“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”
-Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
It’s an amazing experience looking over the pictures I have taken over the last ten years or so. I am so happy these pictures exist, and they will aide in reflecting my memories of the times I have had traveling and the people I have met. From sunrise in the Alps, to the sunset from the Eiffel Tower, from the top of the Great Wall of China to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the pictures I have taken are worth well over a thousand words. A decent camera and the camera on the phone will do wonders to document the wonders you see and the people you meet, and those pictures will live on well past phones they’re taken on.
Along with the wonderful photographs you take, you will have the memories and stories behind them. And from my own memories and stories comes the advice that I will dispense now, which you are free to use or ignore.
Experience the experience. When you find yourself in a moment that must be documented, definitely document it. And part of that documentation should be your own. Put down the camera for a minute and really experience the moment. What do you hear? What do you smell? What are the colors like? Think to yourself, “This is a moment I am going to remember. This is happening to me and I am a part of this right now.” I am definitely not speaking poorly of too many pictures, at all. I have about 1,500 pictures of the Great Wall from two days and almost 1,000 from one hike in the Grand Canyon. My phone had barely enough room to save a phone number by the time I left China. But I’m so happy at both places I also put away the camera and thought to myself, “I can’t believe I’m here right now. This is amazing.”
One of my favorite parts of “The Book Thief” is that the author, in a spectacular description of scenery, also chose to focus on one specific color. It’s been a while so I don’t remember the specifics, but maybe the narrator would look at a door and comment on how green it is, or how yellow the leaf was, and really focus on that for just a minute. I later came to learn this is a central part of mindfulness, and I try to use it even in everyday life. It’s even more effective in life-changing experiences, and really commits them to memory and internalizes those moments.
Again, I would never speak poorly of well-photographed experiences, and I love looking through my pictures to see which one of two hundred captures the light every-so-slightly better than the others. But use those pictures to represent the experiences and memories you build yourself by knowing you’re alive in that great moment. Photograph it, yes, but also feel it, taste it, smell it, breathe it, live it.
Experience the experience.