Just downloaded True Stories by the Talking Heads. It's been one of my favorite movies for several years now. In one of the last sentences of the movie, David Byrne talks about how he likes to travel to places so that he can "forget". That, in another place, he notices the color of paper, how people walk.... I understand that feeling completely. I do the exact same thing. I watch the clouds. I notice the neon signs. I hyper-focus on the accents. Each trip is a sensory overload until I can attenuate.
I think my "noticing" is enhanced by my being a military brat as a child. In order to move through an environment with as little friction as possible, it helps to assimilate into the culture quickly. Doing that means noticing everything. One behavioral psychologist called it the "unwritten curriculum". Learning it meant fitting in or being conspicuously different.
When I moved here in Southern California, I noticed several things right away. People don't tend their own lawns - someone is paid to do this. Teens wear black in the middle of scorching summers. Folks drive recklessly fast on certain freeways. There is an unwritten 2-cars-can-turn-left-on-a-red-light rule during peak traffic hours and no one will honk at you. Small things like this make up the sum total of a place's personality.
I will be traveling to Washington in a few days. I used to live there. The last time I visited after I moved away, I was flooded with memories. The feeling was a swimmy, blurry, and sweet feeling. The second time I went back I felt like I never left and just picked up where I left off. I am wondering if this next trip will bring a more "home again" feeling. We'll see.