Written By: Nina Panter
Illustration: Sophie Bryer
Can you fall in love with a place? Nina Panter argues you can.
Being in love is a wonderful feeling. When we talk about love, though, we typically refer to an emotional bond shared by two people – not the connection that can exist between a human and a landscape. But you can be in love with a place. You can fall head-over-heels in love with a city, or a country. You can be utterly besotted with an environment. It’s just not quite the same as falling in love with a person. Falling in love with a place is like that dream you try to conjure when attempting to drift off to sleep. Falling in love with a place means letting the mind wander away to magical islands, seas, forests, or cityscapes. If found in the real world, this surreal place – this sanctuary where reality meets fantasy – produces a feeling unlike any other type of love. The resulting happiness is often compared to “being home” – and yet the sense of becoming entangled in a place’s atmosphere and beauty is even more complex than that. That state of being where you think you belong is truly dazzling. The sights you see, the sounds you hear, the scents you smell, the air brushing your skin… it’s all perfect to you, and makes you feel completely at peace with your mind, body, and spirit. It makes sense.
When I first opened my eyes to the beauty of Santorini, I was about thirteen years old. My parents were Skyping me and my sisters from the famous Greek island. The phone’s camera wasn’t of particularly high quality, but even then I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in front of me: the beauty of the sunset – one like no other in the world – and the sea that seemed to expand further than anyone could fathom, were so incredible they appeared to be from out of this world. The realisation that such a place exists was a true shock to me; I had never once imagined that my dreams could come true in any form. And yet here it was, witnessed by me through an old mobile phone screen: the land of my dreams. After this revelation, I began searching frantically for pictures of the white houses with blue roofs scattered on the coastline of Santorini. I’ve since watched hundreds of videos of travellers exploring this stunning island. With each and every one of those travel vlogs, I experience the same feeling; the feeling of knowing that, somewhere out there in this world, there is a place for me. There is a place that awaits my arrival. Maybe it’s only truly alive to me because of how it makes me feel. Maybe it’s like a simple mirage from my imagination. But I’ve been cultivating this dream for a long time now, and I’ve been planning the perfect trip in my head. This is a trip that will reunite me with the place I feel I’ve been separated from all these years.
Can you fall in love with an idea? Certainly. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to say that it is possible to fall in love with the idea of a place, just like we fall in love with the idea of a person, and how we think they actually are, and how they make us feel – half of it real, the other half created by the imagination. One day, maybe I’ll have enough courage to go to Santorini – at the risk of finding out that it isn’t, after all, the love of my life.