Collecting Moments vs Memories When Travelling

Mousehole, Cornwall

Mousehole, Cornwall

I love taking pictures. That feeling when a great subject and impeccable light mash together and you’re left with what you know will be perfection – it’s heavenly. I love the quiet tranquility of spending an afternoon snapping whatever strikes my fancy. And I especially love looking back through trip photos and remembering moments I’d forgotten.

Lately, however, I’ve become more committed to living in the present, particularly when I travel. I’m often guilty of feeling the need to capture everything. Every. Single. Moment. Thoughts such as, “I’m sure three years from now I’ll be realllly happy to have this photo of my dinner” or “The font on this sign is amazing! You should remember this!” are pretty common. And in the process of collecting a memory, I’m missing out on a moment.

With an eye trained through the viewfinder, I might miss a charming interaction between a couple parked on a nearby bench. A spectacular sunset. The enjoyment of a cup of coffee and a morning paper. And I’m struggling to find a way to be not only present, but to also do future Sam a solid by snapping an appropriate amount of pictures to trigger long-buried memories.

Strategies I’ve been toying with include:


  • Phone camera only. I did this on my recent trip to LA and it was generally effective. I enjoyed a stellar sunrise and sunset, spent a boatload of time people watching, and checked things out not because they might net a great photo opp, but because I just wanted to, dammit. I took a suitable amount of “WTH?” photos that I now look at with slight bemusement, which is good too. On the downside, none of the photos are print quality, which is a bit of a bummer because I love displaying my travels.
  • Notebook only. I have a lovely little collection of notebooks that never get used, so it’s been nice to actually utilize them. Forcing myself to write, even if on an infrequent basis, is also a plus.
  • Setting limits for photos. If I take my camera out, I’m trying to set a time limit or at least restrict the amount of snaps I can take. This takes more discipline than I perhaps possess right now, but with a little work this might be the winning solution for me.

How do you find balance between capturing moments and memories when travelling?


4 thoughts on “Collecting Moments vs Memories When Travelling

  1. Sam, I love this post. I feel the same way about enjoying the moment rather than just taking photos. I always take some time to pause and take in my surroundings before snapping. This weekend I was joking with my brother saying “If a moment isn’t instagrammed, did it really happen?”

    1. That last line – so true! Admittedly, while writing this post I was sitting in a coffee shop and I stopped writing to take a picture of the place. And Instagrammed it. Ugh! So difficult to disconnect sometimes 🙂

  2. I agree. “Leave only footprints, take only memories” has much more meaning when you take the time to savour the moment. I’ve certainly wasted too much time (and missed great moments) by trying to get just the right shot.

    1. Coming to this realization is certainly a big step in the right direction! It’s definitely a work in progress for both of us I think 🙂

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