On sharing and memory
Posted on September 27th, 2012
Traveling around the world requires a different kind of mindset to one you might find familiar. It’s one which calls for a kind of comfort in the unknown. A pleasure, even, in not knowing what the next step holds for you. Like many things, travel is rarely a singular experience, nor is it ever solely experienced in the ‘now’.
Travel is an anticipatory thing, a reflexive moment, a memory in the rear view mirror, a journey as yet untaken. You think about the next thing around the corner, you think about the places you seek to find, the people you hope to meet. You think about all that you know you’ll never be able to fit into this hopelessly short period of time. You spend so much time thinking about what’s next, talking about where you’re going, reading about the places on the way, thinking about how you’re going to manage connections between here and there, asking people what they know about this new place and where they’ve been before. Travel is a whole-body, whole body-mind sensory experience. Let’s not forget the not-so-minor problem of language (or lack thereof).
When you are in the moment (having one of those moments you know you’ll talk about later) I tend to find that I sway back and forth between two main emotional states: i) the body as experiential tape-recorder focussed on absorbing anything and everything, letting the tape run (so to speak), capturing the moment for future reflection and ii) that of simply being. It’s easy to get lost in the wrestle of technology, of the ‘I’ve just got to get this shot’ mentality. It’s far too easy to fall into the trap of the ‘capture everything’ mentality. To think that you’ll be leaving empty handed if you don’t somehow manage to capture this amazing thing.
With modern social networks behaving in a more near-realtime way than we’ve seen before, you can receive positive feedback on your amazing experiences, even as you are having them.
Why do we feel the need to show our friends and families just exactly what we’re up to, in the moment? Is it because we have no other way to compress 9 months of experience into a catch-up conversation at the end? Is it because we need to feel in touch with those whom we’ve left behind temporarily? Is it because we don’t want to be forgotten, or that we’re all still seeking praise from others, or that we want to feel superior for having been and seen all that this world has to offer?
I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The things you want to remember are worth capturing in some way. Written in the torn pages of a notebook, blinking out of a pale white laptop monitor, residing in the very pores of a newly suntanned skin. Each of these act as a kind of memory cue, useful in conjuring up past experiences and events. I’ve found that even the simplest of cues (a scent wafting past, a glance at some bright neon lighting) can bring back the most vivid experiences, as though you were not in the present but actually transported to some time in the past.
So when I find myself in the moment, as it were, pondering how to frame up the next shot, I sometimes stop and take pause. Taking in the many aspects of this experience: the temperature of the room, the way the light bounces so softly off a certain piece of fabric, the muffled echoes of a man negotiating the price, the steps I’d taken to be there at that moment in time, the curiosity and mild fear of the street animals who are sniffing around for a free feed, the sensation of being completely taken by absorption mode.
None of this is for the sake of sharing with my friends, rather it is for the sake of sharing with myself. The very act of remembering, well after the event has passed. Each piece will have its own story to tell, when I have the time and inclination to listen.