There are a whole load of apparently open-ended debates in the ‘travel world’ (is that a thing?!) which seasoned travellers and bloggers alike enjoy weighing in on every now and again. I’m talking your riding on elephants, tourist vs traveller, trains over planes type debates – you know the ones!
As far as I can remember I don’t think I’ve ever gone into any depth on any of them on here. Sure, I’ve glossed over a few, maybe expressed a few opinions here and there in passing, but as a whole I’ve avoided them.
Now I’m coming out from my little hidey-hole to give my two-pence on something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. Probably more than I should actually. I mean, there are way more pressing issues going on the world but I spend a lot of time travelling on buses back and for work, and they very rarely have good phone signal so yeah, lots of thinking time.
A few months ago one of my friends was talking about future travel plans and said something along the lines of “I’ve already done it, so I wouldn’t go back” in reference to a country we’d visited together for all of, I don’t know, a month max.
It niggled me because a) you can’t ‘do’ a country (I hate this phrase and definitely made that known at the time) and b) just because you’ve been there once, why does that mean you don’t need to go back?
I mean, what would happen if my favourite cousin decided to go off and get married on the beach in the Philippines, but I’ve already been there, done that for 3 weeks of my gap year?
If I already said way back when that I’ve already been to the Philippines, I don’t need to go back, I’d either end up being a pretty shitty cousin or a man who does not keep his word.
Obviously that’s all a very hypothetical situation because I’ve never been to the Philippines, didn’t take a gap year and am definitely not a man.
I completely understand the mindset that there are a lot of places you’d have on your list before going back to somewhere you’ve already been, but saying you’ll never go back is going a bit too far, don’t you think?
Saying you’ll never go back somewhere because you’ve already been there is like saying you’ll never eat a raspberry jam donut again because you’ve already tried it once.
You tasted the donut, you liked the donut and so you ate it all up, even going so far as to lick the plate clean afterwards.
Cor blimey, it was a nice raspberry jam donut.
Sure, maybe it didn’t taste particularly spectacular. Maybe it wasn’t worthy of an audience with Mary Berry. Maybe the jam was too sweet and the donut too doughy. And yeah, there sure are a lot of other variations of donuts out there for you to try. But you liked it.
So what if it was ‘just’ a nice donut?!
To be completely honest there are probably a lot of donuts out there with slightly more enthusiastic descriptions than just nice. For example ‘wonderful‘, ‘outstanding‘ or, I don’t know, ‘lip-smackingly good‘.
There are donuts out there worthy of awards, worthy of international and maybe even intergalactic acclaim. There are donuts out there that would make anyone fall of their New Year’s diet bandwagon. So yeah, it’s completely natural to want to go off on a lifetime quest to hunt down the best donut you will ever taste.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever have a nice, simple raspberry jam donut ever again.
It can be slightly overwhelming sometimes, this race to find the Holy Grail of donuts. All these new tastes, these new smells, they can give you a headache and sometimes, just sometimes, you yearn for something familiar, something safe. You just want a simple but nice raspberry jam donut.
Peru is my raspberry donut.
When I first visited back in 2011 it was my first solo adventure, my first trip outside of Europe within memory, my first time on a plane alone and my first trip as an adult (if 18 even counts?). There were so many firsts in that trip, everything was brand spanking new and so exciting!
When I went the second time in 2013, honestly? It wasn’t so exciting. But that’s not to say it wasn’t any less enjoyable than the first time around. It was like going back to an old familiar, some might say a nice raspberry jam donut.
When I went back last year it was exactly the same again. I did many of the same things as the previous occasions, ate a lot of the same foods and even went so far as to stay in some of the same accommodations. It was my third bite of that oh-so familiar raspberry jam donut.
A lot of people don’t see the point in spending hundreds of pounds year in year out to go to the same place and basically repeat the same experiences you always have. Why waste your time? They say. The world is big and there’s a lot more to see out there!
But you know, the thing about donuts is that sometimes the recipes can change.
Whereas you may originally fall in love with a traditional bog-standard donut filled with nicely smooth raspberry jam, a slight dusting of sugar on the outside, by the following year the manufacturers may have decided to mix things up a bit. The jam has more raspberry, the dough is fresher, they use less artificial stuff, and what was once granulated sugar is now icing sugar.
Better? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s certainly different.
It’s the same with countries, with cities and with towns. To the naked eye they may look the same in pictures, they may seem the same in writing but changes occur each and every day that passes.
Let’s take Nepal as an example.
In 2012 I spent four weeks in Nepal. I did some volunteer work, jumped off a bridge and played with elephants (because duh, elephants). I got to experience the raw beauty of the country, the unwavering friendliness of the people and their insistence that Nepal’s mountains could stamp all over any other country’s pathetic excuse. And let’s be real, they have a point.
I got to see Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) and so many other wonderful sites in and around the country’s capital city. It was a wonderful experience, and despite the whole maybe getting kidnapped think, I had an absolute blast. Much like Peru, Nepal was a nice raspberry donut.
Now cast your mind back to April 2015.
Gorkha Earthquake devastated the country, killing almost 9000 people and destroying many of the beautiful temples and structures the country is known for.
Kathmandu isn’t the same as it was in 2012.
A lot of the buildings I visited, the temples I prayed at, they’re not the same as they were.
Just like a raspberry donut, the recipe has changed. It’s still there, it still exists, the foundations are the same, but at the same time it’s very much different. And if I were ever to have said “Why would I go back there? I’ve already been there once” and stuck to my word, then I’d potentially miss out on experiencing the collateral beauty of a country rebuilding itself after such devastation. I’d miss out on being able to help and contribute towards the rebuilding of a country that was so kind and welcoming to me.
This is where you’re all sat there scratching your heads and thinking to yourself “but she hasn’t been back since 2012…” and you’re right, I haven’t. But I will. Because, as the title of this post suggest, I will always go back.
In the same way that you should never disregard the nice countries, the donuts you’ve already tasted, in your hunt for the Holy Grail of all donuts, neither should you forget the ones you perhaps weren’t so keen on.
Custard donuts are not for me.
There’s something about them that just makes me shudder. I like custard and I love donuts, so in theory combining the two shouldn’t pose any issues for my tastebuds. But it does. I just can’t eat a custard donut, no matter how hard I try. Well, obviously I can eat it because I’m not allergic and have complete control over my jaw and throat, but I can’t finish a custard donut. Because I’m a girl who eats to enjoy, not to stay alive.
Argentina is my custard donut.
I spent a little bit of time there last May. Granted it was nowhere near enough time to provide anyone with a justifiable reason not to visit, but from the whole vibe of the place (we’re talking Buenos Aires here, not the whole country) I didn’t like it.
But that’s not to say I shouldn’t ever go back.
See, just like there’s a whole bunch of different brands of donuts, there’s about a bazillion different sides to one country. The Argentina I experienced, the one at the onset of Winter with gloomy skies and rainy days, the hustle and bustle in the city kind of Argentina, is a Tesco branded type of custard donut, whereas Argentinian Patagonia in the height of summer could be an absolutely delightful Krispy Kreme custard donut. The kind of custard donut that leaves you wanting more. But I wouldn’t know because I haven’t been there yet. I haven’t tasted that donut.
On paper they’re the same donut, but when you bite into it it’s completely different. It’s deliciously gooey and delightfully crisp at the same time. There’s just a hint of vanilla – not too overpowering but not too subtle either. It’s perfect!
And to think you never would have tasted that donut if you hadn’t looked beyond it’s seemingly boring custard-y definition and given it a go!
There’s one last kind of donut I want to talk about, and this one is different for everyone.
For me it’s blackberry. (Have you ever tried a blackberry jam filled donut? If not you might wanna add it to your bucket list pretty sharpish – it’ll change your life!)
For my stepdad it’s a Krispy Kreme Strawberry Shortcake. He’s a particular kind of fellow.
For my bud Scholesy it’s raspberry – a popular choice, as we’ve already established.
For my sister it’s “chocolate icing with sprinkles” (‘fessed up after at least 2 minutes of “but WHY do you want to know? Why do you care? Are you buying donuts?”)
For my friend G it’s “white chocolate one” but that’s probably a lie because he’s Indian and Indian donuts SHOULD NOT BE EATEN UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
They’re all different but the one thing they all have in common is we just can’t get enough of them.
I would eat blackberry jam-filled donuts until I was sick. Then I’d take a 2 minute breather and carry on. I’d eat them until they were coming out of my ears. I’d eat them until I became one of them, and would happily live out the rest of my life as one of those perfectly round, jam-filled, doughy balls of goodness.
I would eat blackberry jam-filled donuts until the cows came home. Or sheep, because Wales.
At some point in my donut-eating marathon I’d probably get sick of the taste, but I’d keep on eating them anyway because when it’s your fave you just have to, right?!
India is my blackberry donut.
I love it. Then I spend too much time there and I get sick of the sight, smell and taste of it. After a 2 minute breather it’s all cool, we’re friends again and the donut-eating can commence. I’ll never get sick of it, but in a different way to a raspberry donut.
A raspberry donut is a mellow, slow and easy kind of eating. A country that, to me, is pleasant and easy. Relaxing, if you will.
A blackberry donut is the I WILL EAT EVERY DAMN DONUT IN THIS PACKET ALL IN ONE GO, BE SICK AND MAYBE KILL A COW IN THE PROCESS kind of eating. A country that hits you full-force like an oncoming steam train carrying one too many nuggets of gold from the mine. The kind of donut (and place!) that you can’t help but love even though it’s way too sour and makes you scrunch up your face like a wailing Mandrake.
Did I write this whole entire post just so I could have an excuse to go out and try every flavour of donut in the name of “research”?
But more importantly, and shoving those donuts aside for a moment, I wrote it to say that yes, the world is big.
Yes, it’s all very exciting and overwhelming and trying to decide where to go next is harder than a 5-year old trying to decide their favourite breakfast cereal.
Yes, sometimes the idea of planning a trip to Burkina Faso is all too alluring because WOW how cool would it be to go to a country most people don’t even know exists?!
But the lure of Burkina Faso – if such a lure exists – shouldn’t put you off the welcome familiarity of the countries and places you have a proven track record of enjoying.
The point I’m getting at is that yes, there are a lot of donuts out there calling out to be tasted. There are a lot of countries out there with white sands, palm trees and the promise of long, hot days sipping cocktails on the beach. There are mountains to be climbed and caves to explore and crazy looking animals to be petted.
And by all means you should get yourself out there and jump right in!
Go to Burkina Faso, Gabon, Tonga and everywhere else that make people go “Huh? That’s a country?!” when the Olympic flag ceremony starts.
Taste all the donuts you can. Eat as many as you want! Fill your boots!
But don’t forget the donuts you’ve already tried, the ones you love and the ones that have brought you so many moments of donut-filled happiness. Don’t let them fall behind.
Because those donuts bring you happiness, and happiness should never be overlooked. Not for all the fancy-pants cronuts in the world.
So with all that over and done with what’s your favourite donut?!
*Apparently there’s a lot of worldwide controversy about the correct spelling of donut/doughnut. But yeah, both are right so please don’t correct me. And jam = jelly for all you Stateside sunbursts.