If you took a trip to New Zealand and didn’t boast about it on instagram, facebook and twitter, did it even happen?
Last year, I spent ten days in New Zealand and apart from my immediate family (and the friends I was staying with), no one else knew. I’m not even sure why I didn’t mention it.
However, sitting on the plane, about to take off, switching off my cell-phone, I felt devious, like some kind of spy, traveling undercover but it was also liberating.
Having lived in Wellington, a quick trip back wasn’t a massive venture. When I lived there, I would often fly home to Australia two or three times in a year, so it didn’t seem like a big deal.
Mostly the trip was catching up with friends but I also went on a couple of road trips, and so inevitably I took plenty of photos, mostly for future blog posts and articles, I just didn’t post any at the time.
I don’t need to bore you with scientific studies to tell you that having a digital detox is fabulous for mental health, well being, and inducing a positive frame of mind, but there’s a whole other side that isn’t usually mentioned which is—who are you taking the photos for?
When you’re taking photos for instagram, you’re thinking about the likes. You’re hoping your photo stands out enough that your friends and followers will notice it and push that little heart button, maybe make a comment about how jealous they are, resulting in a short lived boost of dopamine. It’s this mentality that has caused so many deaths, from people falling off cliffs, trying to outdo their friend’s photos or replicate other famous insta photos they’ve seen.
Never die trying to take a photoJade Jackson
Take photos for you, as a reminder of the place you’re at. To take home as a souvenir of the spectacular sunrise, or the bustling markets or cool little sign attached to an old pub; will induce happy memories far into the future resulting in potentially hundreds of dopamine hits, not just one.
When you’re taking photos for social media, you’re thinking more about the light on your hair, the voluptuousness of your pout, or the whiteness of your smile (unless you’re a backwards kind of shooter) rather than focussing on the moment you’re in. You’re thinking about the people back home (or the random strangers that follow you) rather than the moment you’re in.
It’s not just about the photo, it’s the constant checking to see how many more likes or comments that photo has. Ensuring your mind is elsewhere, you’re less present and notice less of the little things around you, wherever you may be.
Without the constant checking of instagram and facebook, I noticed more and was able to capture photos that perhaps may have been missed before because I’d been too busy constantly thinking about checking my phone to see how many likes my latest photo had.
However, not boasting about your trip online can also be the start of life-changing mindfulness habits to continue back home. By focusing more on your surroundings and stopping to notice the small things such as (I recommend reading the next part aloud): a flower sprouting from a crack in the wall, an ornate design of the gate of an old house, the depth of clouds contrasted against a vintage street lamp, the scent of crackling street food grilled over an open fire, the striking silhouette of a palm frond against the darkening sky after sunset, brightly colored fruit, seeds and flowers in markets, the mis-translated English of products sold in foreign supermarkets (or just the odd stuff), the swarm of chirping swallows drifting in unison over rooftops, the smashing of green salty waves against yellowed sand, bright neon signs lighting up a building at night, the reflections of moonlight cast off puddles in potholes in the road, the early morning fog as it smothers buildings, rendering others obsolete, the shadows of skyscrapers forming sharp lines of darkness and light, the subtle variations of green in multiple plants growing over each other, the tumbling of dried leaves, rustling in the wind, the earthy bitter yet chocolaty aroma of fresh coffee, the beeping of busy traffic, the smooth vocals of a busker, the cacophony of smells, sounds and sights of markets, the silence of early morning or the eeriness of late night; you’ll notice all of these things and more and perhaps you’ll feel so inspired by the world you’ll come to realize a photo is not enough to capture everything you see and feel.
I’ve always disagreed with the saying ‘a photo captures a thousand words’ because a photo doesn’t capture everything. It doesn’t portray sounds, smells, tastes or feelings. It’s detracted from the moment. It shows what is happening but it doesn’t allow you to relive it. I can look at a photo, but only when my mind is transported, can I feel like I’m actually there.
By noticing the small things, and realizing not everything can be truly captured in a photo, perhaps you’ll be inspired to write about it. Maybe you’ll craft an exquisite poem, or you’ll write postcards, or perhaps you’ll write a letter to a friend you’ve lost touch with. But you’ll be capturing your trip in a way that will be remembered always because recalling moments through reading (especially a poem you’ve written) helps your brain to recall the moment.
Better yet, write a song! When I was a tourism teacher, we used music in the classroom as a way of helping students to remember information for their exams, because music sparks memories and helps the brain to recall information.
So by writing a poem, a song or even a little rhyming ditty not only is it a beautiful and cheap souvenir to take back home, it’s going to be a powerful reminder of a magical holiday you once had.
Since the birth of my niece a few weeks ago, songs just appear out of nowhere. She loves music and dance and so I’m constantly just making up random lines and eventually they’ll join to form a short song. But no matter where you are, you can write a song about the place you’re in.
Start with: “Oh it’s a wonderful day to be in __________, everyday is such good fun. Everyone wants to be in ___________, doing/buying/eating/drinking/ ___________, ______________, and _______________. Etc etc Then repeat and vary.
Warning though you’ll have it stuck in your head for days if not weeks meaning you’ll certainly remember everything about that trip. But regardless of whether you’re traveling solo or with friends, you’ll have an inside joke, that no other traveller who has been to that place will have, because every experience is different.
“Oh it’s a wonderful day to be in Lombok, everyday is such food fun. Everyone wants to be in Lombok, surfing, snorkeling and eating satay.
It’s a wonderful day to be in Lombok, I love everything that’s here,
From rice paddies to volcanoes, and even the 5am call to prayer.
Oh it’s a wonderful time to be in Lombok….”
In five years, maybe ten, you’ll read that poem, song or the postcard you sent and instantly you’re back there. The smells, the sounds, the taste of the food you ate. According to The Female Brain, women naturally have a better ability of remembering how something made them feel, which is why capturing those feelings through words, can evoke powerful memories in the future.
Maybe you won’t feel confident enough to share your poem or song, but that’s okay, it’s for you and no one else. It’s for you to like and that’s the most powerful like of all.
A smile, caused by you is the only one that matters.
Maybe you’ll splash it across a canvas and frame it, next to a photo of the original inspiration and so every time you look at it on your wall, you’ll be reminded of the happy times, the fun times, the beautiful moments you enjoyed on your trip and you’ll feel a little warmth in your heart. Far more than a couple of likes, one time on a single selfie.