30.1.15

Reflections on Traveling Without a Camera




































Before our Eastern Europe trip, I made the bold decision to travel without my camera. Actually, I decided to travel with no electronics except my cell phone, but that's a different matter. The camera part is the focus, because as a novice photographer and travel blogger, it's verging on blasphemy to visit 7 new countries and have only blurry iPhone photos to account for the trip. If you're interested in understanding why I made this decision, I would urge you to read my article "Why I'm Not Bringing My Camera on My Big Trip".
So how did it go?
Likely, it went as many of you (and myself) predicted. Traveling without a bulky camera was one part freeing, and a second part disappointing. Here's why:

I had reduced anxiety. It was an incredible feeling not to have to cart around several thousand dollars worth of gear via plane, train, and automobile for fear of getting stolen or lost. I wasn't anxious about taking my camera out in public, I wasn't concerned about my bags being stolen, because for the exception of my wallet and passport, there wasn't anything to steal. Unless the thief wanted a backpack of dirty underwear and pilfered hotel toiletries, in which case, have at it. This was definitely the best part about not bringing my camera: I didn't have that constant paranoid thought at the back of my mind that every lurking stranger was going to run up and grab my bag.

I was so much more comfortable - physically. Because we were backpacking this trip (perhaps in the loosest usage of the phrase - we were just only using backpacks, not actually hiking/walking everywhere), I had a backpack of all my clothes and things, and then (usually) I use a cross-body camera bag for all my camera gear. Carting around a medium-sized backpack along with a messenger bag for several hours straight leads to very sore back and shoulders. This is mostly the fault of the camera bag, which adds an additional 10-ish pounds to one shoulder, which you have to switch off and on throughout the day. Not bringing my camera meant that I didn't have to beg Phil for back massages at the end of the day, or walk slightly at an angle. In this sense, ditching the camera was beneficial for my physical health (though investing in a good camera backpack would solve this problem in the future).

I really did live in the moment. It was so much fun to be fully present with Phil at all times. I know I can get easily distracted by whipping out my camera every few minutes for a can't-miss photo, which he would never complain about but which certainly distracts from our time together. Without my camera, we were free to adventure, talk, joke, and laugh as much as we wanted without frequent pauses. In this sense, I truly enjoyed the trip; it was some of the most fun I've ever had with Phil, and I am grateful for it.

I missed some incredible photo opportunities. Onto the cons. By far the worst part of not bringing my camera was missing out on photos I'll probably never have a chance to take again. We witnessed some truly beautiful and incredible sights, things I wish I had been able to photograph but won't get the opportunity to again. I cringe when I think about some of these scenes - the sun rising over Romanian mountains coated in snow, wandering through empty streets of small Bulgarian towns, sunsets over the Prague horizon, stunning sights that were imbued with the comfort and laughter of the moment. I'm saddened that I can't look back through an album and smile, remembering the trip as it happened.

I don't have anything to show friends and family. It's one thing to describe a scene, but it's a whole other to actually view it. I really wish I had photos that I could show people; photos make a story real, not just the memory of a friend. Plus, as my friends and family will all verify, I'm terrible at actually telling stories. I'm long-winded and include way too many unnecessary details. It's to my benefit I have photos to guide my stories along, to give them substance. Plus, people want to see photos. We are so visual, it's more exciting to see photos than to hear a story (often).

I actually missed taking photos. Who knew that taking the photos - not just looking at the results afterwards - was so much fun? I guess a lot of people could have told me that, but I didn't realize how much I enjoyed the process of photography until I couldn't practice it.

So was it worth it? Though I did experience many good things as a result of leaving my camera at home, I don't think it was worth it, overall. I love photography and I love traveling; I don't ever want one to distract from the other. I think there is a way to balance the relationship, and this is just something I have to work on. I am glad I went along for the experiment - it was certainly helpful in developing my thoughts on the matter. So in this one case, going camera-less was worthwhile. On future occasions though, I will likely bring my camera.

Want to see photos from my trip? I may share a few on here, but your best bet is to follow me on Instagram. I posted from every city we visited - you can follow along with our trip on there! You can find me @taylaurrr

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11 comments:

  1. I don't think I could go without my camera. I just enjoy taking photos too much. My laptop screensaver is a slideshow of all my photos and I love just letting it run sometimes and remembering all the things I've done.

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    1. I totally understand - late nights when I'm ready to be away, anywhere, I love to look through all the albums of photos from my trips. I don't think I would recommend ditching the camera on future trips!

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  2. Really interesting post! I've never been comfortable with experiencing life only behind the lens of a camera... to me, it's just a barrier between myself and the thing I'm trying to see! I always just take some snaps and then put it away to enjoy the rest of the time.
    (Louis CK has a really great bit about this, specifically parents recording their child's entire Christmas pageant when he says, "the resolution {through your own eyes} is unbelievable, it's totally HD".

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    1. That definitely makes sense! And that's why I originally thought it best to hold off on the photography for this trip. I can definitely understand that perspective!

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  3. Very interesting post! I have also done both - travelled with or without camera and while I love the freedom of not having a camera, I have to say that I'm with you and that it's not worth it. For me missing out on catching those beautiful moments in photo really outweighs the rest.

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    1. Exactly! It certainly has its benefits to ditch the camera, but I miss the photos too much to do that. Thanks for adding to the conversation! Do you have any tips for traveling with a camera?

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  4. What a wonderful post. It's too bad there are not more recent stories that detail the rest of that incredible journey...at least I THINK it was incredible, but I can't tell without reading about it.

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    1. Thanks! I do intend on writing more about the trip soon, I've just had a terrible time of putting words to paper [screen?] the last few weeks. Hopefully more stories from Eastern Europe will be coming soon!

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  5. I can relate to pretty much everything you wrote here and agree that in the end it wouldn't be worth it to leave the camera at home. Knowing that I'll probably never be back is what kills me! And, like you said, I enjoy the process of taking photos. In regards to being more comfortable physically, when I was backpacking last year I knew it'd be such a hassle to carry a camera bag over my shoulder for the exact reasons you said. I needed to find a way to incorporate it in my big backpack, so I bought a waterproof bag, wrapped my equipment in protective layers, and packed it towards the top of my bag. I found that compromise worked for me, maybe it'd be worth checking out for your next trip? That way you'd only have a crossbody purse on one side, but with only your basics it shouldn't weigh much. You could even stick your camera itself in too if your lens is small enough. I just bought these padded pouches from Henry's that are great for when I want to bring my camera but don't want to bring out my whole camera bag.

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    1. This is actually really helpful! Thanks so much for the tips - I'll definitely have to remember them for my next adventure. And I'm glad you can relate - it's always nice to have fellow traveling photographers out there who know what you go through!

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  6. Many people are familiar with your classic messenger bag. This particular large carry-all has gone from becoming relegated to help metropolitan street wear to help stylish tote for just about anyone.

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