Traveling, pictures, and memories

travel

If you don’t have pictures to remember your travels, did they really happen?

While we all would initially no doubt insist that we travel for the “experience,” we should also ask ourselves to what extent we travel to “collect” things… trinkets, pictures, etc. Without those things, what do we really have left? When the memories fade, what then?

I came to this hard realization after getting my backpack stolen while on a 5-week Europe trip…

… losing not only my camera and hundreds of dollars of other stuff, but also my travel journal and *400 pictures*. And of course, I hadn’t looked into travel insurance with my Amex card, which I new realize was a mere $22 for $5,000 in insurance. Argh.

400 pictures. Gone. Poof. Part of me felt so resigned as to almost think, okay, trip’s over, let’s go home. Beautiful scenery? Why bother. Captivating architecture? Unless *I* capture it, why not just buy a book and save the time and money?

Of course, I didn’t cut my trip short, and I went on to have a truly wonderful vacation. But there is (and clearly was) still that nagging sadness of a loss… a deep, depressing loss far beyond what one gets after having a wallet pickpocketed or a car stereo pilfered. A part of my EXPERIENCES, a part of ME was taken, and from the type of place (a youth hostel) where I’ve historically felt carefree, at-ease, safe.

And throughout the rest of my trip, I kept having these frustrating and reoccurring reminders of “oh, this’d look beautiful on film” which, in a deeper sense meant, “wow, by capturing this, I can communicate to my friends, family, and future-self about what this trip really MEANT to me.”

But that’s bull, really, when you get right down to it. 20 years later, that beautiful scene will have only the meaning I assign to it, not really transferrable to others. And the 15 seconds I spent taking that picture could have perhaps been spent talking, listening, touching, smelling, resting, dreaming, planning, doing. Those 15 seconds add up. And who really loves a detached shutterbug anyway?

Three weeks with no camera. No pictures. Not even from a cheapo disposable camera. Beautiful places, beautiful people, beautiful memories. All mine.

I’m still sad, but now I’m sad and confused. Why take pictures anyway? Such a fuss to organize, annotate, publish, and so on. What does it mean in the end?

Aren’t my travels worth it for the moment?

But damn, I still want a new camera. I want my pictures back. And I want the wistful sadness to go away. It was easier being an unrepentant and happy shutterbug.

2 comments… add one
  • Travel Articles May 20, 2007

    Thats a real shame Adam.

    When I go on holiday I hate taking pictures. But when I look back on them years later im always glad I did. When you are there you think that you will always remember this time, place etc. But like you say, the memories do fade over the years.

    Great blog by the way.

  • Rohan Mar 27, 2009

    Im not professional photographer, but i lover taking pictures from my cam every time i go on holidays with my family, its great fun actually.

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