26 July 2009

Take Only Pictures or Should I?

My aunt tells a story* - that is now going to be imortalised - of when they moved their home for the last 10 years across the country (which in South Africa is around 900 miles). The children (all teenagers) had been asked to box up their junk to be disposed of. When she walked into her youngest daughters room and saw 2 piles of boxes. One was labeled "Louises Junk - To Be Removed" and the other "Louises Junk - To Be Kept". Louise's response to her mothers exasperation at moving a "pile of junk" across the country was "I've spent years collecting all of this stuff, I can't give it away." (The end to the story is that when they moved back 2 years later the box of junk was untouched.)

What do you take to remember your travels? Do you take millions of pictures, do you collect fridge magnets or something else? Do you come back laden with piles of brochures from places you've visited promising yourself that they'll definitely come in useful and you never look at them again? Using a poignant example David elegantly suggests in his post there are times when Moments Can't Be Captured and it is best to rely on the grey matter to do its job, rather than a million pictures or a pile of souvenirs gathering dust somewhere in a box. It has taken me a long time (and there is nothing better than a move or two) to get to a stage where I'm happy that I have enough to keep the memories alive and a little bit more besides.
My first weakness is photographs. I am trigger happy and would love to take a million pictures just because I can. Fortunately when I had a film camera the cost of developing the pictures (didn't you notice how the film was cheap, but developing it was expensive) helped me rein in my desire. Then came digital cameras and there was no cost implication of 1 picture against 10 or 20 pictures. What was there to stop me taking millions of the things? Fortunately the habits I'd picked up with a film camera stayed with me. I also try to be strict about editing the pictures and "deleting" those that are excess. This takes some time and is a great incentive to decide whether or not it is worth it when I actually click the button. Unfortunately when looking for pictures to accompany my posts I quickly identify the 2 or 3 pictures I want to use and forget about the rest. One of my favourite tools in Picasa is the collage function. It is how I made the picture above (although there are still some improvements necessary to make it more user friendly). It is a great way to combine multiple pictures of the same topic (and makes it far less boring for those seeing them). My other secret is my video ipod - it is my photo album on the move - and provided your selection is a reasonable size I find that people are always interested in seeing them.
Some people collect fridge magnets, pencils, postcards or key rings to remind them of the places that they travel to. I used to collect key rings. They were small and didn't take up much space and some of them have actually been used as they were intended, but no more. I still send postcards to my grandmother and a close friend from the places where I travel to. My grandmother is collecting the cards for me so I have another memory to share. Because of this I try to ensure that the postcard is of something that is relevant to me and that I write something that I would want to remember years down the road.

What do you collect when you travel? And what tips do you have to "avoid the clutter".

* While writing this story I realised how lucky I am that I am the only active "blogger" in my extended family. We all love a good yarn and the stories are great material for future blogs (I'll have to remember to bring a notebook to future family gatherings)

All pictures are the property of the author. Please do not use without permission.


Daphne said...

I used to collect candles from each place I visited, with the intention of burning them all when I was dying and remember all the places I'd been to in my life. That plan went up in flames when my collection got too dusty and heavy to take with me when I moved.

Now I collect fridge magnets - smaller, lighter and much more useful. Nice article Kim!

Shannon O'D said...

Too true with these observations - I am not too guilty of buying the cheesy souvenirs, but I have tons and tons of pictures, just yesterday I went through one folder and made myself ruthlessly delete - I was running out of memory space!! Thanks for the reminder to keepp things simple :-)

Kim said...

@ Daphne: I hope you did get to burn your candles at some stage.
@ Shannon: I haven't done a year long trip - and can't even imagine how many pictures I'd come home with.

David Cain said...

Hi Kim,

Thanks for the mention. I've really become quite vigilant at avoiding clutter by resisting the temptation to buy souvenirs. One look at my junk drawer reveals that they all end up unused with little sentimental value.

Pictures are great, but as I mentioned I'm wary of the temptation to try and 'keep' a great view or a great experience. Experiences are a one-shot deal.

When I go on my big trip I'll have to be extra careful about accumulating souvenirs because I'll need to confine my possessions to a backpack. I will still take hundreds (thousands?) of pictures, but I'll try to keep photography a distant second to enjoying the moment.

RB @ RichBy30RetireBy40 said...

Great pics mate! Spend what you will and take home the memories!




Kim said...

@ David: Enjoy your trip. NZ is a stunning place
@ RB: Hope I can get to that stage soon!

julochka said...

we're collecting starbucks mugs. it can sometimes be a challenge to get them home. because we also seem to collect shoes and clothing from the gap (no gap in DK), it's the thing (other than SB) that i miss from the US. :-)

i'm IN singapore at the moment but can't email you in response to your comment on my blog b/c you're one of those no-reply blogger peeps. if you email me, maybe we could have a coffee? my email's on my profile!


AMP said...

Thanks for the Picasa hint. I will use that. I am a postcard fiend and I get fridge magnets for my parents from everywhere. Lately, my husband and I have decided to get one substantial item per trip (e.g., an aboriginal painting from Australia). We have too many knick-knacks that I end up tossing.

Kim said...

@ Julie: I have wondered if collecting starbucks mugs is worthwhile, but I'll leave you to it.

@ AMP: Hope you enjoy using Picasa. An aboroginal painting ticks many boxes - hope you enjoy it!

SA Expats said...

I buy shot glasses. I don't even drink shots...:)

Kim said...

@ SA Expats: At least they're small and don't take up too much space! Thanks for the mention.