It's always a sad moment when you realize that the only thing you and old friends have in common is your past. All you have to talk about is memories.
I was glad to find out that was generally not the case with friends in Gainesville. Of course there was reminiscing, and laughter about old jokes, but we also still had lots to talk about: sharing new interests, books, recipes, and resources.
I lived in Gainesville for a greater portion of my time in Florida than in Vero Beach, and so going there feels like going home.
I made a list of all my favorite restaurants and things to do and was excited to go back. (A friend in Chiang Mai warned me about doing this too much - "you can't go home" he said, "nothing ever tastes the same").
I realized, however (with the help of 55 degree weather and never-ending rain), that most of the things I like to do in Gainesville require sunshine to actually be enjoyable, and so I spent much of my time in a great new coffeeshop, Volta.
While part of me objected ("Ali, I can't believe you came all the way to Gainesville and you're not eating/doing/seeing/going to _______!!!") part of me knew that:
a) This is what I needed:
I did a whole lot of nothing, just reading articles and writing e-mails and journaling, but it gave my mind a chance to catch up with my body and I left Gainesville with a lot more clarity and a lot less culture shock than I had had in Vero.
b) My Chiang Mai friend was right:
If I tried to force my old experiences, they wouldn't have been the same, because it's not really the thing you do or the taste of the food, it's the people you're with and the circumstances under which you experience them that make them that good.
I allowed myself to have a new, organic experience and enjoyed myself all the more for it.