We all treat cities and places like individuals we have relationships with. Brazil and I have a tenuous relationship--I still haven't forgiven Rio de Janeiro for raining for my entire two weeks there in 2010. You might describe Boston as too boastful, or call Amsterdam a bad-influence like it was a bad ex-boyfriend. Miami is always a great backup to call late at night when you need something crazy but consistent.
By 2009 I hadn't travelled anywhere outside of Orlando, Florida or New Jersey. It wasn't long before I spent every weekend in could in New York City--but still my universe was small. So when Kathy, my freshman college roommate, and I decided to take a road trip through the south of the United States everything was new and exciting. I saw a rodeo in Houston and couldn't believe that cowboy boots were actually an acceptable daily footwear choice. I learned how to pump my own gas for the first time. And I experienced New Orleans.
New Orleans was heaven for me. The names of the streets, the architecture, and the atmosphere drew history from alluring European countries that I yearned to visit. Cajun culture, the music, and the colorful drinking culture all came together to make something that was distinctly different from the rest of America.
I was underage, and for the first time in my life it didn't seem to matter. I rode a mechanical bull, bought "Big Ass Beers" from short men in sunglasses of the street, and at sometime around 4am I posed on top of a police car decked out in beads and stickers and a silly hat (picture not shown). I fell in love with a boy from Arkansas and we watched the sunrise over the Mississippi River before getting breakfast at the Cafe Du Monde. By day Kathy and I wandered the streets admiring balconies and street performers, and by night we could be young and free.
When I found out I would be traveling there for work last fall I was definitely looking forward to it. I remembered my last experience. Upon landing, I tried to corral my coworkers to go out on Bourbon Street, but it failed. Instead, we had dinner and watched some music politely from a table. Cafe du Monde didn't seem so much romantic as it did a tourist trap. The man selling beer on the street seemed a little bit shady. I did meet interesting people, and genuinely did have a good time but it required an adjustment--if I had forced myself to recreate what I had last time I would have been miserable!
"If you love something set it free. If it comes back, it's yours. If it doesn't it never was."
As cheesy as it is, it's true. We have all learned the hard way that you can't force something to work, get better, or be what it was once was. Circumstances change, people change, and our perspective changes as we grow and learn. Returning to New Orleans as a seasoned traveller, it didn't seem all that exotic. I still valued the culture and energy of the city, but there was no way I would get those initial chills that I had last time. That's ok. Now I have new memories with new people that all brought something new to the experience, as did I.