with a bucket of water I had pulled out of the well myself, mastering the squat toilets, and seeing some pretty horrifying poverty. However, travel in any foreign country means getting accustomed to other cultural norms and living conditions.

So, what’s the problem? I have spent the past 20 months longing to go back to Kenya and speaking so highly of the place, that I wonder if I will feel the same way when I return? Has my perspective been skewed by talking Kenya up so much that I believe it’s a different place than reality? I’ve been thinking about this only for the past 24 hours, as I was busy enjoying my time in Jordan and hadn’t given it much thought. My seat buddy on my Qatar Airways flight is a New Zealander working for the U.N. in Nairobi. After the 5 minute get-to-know-you chitchat, I come to find out that there have been 7 abductions in the past 6 weeks in Nairobi. And the U.S. Ambassador’s wife was carjacked. What?? I’ve read crime statistics on Kenya but I rave about how safe I felt in Nairobi. Luckily, I’m not rich and I don’t have a car in Kenya, so chances are good that I’ll be just fine. I also stay in a small village away from Nairobi where there aren’t any cars and life is calm.

But the second time around is bound to be different. Better, worse, or just different? I’m not sure. The orphanage has new buildings and more kids. They have a proper dining area, and I believe it has a kitchen now so meals are no longer cooked solely outside over a fire. I will have a sense of familiarity and comfort that I did not have when I arrived the first time. But I can’t help but wonder if being away for 20 months has skewed my perspective at all. What are you experiences visiting a place twice that you were fond of the first time around?

10 thoughts on “Second Time Around: Better, Worse, or Just Different?

  • Laura, I’m eager to hear what you think in the coming days. I’ve been wondering the same thing myself and will have my answer for you in a couple of months. (I’ve been aching to go back to Australia, and now I’ll have my wish — I’m trying not to build it up *too* much).

    There have only been two international locations I’ve repeated, and the second (and third, and fourth…) times around were more about the friendships I had developed and the people I was with than taking photos of pretty things like I did the first time around. In fact, the reason I went back again was to spend time with friends an ocean away.

    Hopefully that familiarity and passion for people will help you become even more invested and allow you to take more chances and experience even more than the first time. Tell us more soon!
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..noplacelikeoz: Just applied for mine! RT @ foxnomad How To Choose The Right Bank Before Going Overseas To Save Time And Avoid Fees =-.

    • Heather,

      I completely agree that it’s more about the people. In fact, I’ve only taken 1 picture since I’ve been here! I’m still trying to get the swing of things so hopefully I’ll have more to tell in the coming days.

  • For the first time I recently went back to a place I visited/volunteered at on my RTW trip – Nepal – I too had these same apprehensions. But I can say that it exceeded my expectations. Mainly because this time I knew people. They welcomed me as a friend; so impressed that I would come back and see them.
    As for getting a bit nervous about the country and safety – I find that it pretty typical every time I change countries – whether I’ve been there before or not. We build it up in our mind and freak ourselves out – then get there and after 2 days all it back to normal. I wish I could figure out a way to not do the ‘freak out’ – but I haven’t so far. So all I can say is ‘this too shall pass’.
    Can’t wait to hear more about Kenya; it was my first stop on my RTW so I too have fond memories there!
    When’s the next marathon date?
    .-= Sherry Ott´s last blog ..signs =-.

    • I’m planning to run the International Peace Marathon in Rwanda May 23. I went for my first run here in Kenya, well attempted run, today but it’s the rainy season and I came back just covered in mud! I had to keep stopping to walk in the worst parts of the dirt roads, but I’m proud that I didn’t fall once :)

  • Oh, my. I do envy you. I spent three months in Tanzania while I was in college — 20 years ago! I just knew I would go back someday. If someone had told me that 20 years later I still wouldn’t have made it back I would never have believe them! I have been to other interesting and amazing places, but Tanzania still holds a dear place in my heart. I think because I was so young and it was my first travel experience out of the Western world. It made such an impression on me.

    Looking forward to reading about how your second compares to your expectations!
    .-= Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black´s last blog ..Getting a House Ready to Sell Last-Minute Isn’t Necessarily the Best Time to Try Your Hand at a New DIY Home Improvement Project. =-.

  • Nothing is the same when ever you go back! Just walking down my street in China every few days I see dramatic changes and it’s seeing these differences are what makes it still exhilarating. Why go back somewhere if it’s just going to be the same, even if it was a great experience. I think the risk when going back a second time is sticking to the familiar, trying to relive past amazing experiences. Instead think of it as your first time visiting a completely blank page ready for new stories to be written!

  • Doesn’t have to be better or worse, just different! I’m really hoping that I can make it to Kenya one day. I have a strong desire to visit and reading your enthusiasm for the country only adds fuel to the fire. The pic of you and the kids is precious!!!
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..imgp2629 =-.

    • You definitely have to make it to Kenya! It’s such a beautiful country with lovely people. I’m already running out of time to see the things I wanted to see this time around. Looks like a third visit will just have to be in the works :)

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