The Road Retaken, and Thus Seen Anew

Any traveler knows that a trip is not just about the encounter of a new place but, equally, a journey into the self; and that the more foreign the place, the more profound the journey. In our memories, a trip becomes a series of small, vivid moments, sometimes mysterious for their apparent banality. (One of my enduring memories of my first trip to New Delhi is a clot of brightly colored tinsel I saw tangled around a telephone wire — at night, as the van I was in hurtled down the dark, smoky streets, its sudden presence, moving in the humid air, seemed to promise both merriment and malevolence.)

Our experience of a place becomes inseparable from our recollections of who we were at the time. When I think of Luang Prabang, Laos, for example, I remember certain sights, certain sounds, the dampening, enervating heat, but also the person I was: someone in her early 30s, trying at all times to hide how timid she was.

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