There’s an expectation that if you go somewhere, you must take a picture or record it somehow: if you don’t you haven’t really been there. What broke my heart once was when I was in the Forbidden City in Beijing, marvelling at the beautiful architecture and trying to imagine myself back in history, I heard a man say to his partner after taking a couple of pictures ‘I feel like I’ve done the Forbidden City now. Shall we go?’
We all feel pressured to ‘do’ places, but this is the wrong approach to travelling. You spend time in places that don’t speak to you; hurry through places without truly appreciating them in order to tick other places off the list. These pressures must be ignored.
See what you want to see, not what other people want to see.
Sure, take a few pictures at a famous landmark, but try to experience it properly. Indulge your creative side by appreciating the detail; soak in the atmosphere like soup for the soul; imagine the history to satisfy your inner cultural nerd. However, if you’re not feeling it, don’t feel obliged to stay (unless you’re stuck with a tour group, in which case find something better to take pictures of). This philosophy of immersion provides a much more authentic experience of a foreign country to take home other than a couple of cliché photos.
Photos are great reminders of memories, but nothing is quite as satisfying as remembering the experience yourself.
P.S. The photo above is taken from when I went on a Brussels exchange with my lovely partner Bérénice. We were exploring the beautiful city of Bruges when I came across this bike. None of my photos of the famous landmarks particularly impressed me, but personally, I feel that this photo of the bike best represents my stay in Belgium. Bikes are so photogenic!