Can You Really Ever Go Back?

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I arrived in Cuenca less than 24 hours ago and I am doing all I can not to have a massive freak out.

This has been an unexpectedly emotional return, in fact my fourth time in Cuenca but this one perhaps a bit more monumental as it’s been over two years since I’ve been here.

My first impression coming back was overwhelming. It seems that I’m not the only one who loves it here as the neighbourhood I stay in is now filled with restaurants, cafes and a lot of hostels.

I heard there are now 4000-5000 expats living here.


Things feel so familiar but also so different.


Cuenca is without a doubt my favourite city in Ecuador. It is a beautiful colonial town and it was very special to me when I was first traveling through South America.

It was when I finally stopped simply traveling through a place and started learning about the people and the culture.




And much of that, which I never shared but you could have read between the lines on my site, is that I was seeing someone here.

Although he was local he had studied and worked abroad so he didn’t judge me when I did not understand that Ecuador was not a cheap country, it was only cheap for tourists.

I stopped going to tourist attractions and just started talking to more people, trying to understand how they lived. When I left it was difficult but we both knew it was the right thing as I had so much more to see.

ALSO READ:  Cuy in Ecuador

But this city was a pivotal point for me. I started searching for a different kind of travel. Looking to learn instead of just capture photos. Interaction is now more important to me than checking off the top sites in a guidebook.

And now I’m back. And it feels like I was only gone a couple of weeks instead of a couple of years. I haven’t seen him yet and in many ways I’m worried that coming back will ruin the memory of what I once had.

It’s almost like when I first came home to Canada. Similar but different. Even though you want people and places to stay the same they change just as you do.

I don’t know how long I will stay here…




Join the Conversation

  1. I loved Cuenca when I first moved there in 2012, but within months the expat retirees began grinding my gears – no cultural interest. It seems many of the expats there are creating their own little America with no regards to the local people, language or culture. So aggravating!

    Keep it real in Cuenca Ayngelina, and good luck!

  2. Nicole @ Green Global Travel says:

    Going back is always a difficult thing. Like you say you go back and expect everything to be the same.

    But everything moves on, with or without you, and it always makes you feel a little out of place.

  3. I know how this feels. Last December, I went back to Perú after 5 years. At first, I was scared I would not like it as much as the memories I had. I was only in Lima for 3 days (passing through to Chile). Thanks to a new friend, I discovered parts of Lima I did not know. The three days went by flying. As a result, I love Perú even more than I did 5 years ago.

  4. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    Oooooh I hope you stay forever, because that means you made a love connection haha!

  5. I think it’s possible to go back. You just need to accept the change. Always accept it, no matter how shitty it feels. It’ll end up being awesome. =)

  6. Beth of Besudesu Abroad says:

    It can be really hard to accept the fact that life goes on with or without you. It’s something I still struggle with after being away the past 2 years–especially as more friends and family are settling down, getting married, having kids, etc.

    But I guess that’s life!

  7. Yikes. I love France. A lot. I had my first real, big heartbreak in France (with a French man none the less) and it’s always odd to return. As much as I love it there, it’s not the same as the heart can’t help but get melancholic for what I lived and left there. So … good luck haha!

  8. It’s always an experience to go back to someplace you have history and things change. I’ve never been there so I’m looking forward to future post of this country.

  9. Arianwen says:

    That must be tough. I always find it strange returning to a place I loved the first time around and feeling like things have changed. I hope you have another great experience there.

  10. Christine says:

    I always enjoy your post. I love the fact you returned, I always sensed you came alive during your time there and have a special connection that sits well with your soul. Enjoy your time and be well. Can’t wait to see what lies ahead. 🙂

  11. Kae Lani | A Travel Broad says:

    Ahh, yes, seeing someone from another country. I seriously had a similar situation where I was dating someone who live in Hamburg and he showed me a complete new way of looking at Germany, which ultimately changed the way that I traveled. Like you I stray away from the tourist locations and spent more time exploring tiny villages throughout the northern part of Germany. Good times 🙂 Can’t wait to read more of your adventures!

  12. Kristin Addis says:

    I can relate. I felt that way in Thailand. I think a quote applies here; “There’s an opposite to déjà vu. They call it jamais vu. It’s when you meet the same people or visit places, again and again, but each time is the first. Everybody is always a stranger. Nothing is ever familiar.”

  13. Peter Shaw - Long Term travel says:

    Very nicely put. I agree totally, everything seems to be in constant flux even the things you thought were like stone change more then you realize especially when away for a long time. The hard part is accepting it sometimes. ie. maybe your parents look far older after a year overseas and their age really hits you when you get home.. etc.. sometimes it can be quite confronting.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Indeed I seem to have a problem with it. I think it’s symptomatic of traveling long-term and of course blogging – we are inherently so preoccupied with what we are feeling that we forget about others.

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