I started traveling systematically abroad a few years back. One of the things that marked most of my traveling experiences was the tons (rather megabytes) of photos that I would take each time I visited something new. Hey, that's only natural, right? At least that's what I thought back then and I kept on believing up to this year, and more precisely my latest trip abroad, to Rome.
So what happened in Rome? Well, chance had it that my camera was away, traveling with owner no. 2 on a different continent and I had only a phone to rely on for 'instant memory clicking'. Result: I clicked and clicked for half a day until I...stopped. When I got back home I realized I had taken less than 100 photos in 5 days, which was very uncharacteristic of me. So this got me thinking why that happened. Just a few years back I had managed to click 300 photos on a half-a-day trip to Vienna.
And then I realized I had actually grown up. As a traveler at least :P I had realized that irrespective of the destination, I had reached that stage when you kind of figure out what you want from travel, and that is not necessarily photographic memories, but rather experiences, moments that you can relive inside your head without having to look at any of the pics you took. I also realized that the more I travelled, the less pictures I started taking, that I started to prefer recording the places I roamed in different ways, such as the things I ate, the flowers I smelled, the essences I have distilled from the colors of those places in my head. I must have done it for a while, but I just realize it now.
I was reading just now about a local who told tourists they cannot take a picture of him. There was a lot of debate around this. Though I never really got pictures of people in my photographic memories collection, I can understand how annoying this can be for people living in highly touristic destinations. I can still remember the somewhat unnerving glances I got as a tourist in Venice on the vaporetto from local people going to work on that little boat teeming with 'hungry' tourists armed with cameras hanging around their mighty throats. And who could blame them? In so many places, tourism has turned into some sort of modern plague that strips pretty much everything of authenticity and intimacy. Bottom line is I can understand if someone won't let me take a photo of them, his kids, his home or whatever else and I don't find it strange, inconsiderate or anything else. This place I find so very interesting is first and foremost their home, their back yard, their patch of green, and I am only in passage.
So, wherever I might travel in the future, I know I will no longer go Japanese on pictures and I will try to make myself blend in more and be less of a tourist and more of of a traveler.