Everyone knows what a drought is. A travel drought, then, is a long time having passed since you've been to a given destination. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we simply don't prioritize returning to a favorite place. As you read last week, one of my longest ongoing droughts is Quebec City. I had visited twice by the time I was 18, but now haven't been back in a full 20 years - more than half my life.
Here are some of my other 10+ year droughts (places that I've only been once in my life are in bold:
Orlando/Disney World (last visit: April 1994 - 26 years, 10 months)
OK, so maybe this one deserves an asterisk. While I know "World" is very different from "Land", I was indeed at the west coast Disney property two short years ago. However, my first, last, and only visit to central Florida was as a wide-eyed 11-year old on a family vacation. It had been my first time outside of New England/Ohio. As corny as the image may be now, my first glimpses of palm tree silhouettes at sunset as our plane touched down will stay with me, as Florida might as well have been Tahiti. I was so far from anywhere I'd ever been, and I loved every moment.
Quebec City, QC (February 2001 - 20 years)
For this one I'd link back to last week's post, in case you missed it...
Toronto, ON (August 2002 - 18 years, 6 months)
My only visit to Canada's largest city was more of a pass-through, making it all the more egregious it's taking me so very long to get back. I did ascend to the observation level of the CN tower with my dad and brother after a horrendous wait, but that's all we had time for. We were en route to Ottawa from Cincinnati on a rare summer deviation from our typical jaunt back to NH on I-90. Unfortunately I've lost every photo I took on our brief stop. I do have a ticket stub from the CN Tower to prove that I'm not lying about it!
Louisville, KY (July 2003 - 17 years, 7 months)
Louisville may seem like a random destination to make this list, but as a sub-2-hour road trip from our home base in Cincinnati it made for a couple absorbing day trips over the years. Once to visit Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, and the other to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum. Oddly enough I've done trips to Lexington/Mammoth Cave National Park and Indianapolis since that batty 2003 visit. Going back I'd like to take in some of the Muhammad Ali folklore and revitalized riverfront area.
Cooperstown, NY (August 2003 - 17 years, 6 months)
Another Cincinnati-to-New Hampshire deviation to take in the main reason anyone comes to this central NY town - the Baseball Hall of Fame. While the Hall itself was fantastic, I somehow wasn't impressed with the town itself. Then again, I was 21 years old, so what did I know?
Gettysburg, PA (October 2005 - 15 years, 4 months)
Alyse and I visited Gettysburg as one of many day trips while I was in grad school in nearby West Chester, PA. It's been quite the battle to get back (SORRY - couldn't resist!) We combined this one with a visit to tiny Emmitsburg, Maryland, where a relative and good friend had studied at Mount Saint Mary's, decades apart.
Annapolis, MD (May 2006 - 14 years, 9 months)
See above. Didn't really expect to get back here with any regularity, but as Julia begins to learn more about American history, it may be time for a return to the rich colonial aura of the mid-Atlantic. I don't remember many details about Annapolis, except for the historic architecture, waterside location, and Concord, NH-ish size.
New Orleans, LA (October 2008 - 12 years, 4 months)
This was a volunteer trip to help with Hurricane Katrina cleanup, three-plus years after the storm itself. While N'awlins was undoubtedly a fascinating city to spend some time (and eat) in, voodoo, revelry, and flat-as-a-pancake landscapes aren't exactly my scene.
My group did, however, get authentic glimpses of the city that few tourists will ever see as our main work site was in the ravaged Bywater District. Whether it was my cup of tea or not, the city's uniqueness is undoubtable. Also, the locals are a resilient, amazing bunch of folk.
Ottawa, ON (May 2010 - 10 years, 9 months)
I visited Canada's capital with my pregnant wife for our one-year anniversary. We were living in White Plains, NY at the time so made the nearly due-north drive for the Tulip Festival. I had been previously (part of the 2002 Toronto trip mentioned above), but this was a great chance to get a sense of the city's neighborhoods in addition to the well-trodden Parliament Hill area. Visiting had an added sense of gravitas, as my parents had lived here while my dad earned his Ph.D. at the U. of Ottawa in the late 70s before moving to New Hampshire in time for my birth.
New York, NY (May 2012 - 8 years, 9 months)
OK, so it hasn't quite been a decade yet, but had to put NYC on here anyway. I've been to the Big Apple probably 10 times in my life, but weirdly enough all of them were within a 9-year timeframe. My first time was a (22-hour!) day trip from New Hampshire while in college in early 2003. I'd met Alyse the next year and we've been many times together. Attended 5 NY Rangers hockey games from 2009-12 (thanks Leigh Anne!). Somehow, though, getting back has been surprisingly elusive, despite regular visits to nearby White Plains to visit Alyse's relatives. Once COVID is under control, I'm there!
Amazingly, of the 35 states I've visited, I've been in 33 of them over the last 10 years. Short of a radical opportunity presenting itself, Florida will join the short drought list this coming November. Would love to get back to Arizona, but if I'm in the Southwest I'd also have to prioritize New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada, none of which I've visited before.
Arizona (January 2008 - 13 years, 1 month)
In my entire life I've spent one full day (and two nights) in the Grand Canyon State. Alyse and I had an evening landing in Phoenix and made a beeline north for Flagstaff. The next day we hit the ground running, made a brief stop at the frigid but excruciatingly beautiful Grand Canyon before proceeding west along Route 66 and spending night 2 in Kingman. This, of course, was part of a larger itinerary that included Joshua Tree National Park on day 3 and San Diego/Ensenada, Mexico on days 4 and 5. Whirlwind doesn't even begin to describe it, but it was the first significant travel Alyse (fiancée at the time) had done together, so the trip elicits wonderful memories.
Louisiana (October 2008 - 12 years, 4 months)
See 'New Orleans' above. As a bit of side trivia, I believe the Pelican State is the only one in which I've only been to a single city. Well, technically we stayed across the Mississippi in the suburb of Marrero, so... do with that what you like.
Florida (November 2011 - 9 years, 3 months)
Truly astounding that after visiting 5 times within a 7-year period that it's now been nearly a decade since my flip-flopped feet tread Florida's sunny shores. I suppose I haven't been back over the last decade for the same reason I've scarcely done any significant travel: raising a family, tight finances, and seeking a balance that often has travel on the outside looking in. That could be a blog post all its own...
As has probably been made abundantly clear by now, I have not been outside the U.S. and Canada in nearly 12 years. COVID or not, I'm determined to end this miserable drought in 2022, just in time for a milestone birthday that shall not be named!
Portugal, Spain, France (November 2000 - 20 years, 3 months)
To read my three-part, 20-year anniversary reflections on these fine countries, please visit My First Trip Abroad, Rain in Spain, and French Finale.
Peru (March 2006 - 14 years 11 months)
A post about Peru will be coming next month for the trip's 15th anniversary!
Italy, Vatican City, Malta (June 2009 - 11 years, 8 months)
Two weeks ago I reflected on the Amalfi Coast portion of my time in Italy. Over the coming months, stay tuned for my thoughts and photos from Rome, Sicily, and Malta!
As frustrating as droughts can be - next month will be two years since I've visited a new U.S. state :( - we have to be willing to learn from them. To realize that there will be dry spells in life, travel or otherwise. To continue pushing forward, even when things seem hopeless, or even just mundane (ahem, curse you COVID).
What are your longest droughts? To which destinations would you most like to return?
I'll end with a quote that has inspired millions and remains incredibly relevant in our broken, virus-battered world:
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.