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Words are better than 1000 pictures

On my recent trip to the UK and Paris, I took thousands of pictures but whenever I think about the trip none of those come to mind. What comes to mind are the moments that were not captured in any of the pictures.

Photos are wonderful and we take so many of them when traveling but there is something about the written word that evokes a stronger sense of place and person. The little entries I made in my diary transport me to those places instantly.

Here is one:

“It is six thirty in the evening, I am walking back from Stonehenge. Sun is still bright. White clouds against the blue sky look magical. Sky is so low here. I feel if I keep walking I will be able to touch it just at the edge of earth. There is something special about this place and it is not the sky. Not even the landscape. It is the silence. Even though the place is full of tourists it is still very quiet here. May be it is the silence of the dead.”

And this one:

“It is five in the evening and I have made it to the top of the Arthur Seat in Edinburgh. The wind is so strong that both my husband and daughter decided not to climb the top rock. It is hard to find footing on the pointed and irregularly shaped volcanic rocks. I haven’t come so far to give it up now. Before they can stop me I start climbing, inch by inch, carefully balancing on almost vertical rock. Rock was not that dangerous, it was the wind. I get to the top and get the photo taken. I do not climb for the photo. I climb to test my resolve.”

But the accompanying photo does not capture any of that.

Neither do any of the photos capture the smell of the highland air, the taste of the Scotland water, the thrust of the Oxford Street crowd or the music at the Paris pub. I couldn’t take photos of my aching feet which made me regret every day that I didn’t pack my hiking shoes with ankle support.

I was not fast enough to take pictures of the double rainbow I saw from the train while going to Paris, neither was I ready to capture the fireworks which started unexpectedly when we were at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Those pictures are itched in my memory forever without the aid of the camera.

You can’t taste a snapshot.

“I am in the Selfridge, sitting in a cupcake eatery, order a cookies and cream cheesecake which my husband are going to share. I take the first spoonful; the creamy sweetness melts in my mouth. I get up declaring ‘I want one all for myself.'”

Bang! the memory floods back and I am back in the eatery tasting the cheesecake once again.

Did I take any pictures of the rude guy who double-parked his car just behind ours making us wait for half an hour, in rain, at Glenfinnan where we stopped to see the Harry Potter bridge? Even if I did, it wouldn’t have told the story.

Or these stories:

“We are walking back from a local pub in rain, hoodies on, umbrellas up, and between my daughter’s constant moaning that we didn’t let her call an Uber for a ten minute walk back home. My son-in-law is warning us not to step on dog-pooh and next moment he steps on one. The drama that followed afterwards was fun to watch. “There is one thing I ask you each time we go out, not to walk on dog-pooh, and you can’t even do that,” goes my daughter. At home, my son-in-law thrusts the shoe under her nose, “Would you like to smell it to make sure it’s dog-pooh and not just mud.” His action starts another row. Half an hour later, husband wife team is still on balcony trying to clean the shoe with wet-ones and earbuds.”

Or this one which will be told in dinner parties for years to come.

“I am standing in a line to go to toilet at Louvre museum. The line is so long that it is flowing out of the female toilets, into the corridor, way past the men’s toilet to the outside lobby while men are in-and-out within minutes. A young guy is trying to persuade his female companions to used men’s toilets. “What are the danger’s of exposure?” asks one of his lady friend. “Try using the first two cubicles,” he advises. Next minute a number of women raid the men’s toilet including me. Once you are inside there is no going back. Only empty cubicle was number 4. So I dash to it, praying all the time that when I get out there is no one using the urinal.”

I remember once reading about a kindergarten teacher who taught her class of five-years-olds how to take mental pictures at a beach excursion. “Take a good look at the sea… and the sky… and the clouds. Notice the color. Now close your eyes and try to see them with your mind’s eye. Take a deep breath and smell in the salty air, feel the wind on your cheeks, hear the sound of the waves. Lock all these in your memory. You will never forget it.”

I think this is the way to take pictures on holiday. With the ease of mobile phones, we spend all our time taking pictures rather than taking in. Maybe in your next travel, we can use the kindergarten teacher’s technique to take a mental picture and enjoy our holidays even more.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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