I overheard a tourist couple on the tube – one with the newest Canon Rebel around his neck and the other with a scarf. They were discussing how often a picture should be taken that day. Mr. Memories wanted to take a picture of everything. Every red mailbox, every underground sign, every architectural feature he didn’t have in his hometown. Mrs. Experience wanted to be uninhibited and free to enjoy everything new around her without having to stop for a “silly photo every five seconds: this is vacation, you know.”
I kept my eyes on my Evening Standard but continued to eavesdrop on their argument as it became philosophically about experience verses memories. I didn’t tell them what I think, but I’ll tell you; I say have your fun and remember it too.
At the end of the day travel provides two things: experience for now and memories for later. I wouldn't compromise either. You have to have your trip to make memories, but your trip is given a second life when it is relived with those who traveled beside you or with others who want to know about your wanderings.
Your phone and your nice Nikon have their place on your vacation and it’s neither always tucked away nor always in front of your face. Balance is a good thing to learn in life, and when it comes to photography the only superlative I would ascribe to your attempts at memorializing your best getaway moments is never use the flash (no really, never).
Find your balance by knowing why you want a picture. Did you go the South of France with your husband and a self-packed picnic that included an perfectly rich red wine, classic cheese and some killer dried figs? Take a picture – you want to relive that later. Is that just some bottle of wine in a store in France? Don’t worry about putting that into Instagram history.
Did you have a really busy day of sight-seeing in San Antonio? I bet you want to remember all of the places you visited and not struggle to recount each day – snap a couple pictures at each place and make sure every now and again to include yourself and your travel gang. Are you visiting the Alamo for the fifteenth time? You probably don’t need fifteen more snapshots.
One way to strike a balance might be to take a series of pictures that are similar everywhere you go. Have you seen this guy yet? He takes pictures of himself following behind the woman he loves as they travel the world. He is a professional photographer so those are some snazzy pictures. Yours don’t have to be so fancy, but rather just a series of something you love, see, or do everywhere; in other words, a good reason to get out your camera.
And don’t be a camera hater either. You think you will remember everything because you truly experienced it, so it was just that awesome. But I am willing to bet my next monthly weekend trip that six weeks after you get back you can’t tell your friends exactly what you did while you were gone. You’ll know a few things. You’ll remember how you felt. But you will have forgotten some of the moments you thought unforgettable. Smile, don’t be embarrassed to be the tourist you are at times, appreciate the tools you have at your disposal. Six months later while you wait for the guy to change your oil at JiffyLube you will flick through the photo archive on your iphone and smile. Your car will be ready before you relive all you forgot you loved about the places you went and the people you enjoyed.
So take pictures and don’t take pictures. Your trips will be all the better for both.