Edinburgh Expat Life Musings Scotland

Why I’m Afraid to Return to Edinburgh

Apr 29


In the summer of 2012, I took a quick trip to the UK. With only a short amount of time off work, I travelled at a frenzied pace and visited London, Bournemouth, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Loch Lomond. Thinking back on it now, the whole trip is a bit of a blur, but there’s one destination that still stands out so vividly in my mind: Edinburgh.

I remember walking out of the train station and immediately thinking “wow.” I remember how the grey and dreary weather mirrored the dark, medieval-style architecture, and how unbelievably beautiful it looked. I remember seeing the castle for the first time, and I remember frantically reaching for my camera and trying to capture the beauty of the city. I remember walking the streets with wide-eyes and gawking at every building I passed. This quote articulates my feelings for Edinburgh perfectly:

“This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.”

I was completely captivated by Edinburgh, and I don’t think a full day had even passed before I declared that I wanted to live here someday.

I knew visiting the UK for such a short time would leave me wanting to see more, but I didn’t expect to be leaving with such a heavy heart because of Edinburgh. The city had made a palpable impression on me, and when I returned home I had a strong ache whenever I thought of it.

Was it possible to be homesick for a place that I had yet to actually live in? How was I feeling so strongly for a place that I really didn’t know all that well; a place where I had only experienced the equivalent of a brief fling – not a lengthy and meaningful relationship.

But, here I am now, almost three years later with the same strong feelings. I’ve travelled to other destinations – some of which have also made a lasting impression on me – but Edinburgh is the city that always manages to evoke the most intense sense of longing. A magnetic-like pull draws me back to thoughts of its dark, cobblestone streets and winding alleyways.

And now that I’m only mere days away from returning to the city that has been in the back of mind for so long, I can’t help but feel hesitant; questions and uncertainties have been flooding my mind lately.

Will the city look and feel as I remember, or have my memories of Edinburgh become over-romanticized after years of daydreaming about it? Will I still marvel at every building, or will I become jaded with time? Will the constant dreary, grey skies make me feel differently about a city I feel so attached to? And, even if the city is exactly as I remember, is it possible to feel the same about it when I’m a different person than I was the last time I visited?

As much as I’m excited to settle into expat life in Edinburgh, my thoughts are consumed by these trivial worries. This is the first time I’m returning to one of my favourite cities, and I’m not sure how it feels to revisit a place that holds such a special place in my heart.

Have you ever revisited a city you love? If so, did it live up to your expectations? 


  • Reply unfinishedtravel May 05 at 10:03 pm

    I doubt anything will ever match your first impression of the city, but hopefully, you’ll be able to fall in love with it all over again.

    • Reply ashleywanders May 06 at 2:32 pm

      I’ve only been here a few days, but I’m definitely falling in love with it all over again!

  • Reply Camille May 06 at 7:37 am

    I agree with Unfinished Travel, Ashley! And don’t worry too much about it: in the unlikely event that you’re not loving it as much as you expected, you can always move on!

    • Reply ashleywanders May 06 at 2:58 pm

      Very true, Camille! I’m a bit of an over-thinker at times, if you couldn’t already tell ;). Luckily I still love Edinburgh as much as I did when I first visited!

      • Reply Camille May 09 at 12:26 am

        Haha, well you are talking to the queen of over-thinking so I understand 😉 And that’s great news, looking forward to reading about the city!

  • Reply Danielle Green May 12 at 10:05 pm

    I truly relate to your feelings when you ask the question, “Was it possible to be homesick for a place that I had yet to actually live in?” My answer to your question is yes. Ever since I was a child I’ve had the longing to move abroad to France. I remember reading about this beautiful country and about the writers who lived there; it was all so fascinating to me. The desire to make it my home is still with me and I can’t wait to make it a reality.

    I’m happy I’m not the only one who feels this way!!

    • Reply ashleywanders May 13 at 3:17 pm

      I’m so glad you can relate, Danielle! It’s so interesting how people are drawn to certain countries – often from photos they’ve seen or books they’ve read, and sometimes without any reasoning or explanation at all. I hope you make it to France soon – it sounds like your country soulmate!

  • Reply zarzuelazen May 12 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Ashley,

    Edinburgh is my favourite city also! I absolutely loved the place – stunningly beautiful, seeped in history and mystery, and really happening friendly place (it’s got a big student population and its also known as the city of writers) . Given that you have the same tastes as me, I think you could definitely be my kind of girl! 🙂

    As you’ve probably discovered by now, you should have no fears about revisiting the place. You will always continue to love it.

    I first visited Edinburgh at the end of 2009 and stayed a couple of weeks. When I returned 3 years later, at the end of 2012, the city hadn’t changed and I still loved it just as much as the first time.

    • Reply ashleywanders May 13 at 3:36 pm

      Anyone who loves Edinburgh as much as I do is automatically in my good books 🙂 I love it even more than I did my first visit – which I didn’t think was possible! And you’re absolutely right – I think I will always continue to love it!

  • Reply Kathryn Jul 22 at 11:10 pm

    I can totally relate to feeling homesick for a place you have never lived. Paris owns me and I feel homesick for it every day. I was afraid that when I first went it wouldn’t live up to my expectations but it surpassed them and stole my heart.
    (New reader of your blog – waves hi! I actually found it while researching for my September trip to Edinburgh. Can’t wait!)

    • Reply ashleywanders Jul 25 at 4:27 pm

      I’m glad you can relate, Kathryn! And welcome – I’m so happy you stumbled upon my blog 🙂 So exciting that you’re coming to Edinburgh! Good luck with the trip planning, and let me know if I can help at all!

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