A Memory’s Worth a Thousand Pictures

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There I am, in my then-fashionable oversized tee, on a ferry in Australia.

Time to share a few photos…

Let me explain something to you younger readers: when we traveled in the olden days (the 80s & 90s), we didn’t have Facebook, Instagram or blogs in which to record our impressions and upload our photos for friends and family to see back home. We wrote in journals (private ones) and took photos with clunky cameras loaded with film that was almost impossible to have developed while on the go. Furthermore, developing the film, for backpackers like us, was really expensive, so you had to be careful about how many images you collected. Highlights only! Donna and I sometimes developed photos at our destination if we stayed put long enough; but often rolls of film were shipped home so that Mom and Dad could foot the developing bill. I didn’t see some of my pics until the following year when I returned to Canada! Hard to imagine that sort of delayed gratification nowadays, isn’t it?

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Donna and me with some fellow Canucks we met at a hostel in New Zealand. Can you tell they’re Canadian dudes? Notice the mullets and the beer!

As I flipped through my photos from the South Pacific this week, I thought a lot about how much has changed since photography went digital and the internet made postcards, letters, and journals obsolete. Emails, texts, social media and WordPress are now the traveller’s tools for sharing. How much more convenient! So many more details can be recorded! So many more people can share in the adventure with the traveller! I was feeling kind of gypped while looking at the scant few photos I took during my first month away. To make matters worse, I’ve also been visiting some modern traveller’s blogs. I felt envious as I examined the comprehensive, often beautiful, records these travellers are creating while they explore the world. These options simply weren’t available to me.

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Our luxurious Fijian “ferry” as described in my last post.

Today, though, as I struggled to find some time to write this post amidst all the other goings-on, I thought to myself, “What if I had felt the pressure to record something online everyday while I was on my trip?” Would I have felt stressed about fitting it in? Or guilty if I didn’t bother to? How many experiences would I have missed out on while blogging, tweeting, texting, photographing, tagging, posting, and generally focussing on a smartphone or tablet much of the day? There was actually a lot of freedom in no one being able to contact me (no cellphones!), in knowing there was only a limited number of photos to take, and in not being committed to a blog. Without those distractions, there was so much more time left over for really savouring and seeing what was around me. Really SEEING it, you know?

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So happy to have discovered this photo of the no-longer-in-existence tree I wrote about in my post about One Tree Hill.

Suddenly, my envy toward modern backpackers completely evaporated. Now that I think about it, I actually feel kinda sorry for those guys.

I also realized another thing: although middle age has made my memory a bit fuzzy about things like phone numbers and the names of my kids’ teachers, my recollections from my year away have remained amazingly intact. In my mind’s eye, I have a gigantic full-colour album containing thousands of crystal-clear snapshots.

I can’t share them on Instagram, true dat. But that’s okay. I can see them. They’ll always be there for me.

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Here I am schmoozing a couple of Fijian police officers in Suva. How do you like their uniforms? Wild, huh? They’re only slightly less dorky than my bright white sneakers and floral headband.

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