“You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”
I’m not someone who likes to do the same twice. If I read a book once, I’m probably not going to read it again. What’s the point? I know how it’s going to come out! Same thing with movies. I’ve already had the pleasure of experiencing the emotions the director wanted me to feel, in the moment; why try to recapture those feelings with a second viewing? It’s never as good the second time. By and large, this same pattern holds true for me and travel. I might go back to a country I enjoy (like Japan or Thailand, for example), but I’m always going to visit different places. I guess the only exception to this rule is if I’m playing the role of “tour guide” for a friend or family member. Sure, I’m returning to a certain location for a second time, but it’s in the service of sharing the place with someone. Like all rules, however, this one is made to be broken – like the time I went back to Mysore Palace.
My friend, Cenzo, and I are nearing the end of our trip around the southern Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka. Our last stop before jumping on a plane in Bangalore is Mysore, a pleasant town with forts, parks and a spectacular market. Mysore’s main attraction, though, is its amazing, ornate palace. Also known as Amba Vilas Palace, the structure goes back to the 14th century and was once the official residence of the Wadiyar dynasty and the seat of the Kingdom of Mysore. With six million annual visitors, it is one most famous tourist attractions in India after the Taj Mahal.
And yet, somehow, I had never heard of it. (Have you?) Perhaps that’s why I am so struck by the palace on my first visit. Imagine Versailles transplanted to India, given an Asian twist, and then painted day-glo colors. As I walk down the long halls of the palace, goggling at the ornate columns and lofty, vaulted ceilings, I feel like a pawn atop a royal chessboard, moving between exquisite chess pieces. Visiting the Mysore Palace is like a fever dream, and when the tour is over, you feel altered somehow.
Which is why I went back. I never go back to a place. I know there’s no way I’m going to have the same experience. But for some reason, I feel myself wanting to have a new experience with the place. It’s like the time in high school when I went to see the original Star Wars film 7 times in the theater. I just couldn’t help myself. Cenzo must have been feeling the same way, because he comes with me.
You may never be able to go home again, as Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, but you can go back to Mysore Palace for a second fever dream. In fact, I recommend it!
(What are the rules for returning? Number one is: don’t expect it to be the same. Don’t expect YOU to be the same. It’s the same with re-meeting people as well. When returning to a past relationship after a long break, take the time to notice what’s the same between you, but also what’s different. Returning isn’t meant to be about recapturing past glories – it’s more about noticing who you have become and the journey you have taken to get here. Anything else is gravy.)