Maybe for you, it's your grandparent's lake house, where you used to chase the neighbor's dog and fish from your father's knee. Maybe it's the beach house and long walks at sunrise, or the cabin and those last runs down the mountain. Maybe it's New York City....or Jackson Hole...or Joshua Tree. It's that place you never want to leave.
Mine is Rio de Janeiro. I've changed my flight or travel plans 3 out of 4 trips here. I can't quit it, and I've stopped trying.
Now I know what you're thinking....Rio de Janeiro, the women, the beach, soccer....DUH!....of course you don't want to leave. The thing is you'd be wrong. Not entirely, but mostly.
I do love soccer, and the World Cup down here was special, but it was more of an international experience than something uniquely Brazilian. Outside of that trip, I've yet to see a league match or national team game. Yes, in my four trips and over 5 months down here I haven't gone to a Brazilian soccer match, specifically one at the most famous soccer stadium in the world, the Maracana in Rio. Haven't even played in a pickup game. It's all kinda shameful really. So yeah, it's not the soccer.
I happen to also love women. And well, let's say I've enjoyed my time here. There this thing called "bunda", and it's REAL. There's also the "5 Minute Rule". If you ever decide to go to Rio, lmk, and I'll explain it to you. But in all my months, and nights out, I've never fallen hard, met the one I'd move for, or carried on a long distance relationship. To be blunt, cause fuck it, I've barely had sex. Believe it or not, after a while you get used to all those exposed bottoms, and that beautifully bronzed skin. It wears off, much like a fever after it breaks.
As for the beach, this where you'd be partly right. The beach culture from Copacabana, to Ipanema, and Leblon, is like nothing in the world. It's like a second living room. It's where girlfriends go to catch up, boys play games, women read books and gossip, and old men drink beers and talk soccer or politics. It supports an entire economy unto itself. If you were to cross a Sunday market in say Europe or Africa, with your traditional image of a beach day in the U.S., you'd have an idea. The only negatives are petty robbery and an ocean that often has bits of trash. Other than that, it's pretty awesome, and kinda hard to leave.
[Get to your fucking point, Brad]
My point is, the temporal and surface level parts of life aren't what makes me stay. I would argue it's the same for you. If it was, nobody would want to leave Vegas, or Disneyland, or the mall. What tethers you to a place must be tied to something deeper.
More than anything, Rio has taught me about myself. It's invited me to dance freer, kiss deeper, smile wider, wear Brazilian speedos on the beach with zero fucks.....to be alive, present. I know some of the dangers, but I trust this city. This culture. In that trust, I've been so vulnerable here, so awkward, and have received nothing but double beijos (kisses), laughter and daps. At times, it's as if I was 8 years old again, I've felt that kind of freedom, ease, and adventure. I wouldn't call Rio home, it's not, but it's the next closest thing. Whatever that is.
So wherever, or whatever, that may be for you, I hope you can relate. Honestly, my words here have fallen short in describing something so better felt, I know that. If you've yet to find your spot, here's to you getting there soon. Amidst all the jobs, errands, and responsibilities in our day to day, we each deserve such a refuge or place that makes us come alive. I don't know what life would be like without them, I don't know what mine would be like without Rio.