I know it may come as a surprise. Who ditches the one thing that can document every spanning vista or monument on a trip?
Well, I do. And you should too.
Constantly toting around a camera can actually do more harm than good. In fact, it’s a catalyst to forgetting the vast majority of the adventure.
Let me preface by saying I don’t always ditch the smartphone like I do the camera; there’s surely a need and a benefit to having portable maps and apps, and a safety blanket in case sh*t hits the fan and you need to make a phone call.
But when it comes to the camera, I always ditch it. I still take photos selectively with my smartphone, but it lives cozily at the bottom of my bag aside from two or three guest appearances.
Why not snap photos like there’s no tomorrow (when there is, in fact, no tomorrow standing in front of the stunning beach)? Because, as Linda Henkel, cognitive psychologist at Fairfield University, found in a recent study, we experience better recall of richer experiences without the camera.
Henkel says in a recent New York Times article:
“When the subject takes a picture, it was like they outsourced their memory. They’re counting on the camera to remember things for them.”
So, with the goal of satiating your desire to explore authentically, and with Linda’s notes on attaining the richest of experiences while traveling in mind, here are the five reasons you should ditch the film on your upcoming trips.
It builds a wall between you and other people.
You’re standing in a beautiful city center, paying that obligatory visit to one of the most visited destinations in the world, and you strike the pose.
Or maybe you’re wandering the streets en route to the next photo op, when you see something cute and unique with some locals standing in the frame. Strike the pose. Snap. Moving on.
What’d you miss? Well, everything.
Some of the most authentic, truly immersive experiences we can have while traveling are those where we interact with locals and ask questions in unobtrusive ways.
By pulling out the camera to disrespectfully take a picture without asking, you’re cementing a firm wall between you and the travel moments that could be.
You end up not remembering a damn thing.
Henkel points out:
“Photos and video will help you remember rich experiences; they’re excellent cues. But if the experience wasn’t rich to begin with … then what you're remembering won’t be as rich.”
Preach, Linda. Sometimes, we are so entrenched in our concern over the checklist or the bucket list (which everyone should get rid of), we double our stride and race from spot to spot, thereby devaluing the destination.
Nurturing such a distance eliminates the potential for a fulfilling moment when you can take a well-deserved snapshot. Thus, you’ll end up back home, viewing a Facebook album of photos and convincing yourself you remember what was going on behind the camera.
It makes you look in, not out.
When we’re snapping photos, gawking at how they come out after some careful editing, we’re usually thinking in terms of outcome.
How will this perform on my social platforms, with my audience, primarily back in my country of origin?
Putting down the camera and leaving it there is the best way to ensure you drop in and absorb the experience, challenging yourself to think first of the culture that surrounds you and what it teaches you about the world you’re coming from.
You can try out other methods.
Bidding farewell to the camera opens a door, if you let it.
It opens a door to opportunities to document your experience in fresh, unique ways that’ll lead to some of your finest and most detailed memories.
Writing has the power to keep a trip with you long after you leave. So, instead of snapping a photo, try writing (or drawing) the moment, calling on what you see, smell, hear and touch.
An alternative may be to wear your GoPro for a bit and just let it run for a morning, and don’t look at it until you're home. Breaking the mold of what is routine on your trips can lead to something to be cherished back home.
Travel is picking up on the trend.
There’s much buzz in the travel industry about outfitters that are offering fully curated, immersive experiences where you pay to go on a week-long journey. They bring a full-time photographer to creatively document the daily adventures and share the photos with you once you’ve returned.
These innovators are capturing what the camera has forced so many of us to lose: travel moments – with intricate images, exotic scents and entrancing sounds – etched in our memory.
It’s time to reshape our thinking of how we document and recall our upcoming journeys.
Hopefully you’re tossing your selfie-stick (please!) and leaving the camera at home next time you head out. Or don’t, and let me know how you delve deeper and foster rich and aware moments on your trip, while snapping shots along the way.