A new year, a fresh start to conquer another semester. But here I am, a week into school, yearning for the days where I get to relax and travel out again. In search of motivation, I found myself scrolling through the set of limited pictures and videos I took on phone during my recent trip to Hong Kong.
My travel companion, May, appreciating the fruits of our labour at Dragon’s Back
Ever since I got my own camera, all my sightseeing has been done through the viewfinder. I would end up snapping pictures in every angle possible, attempting to capture the best representation of the enthralling view. Even though I had managed to keep tangible proof of my time there, there always seems to be a sense of detachment I feel when I look back at the photos and reminisce. It was as if I had not been physically present in the places I’ve been to, such that recalling the finer details of places I’d been to became a test.
This time round, I wanted to try something different – to travel without my camera in hopes of reducing my obsession over photographing each moment. Initially, the lack of the familiar camera strap on my shoulders felt peculiar, yet I was relieved to not have to lug around additional weight all day. My decision to forgo my digital camera immediately proved itself to be a right one.
Our rendition of a typical tourist pose, taken at Cheng Chau Island
The outcome? A refreshing change. Rather than seeking to perfect The Ultimate Shot™, the additional time I had was translated into quality time with my travel companions, and opportunities to soak up my surroundings. Of course, I did still take some pictures and record videos on my phone; however, the markedly less frequent camera usage afforded me an entirely different travel experience.
Unplanned detour to a morning food market (look at how smiley the man is!)
Classic shop front in Hong Kong
As cliché as it sounds, not regularly touching my camera allowed me to live in the moment. I truly felt like I had built a bond with Hong Kong and her people. For example, during our hike down from the Dragon’s Back trail, my friends and I met a lovely local couple who struck a conversation with us when they overheard us speaking in English. Despite the language barrier, we did our best to carry on a conversation in a mix of English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Our light-hearted conversation led to an invitation to share a meal together. The couple brought my friends and I to a quaint café nearby, a local haunt that few tourists would think to go into. Looking back, I doubt we would have had the same experience had we been focused on taking pictures all the way down the trail.
Interior of the café the couple brought us to for lunch
It may be challenging at the start to put away your camera after a few good photos, trust me. (You can never have too many good holiday photos.) So, here are some tips to combat the alluring temptation of holding onto your devices:
Tip 1: Be amazed, then snap away
When you first arrive at your destination, remind yourself to first appreciate the sights and the sounds surrounding you, or even the rustic scent of nature. Make it a point to only whip out your camera after relishing the beauty of where you’re at.
I used to do things the other way around. However, usually after photographing, I find myself losing the “feels” to do proper sightseeing, and often end up just looking around for the sake of it.
Tip 2: Journaling your day
Instead of constantly capturing memories throughout the day, why not jot them down at night? It could be snippets of what you’ve experienced, or certain highlights you would want to remember. Find your own alternative that suits you best, be it summarising the day in a video in your cosy room, or doodling it in a book.
Tip 3: Bond with your travel companions
Seek to establish mutual understanding when you’re travelling with your friends or family by proposing to everyone to limit their camera usage. Witnessing others engrossed in their devices would only tantalise you to do the same. Instead, you could use the time to make new memories together.
We all travel to expand our horizons beyond this little red dot. If we put aside our screens and devices, we may become better able to make the most out of these experiences. Give traveling in the moment a try, and you may just endearingly accept this new form of travel!