There’s nothing quite like the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed excitement of exploring a new place. Every corner and curve holds possibility, every rock is still unturned. Your belly is empty and grumbles with the smell and promise of fullness.
But discovering new facets of a familiar haunt brings on a different kind of satisfaction. The pleasure of a home-cooked meal–that first bite through warm, golden crust, the anticipation of creamy camembert melting lightly on your tongue.
Continuously and without fail, every road I have re-traversed has managed to surprise me. Unswum springs and waterfalls are now swum; unclimbed mountains and trees climbed. Landscapes shift and move under different lights.
Perhaps most significantly, the people met along the way have changed. A fresh set of faces and dimples fills your scrapbook, and these people bring with them new experiences, ideas, jokes and memories. Depending on the people you’re with, the colours of one place may have faded, while others have been repainted bolder.
It was my third time in Antigua, with its cobblestoned streets and brightly painted houses, a smear of blue, orange and green across the streets, old arched wooden doors paired with large rusty doorknockers, and twisting metal bars fixed on all its windows. This time round, I ventured up to Hobbitenango, a small secluded slice of The Shire perched up in the mountains overlooking Antigua. Little hobbit holes are burrowed into the side of grassy knoll hills, laid down with stone floors and fire places. They offer some of the most delicious beverages: hot chocolate spiced with tequila, chili and ginger; lime cocktails with slivered avocado. This is coupled with the best sunset you will ever see. The sun bursts through the seams in the clouds, splitting the sky open like a nutcracker to a nut, before settling gently into the horizon, blushing a soft purple. My belly fluttered and rumbled with happiness that day.
Nicaragua was hazier in my memories, and different smells and tastes would elicit forgotten flashbacks. In Leon, it was the freshly baked chocolate almond croissants from Pan&Paz, and the off-key cries of a Spanish ballad from karaoke night which stirred familiarity (that being said, our own rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, belted out with heart and soul, seemed to clear out the house). Granada, with its single cobblestoned strip, lined with sellers and buskers. The Treehouse Hostel held the same stunning panoramic views over a sea of lush green canopy, but was a vastly different experience. Last time around, the ten of us that were staying there read in hammocks, played cards, and wove friendship bracelets. This time, there was a live band, a DJ, and dozens of people shuttled in for the night to party. If you haven’t danced among the treetops yet, I would highly recommend it. San Juan del Sur still runs the infamous Sunday Funday, which herds hundreds of young tourists clad in bikinis and leis through beaches and palm trees and pools like a true blue Spring Break straight out of Hollywood. And then there was Ometepe, surrounded by lake, dotted with springs and lined with hammocks, where we finally managed to catch our breath again.
As nice as it is to tick off new cities on your bucket list, don’t underestimate the discovery involved in retracing your footsteps–you can often find delightful crumbs hidden in the nooks and crannies.