Our generation has been taught to process the beautiful things we see in this world by taking photos. This isn’t necessarily a negative attribute; it’s just what we have come to know.
I have been to a lot of unbelievable places in the past three months. Whether it be the green hills of Scotland or the gorgeous mosaic houses of Barcelona, anytime I’m in one of these locations my immediate instinct is to take out my phone and take a picture. I didn’t realize how much of a “norm” this was until I came to London, and seeing these amazing sites became a weekly occurrence (I assure you the objective of this post is not to brag about how awesome study abroad life is, even though it is quite awesome). However, this past weekend was the first time I came to a place and was so completely stunned I didn’t know how to process or capture it — not even with a photo.
A few friends of mine from home are studying abroad in Italy, so I decided to take a weekend and go visit them. My friend Megan lives in a city called Turin, which is about an hour outside of Milan, very close to the Alps. On Halloween we decided to go on a little adventure and hike in the Alps. First off, I don’t think I ever thought I would come to a point in my life where I would be able to use that sentence in a serious context, “Oh yeah I’m just going to hike the Italian Alps, I’ll be back in a bit!” Super casual. I couldn’t even grasp the concept, so one can imagine my pure shock when we actually got there and started hiking. I just kept thinking that there was no way any of this was real. It was by far one of the most beautiful things I had seen in my entire life. It was one of those experiences that is impossible to describe, but something I know I will cherish forever.
I see pictures of places like this every day, on calendars, postcards and Buzzfeed articles, yet when I was actually there in real life I didn’t know how to process it. All of a sudden something I had always seen as a small pixelated image was completely surrounding me. So how do you take it all in? As I said in the beginning of this post, mine (and most people’s) automatic go-to is to whip out your phone and take a ton of photos. That’s what you’re supposed to do — capture the moment so you remember it forever. However, every time I brought out my phone I would just get frustrated that my tiny iPhone 6 camera wasn’t doing this place any justice. I actually found myself overwhelmed because I had become so reliant on my camera to process experiences like this that I didn’t know what to do.
After I take all these pictures, occasionally I’ll upload a few to social media and then export them onto my computer. I’ll look through them every so often when I’m feeling nostalgic, but realistically, they don’t really serve much use for me after I take them. So why do I feel the need to take hundreds everywhere I go? I’m not saying people should take fewer photos when they are sightseeing. I think having those pictures can be extremely important. I know in a few months when I’m sitting in Leavey Library at 4 a.m., stressing out about a research paper, I’ll look back through these photos from the Alps and be happy I have them to reminisce on.
In the end, this trip was a lesson and reminder to really be present in whatever you’re doing, because no matter how many pictures you take, or the quality of the photo itself, they will never truly be able to let you relive those moments. In addition to documenting things physically, it’s also important to document them emotionally. Sometimes you just have to take a mental picture, try and hold onto that feeling and imagine you are experiencing that particular moment for as long as possible.