Documenting Your Travels

In the world of Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and anything else you might use to share your gorgeous vacation memories, the art of getting the shot, and getting it out there, can often overshadow the actual moment in the making.

I think we’ve reached a time where the average person is at least slightly aware of the omnipresence our phones and social media have in our daily lives. We know we should turn it off and put it away during dinner. We know we should pay more attention to our kids proudly presented drawing than whatever’s on the screen. We understand that our friends get bored of our political views, art projects, whatever our kids ate for breakfast this morning and that we should probably stop bombarding the internet with it all. But do we?

When traveling alone it’s even more of a temptation to be glued to the phone; there’s no one to make us feel guilty for ignoring them. But it’s important to put it down once in awhile and enjoy the view. Here are some tips for unplugging, while still having something to Instagram home about.

1. Get a good shot, then put it away

Really? Do you need 25 shots of the same sunset? There are only so many angles you can shot that tree/lake/giant fake dinosaur before the pictures all start to look the same. Take a couple pictures, get the shot, put the camera away, and look around.

2. Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook

These media are a great way to let friends and family know what you’ve been up to, and to store your memories (I often use Facebook as a back-up cloud storage by creating photo albums only set to private). In Driving in Cars Without Boys’chapter on road safety, we point out the use of social media posts as a way to both keep worried family members updated, and a marker of your last known location should something unforeseen happen. Those practical uses aside, social media is a massive time-suck designed for people stuck in line at the DMV. You’re out! You’re exploring! Enjoy it! Save the Instaframing for when you’re back at the hotel.

3. Take your pictures on a camera

You know those little rectangular shaped things that used have film in them when we were kids? Now, I’m not saying you have to go back that far, digital is fine, but try getting your shots on a device that isn’t going to beep twenty “updates” at you in between set ups. Unplug from the net and enjoy the peaceful simplicity of taking a picture. Also it allows you to go through them more carefully later and select only the truly worthy for social media.

4. Which bring us to the big one: Unplug

I know… it’s a scary word nowadays. But whenever I take a trip, every few days I make a point to unplug, even if it’s only for a few hours. Turn the phone on silent and put it in the backpack, even better put it on airplane mode. Keep the laptop stowed in the car. If you’re driving, put on a tape or audiobook, something you can listen to without outside interference. If you’re out and about, try just listening to the sounds around you. After the first five or six times of reaching for your invisible phone, the grip it has will become apparent. Fight it. You can do it.

5. Scrapbooking , Memory Boxes, etc

I have a box of scrapbooking equipment in my closet, maybe one day I will get around to using it. For now I have a memory box, a little tote I use to keep my smaller souvenirs, tickets, and papers organized. Things like coasters, stubs, napkins, ribbons, the little keepsakes that I’ve held onto over the years. Maybe one day they will make their way into a scrapbook, but today is not that day. Don’t be like me. Display your fun times! Get it done. Put to use the hours of Pintrest surfing and make something you can be proud of.

6. Souveniring with a purpose

In the past couple years I’ve developed a system for buying souvenirs. I ask myself three questions: Is it useful/practical/does it fit well? Do I have room for it? And do I love it.

I’ve found that buying only the souvenirs that I actually love and use on a daily basis, not only extends my positive feelings about the trip, but keeps me from spending money on pointless crap that’s going to clutter my shelves. I have cups, bottle openers, book-ends, picture frames, shot glasses… everyday things that are beautiful and remind me of an amazing time I had or an epic place I want to go back to.

My brother and sister-in-law collect Christmas tree ornaments whenever they travel. It keeps the clutter light, and every holiday season they get to trim the tree and re-hash all their old memories.

The one exception we have to the pointless souvenir collection is that my daughter collects magnets. We bought one of those big metal boards from Ikea and she gets hours of joy from moving them around and playing with them, so maybe they aren’t so pointless after all.

Whatever you chose to bring home will never be as valuable as the experience of being there. Remember to try and be in the moment of where and when you are. Chances are you might never be there again. A lasting impression, a feeling, a moment… it’s way better than some $4.99 tchotchke.

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