As you may know from my bio, or the photos I attach to my blog posts here on Temple U Abroad, I’m a photographer. I study film cinematography at home, and my passion for visuals and life documentation translates itself into photography naturally. For me, traveling presents the perfect opportunity for me to just go crazy with my camera; everything is so new and beautiful that I just never want to put it down (and rarely do).
Having this as a hobby/artistic passion isn’t just fun for me–it’s really convenient. I get to spend time in a beautiful place doing what I love, while at the same time capturing moments and memories that I can keep forever, and share with friends and family (and you!). I thought I’d take these next two posts to discuss documentation of travel and life, both if you naturally enjoy the process and if you don’t (but still want to make sure you’re documenting)–starting with visual documentation.
If you do enjoy taking photos (I don’t mean just fancy, artistic photos–phone photos are fine!), a great way to make sure you’re both living in the present moment and documenting is to pace yourself. If you’ve just arrived and are exploring for the first time, especially if you’re with friends, take pictures sparingly, and only of things you know you’ll care to look at later. There’s no need to take up every ounce of phone/camera memory and totally overwhelm your future self with pictures of every little detail; plus, this takes your attention away from the experience in the moment, and puts it on the picture.
When you get home, go through your pictures, see what you like and what you don’t, and use the pictures to help you decide what your favorite areas of the city are. After you’ve organized your preferences mentally, you can make a point to return to those places alone, with the specific intention of taking photos.
One of my favorite things to do is take a weekend day to purposely get lost, giving myself the challenge to only photograph things from a unique, deliberate perspective. This forces me to really see and appreciate my surroundings and the nuances of the city; it’s also really fun and creative. It’s a great way to force yourself to go out and deliberately appreciate where you are. Plus, the photos you get will be so much better than the ones you arbitrarily snap as you’re walking with friends or distracted by conversations.
If you don’t like taking pictures, but still don’t want to come out of the experience with no records, a great way to make sure you’re preserving memories is to just rely on your phone. So many people invest in a new camera before they travel, and for some people, this is great. But, if you know you’re uninterested, or if you feel like it will just weigh you down and be another thing you have to worry about, don’t bother. There’s nothing wrong with slightly less artistic pictures–whatever helps you remember your experience in the most convenient way possible is what you should do.
When you’re out and about, just try to be aware of your thought processes. Whenever you gasp, gape, or swoon over something, that’s your cue to take a picture. I know how common it is for people to return from a trip and only then realize they have no pictures–if you just try to consciously be more aware of your thought processes, associating awe with preservation, it will be easier to remember to just whip out your phone and snap a photo every once in a while.
Also, use social media to your advantage. Many people are quick to snapchat their days to share with their friends–if you take a snapchat, save it. It’s a perfectly fine way to help yourself remember your experiences later.
Make your documentation process as fun and doable for yourself as you can–don’t underestimate how much you’ll value the memories captured for the rest of your life!