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Going back to a place you once lived – I almost cried!

July 9, 2016

People always ask me which of the three places (that I’ve lived in) was the best or my favorite. I never let a second past and respond by saying ALL of them!

I can’t pick a favorite. There, I said it! I just can’t. Each previous place that I’ve lived in means so much to me. Based on my experience, I think anywhere that becomes your home for 1, 2, 3, 10… years, will mean a lot to you.

Maybe it is because of all the memories (good and bad) that you have attached to the years you spent there. It is certain that you didn’t even realize that the things you were doing there were going to be such strong memory markers for your time there.  The food and food related experiences, the stores your shopped in, the school you worked at and your colleagues there, the day trips you took in and around the city you lived in, the old hobbies you did there and the new ones that you tried, your experiences learning and using the host country language, etc.  All of these situations will have strong emotions attached to them, and thus will be the things engrained in your memory.

Now is the test. If you truly think every place is your favorite and felt like your home, then what does it exactly feel like to go back to a place you once lived?

I have been lucky to go back to a place I’ve once lived a number of times, since I’ve lived there. Each time I go back, I have different experiences and feel different emotions. The last time that I went back though I found myself feeling very sad. I really felt like maybe it was a mistake to leave this place.  I have such a strong attachment to this city, its people and its culture. Though it has changed here and there since I left, I still feel like it hasn’t changed since I lived there.


I miss the weather there, the mountains and the sea. I miss the sports I played there and the groups that I played with. I miss the friends that I used to hang out with there and the places that we frequented. I miss the really good friends that I had there and celebrated important holidays and traditions with. The list goes on…

With all these things that I miss, I really almost cried while walking down one of the main streets there with my old roommate (who still lives there by the way).  Of course, that feeling did eventually pass as my trip there was winding down and then eventually left to go back to my current host country.

The saying goes, you don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it. And maybe that is the case for me when I go back to this city. Though I must be honest and admit that it does seem unlikely that I would ever move back there, but I guess never say never.

Now I did mention that I’ve lived in three places in my international school teaching career. Beside the one that I referred to in this article and the one that I currently live in, there is still one that I haven’t discussed yet. The reason is because I have yet to return back to that country. I haven’t returned because I didn’t like my experience there, but I think I haven’t gone because you do need to pay a hefty price for their tourist visa. It is a poor excuse I guess for not going back for a visit, but that seems to be the reason right now.


I do miss that place as well, but I wonder if I would have the same emotional experience there too while going back there to visit. For this second place that I lived, I do feel so lucky and honored to have had the opportunity to live there. Wherever I meet someone from that country, I always get excited and want to share all I know and remember about the culture and language. Luckily, I teach a number of students that are from that country at my current school and they help me keep those memories alive of my time in their home country.

Surely one of the best parts of living abroad and working at international schools is simply to have the opportunity to get the real inside scoop of the host country people and their way of living. It is an awesome and unbeatable experience. Most would agree it is indeed life-changing.


It is hard to go back to places you’ve once lived, but I think it is important to do so. It can definitely be challenging and sometimes sad during certain trips back, but you also get the chance to remind yourself of your past. Seeing old friends, tasting food from your favorite restaurant, going shopping in your favorite grocery store, and even catching up with relatives are so fulfilling and help you learn to appreciate what you have in your life. It also helps you to realize and appreciate where you are currently living and what you have there as well.