I’m back in Montana for a few days before leaving for New York, and I was fortunate enough to have my boyfriend come and visit me for a little bit over my birthday. To say that there’s a slight difference between Montana and New York is more than obvious, and I wanted to show him the best parts of where I come from. I’m not sure if I succeeded (he may have just been nice about it), but it made me start thinking about how trying to represent a certain location to visitors can be a challenge—especially if it’s a place you’ve grown to love and care about.
I remember feeling similarly when I was studying abroad in Venice and my parents came to visit for a few days. I had fallen so deeply in love with the city and I wanted them to share my love for it too. I took them to my favorite restaurants, showed them the sights, and hoped that they would be able to understand the relationship I had formed with this spot.
I don’t think I made the kind of impression I wanted. They definitely enjoyed their time and respected my adoration for the city, but it wasn’t the same kind of experience for them—and I had to learn that just because they didn’t feel the same way it didn’t mean that my feelings toward it were any less valuable.
As expats or when you’re studying abroad, you see everything about the place that you are living in. You see the good and the bad and the fantastic, and when someone comes to visit, you only have a limited amount of time to show them what it’s like. They don’t get to see everything. And that’s okay. I’ve been on the receiving end of this, as well. I’ve been thoroughly impassioned about a place because I had a quality guide, but I have also been turned off by a location, as well.
When it comes down to it, you can only do the best you can by showing your friends and family what they want to see and what you feel comfortable sharing. Your love for a place is your love—it doesn’t have to change because someone else doesn’t feel the same way. That’s part of the beauty of travel. It’s a personal experience—whether you’ve been living abroad for some time, or you are visiting someone you care about.
Have you ever visited a place that you hated? Did you change your mind after you had a good guide to help you?