Sophisticated cameras nowadays can capture images so vivid that they seem more real than real-life. But sometimes, seeing a new place from behind the lens of a camera might enhance the one aspect, but limit the sensory experience overall.
When I visited Martha’s Vineyard for the first time nearly seven years ago, I decided to go without a camera. I considered buying a disposable one since I would be experiencing many quintessentially New England (read: WASP-y) things for the first time. But I had just recently seen Before Sunrise and taken inspiration from a scene in which Jesse takes a mental picture of Celine as a way to remember her: “So I never forget you, or all this.” (In the clip below, the scene begins around 8:00.) Thanks to Before Sunset, the sequel, we know how that turns out—ten years later, he really never forgets!
So I decided to try it out. At each new turn of the road or new experience, I paused to take a mental picture.
The result? I don’t have any physical (or for that matter, digital) pictures to revisit and I haven’t been back since, yet my days on Martha’s Vineyard comprise my most vivid collection of photos. The small dock where we boarded the bike ferry. The large hill that I struggled to climb, the dappled sun warming my back through the trees. The dude in plaid shorts and popped-collar polo who asked us for a lift near the carousel; the lighthouse at dusk. The shore just steps from the porch of E’s family’s house, where the hammock was still swinging after we took off running for the water past the hedge. The briny smell along the rocky pier where gulls perched atop wooden posts; trailing my fingers in the cold water as we skimmed its surface in a small sailboat.
Once in a while, it’s good to put the camera and guidebook down, and just remember to breathe the air and savor the experience.
How to make lasting memories? Savor the moment you’re in—stretch it out for an extra three seconds. Smell the roses if you’d like; concentrate on a detail; finish the last bites of your dinner a little more slowly. Take it all in and record it in your mind, not just in your camera.