Learning to See OR Losing My Camera in Europe

A quick addendum: Apologies for my lack of actual book reviews as of late. I’ve been away in Europe for the past six weeks and before I left I preemptively scheduled some smaller posts to publish while I was away. This is a blog/ journal entry I wrote in Europe and I will be back to my normal amount of book reviews by early next week.


Journal Entry: May 26, 2014.

Yesterday, ten days into my forty-one day backpacking trip through Europe, I lost my camera. Along with the camera went the hundred or so pictures I had already taken, the thousand potential more pictures I would have taken, and the $200 I had spent on the camera itself. When I realized I was camera-less I inwardly wept as I thought about how my grand, life-changing trip through Europe would go undocumented. Then, I took a step back out of my gloomy countenance, clouded with all those lost facebook likes, and thought: maybe this is a good thing.

And before this turns into an overly optimistic, I love the world kind of post let me interrupt to say, of course – given the opportunity – I would love to have my camera and pictures back. But that’s not an option so instead I’ll attempt to productively make the best of it and rather than simply buying a disposable camera I’ll find other mediums to make new memories.

I should also mention that I’m traveling with a friend who didn’t lose her camera so there will be some pictures from the trip though I won’t have taken them, which makes this less of an overall travesty. Or that’s what I keep reminding myself.

But anyway, on to the optimism.

When I take my camera – my former camera, I should say – on vacation I become obsessed with taking pictures. Everytime I look at something beautiful, and I’m in Europe so it’s safe to say that happens a lot, all I can think is, Oh, that would make a good picture! I don’t think this is how I should look at the world – through a lens. Not that no one should, some photographers spend their lives looking through a lens and that’s great for them but I am far from a brilliant photographer. My badly angled, poorly lit photos of Prague’s Charles Bridge, or houseboats in Amsterdam aren’t something the world will miss. And on that note, do we really need more grainy tourist photos of Buckingham Palace or Big Ben anyway? I can pull up an image – or a thousand – from google anytime I want. Of course, I won’t have taken them and they don’t document my specific journey but are my tourist photographs really the best way to do that anyway?

This doesn’t all come from losing my camera. This comes from observing hordes of tourists all clamoring over eachother for the perfect picture of the Trevi Fountain, the Mona Lisa, the Rosetta Stone, etc… And once they’re satisfied with their pictures they walk away… WITHOUT LOOKING AT THIS BEAUTIFUL CREATION IN FRONT OF THEM SANS CAMERA LENS! Now they have a picture of something beautiful that they barely took the time to look at in person, if any time at all!

So last night while my friend stopped every couple meters to take pictures of the incredibly picturesque canals in Amsterdam, I just looked. It was lovely. Yes, I was sad about the loss of my camera but walking – no, wandering – down the winding, streetlamp lit canals of Amsterdam, watching as people sat on the porches of their houseboats chatting, laughing, drinking… it was hard to stay downhearted.

Ergo, rather than replacing my camera I’m going to really look. I’m going to take in the towering architecture, the cascading fountains, the moonlight on the canals, the people. And I’ll write about it. Starting with this. I want to document my journey through a travel journal, which is also a great excuse to buy one of the attractive notebooks I’ve been eyeing in all the museum gift shops. Because writing my experiences down, what I was thinking and feeling when I spent an afternoon at the Berlin wall, will preserve the memory of this trip just as well – maybe better – than a picture of myself beside the wall – a scene I’ll have no recollection of when I look back in a decade or so through my badly organized photo albums, wondering what I was thinking as I posed for that particular snapshot.

So now, instead of trying to poke my camera lens between other people’s shoulders, vying for front and centre –  prime photography real-estate – I can stand back from the crowd, look at the national monument, and really see what I’m looking at, reflect on it, and write about it.

While I can’t say that I won’t pick up another camera when I return home or that I won’t resume my picture taking habit on my next vacation, I will thoroughly enjoy this vacation; open minded, pen in hand, and camera free.


2 thoughts on “Learning to See OR Losing My Camera in Europe

  1. It seems you have you been in Italy, too:) Give me sign next time…I’m right near Rome…for now…and programming to move in Tuscany!
    Funny post (as always)

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