Content creation vs living in the moment
It’s no secret that social media use is at an all time high these days. Travel has slowly turned into a competition of who can get the most ‘Instagram worthy’ shots. Because of this, I’ve found it’s become harder and harder to go to a new place (touristy ones especially), without hundreds of people posing for what seems like hours. It definitely takes away from the magic of seeing a beautiful spot when all you can see in your peripheral vision are the people taking pictures.
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy capturing moments and having memories to look back on from your travels. But where do we draw the line and put down the phone or camera? This is where the problem lies.
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert when it comes to finding this balance. At times I can most definitely get caught up in wanting to get a great picture. With that being said, I’m doing my best to be more mindful of experiencing things for myself! I’d rather not be stuck behind the lens of a camera 24/7!
My first time travelling without family was my trip to Thailand with a friend. Since travel was so new to me I actually had the opposite problem. I ended up walking away just a few pictures from the 10 days I spent there! Of course I have great memories from that trip but it’s nice to have pictures as a refresher of the experiences you had years down the line.
In my opinion, the problem isn’t necessarily with the content creation but rather content sharing. We want everyone to know what we’re doing and where we are at all times. When you fall into that trap, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re experiencing. So I’ve discovered a handful of ways to help strike a better balance between content creation vs living in the moment.
Let’s dive in!
I got a Fuji Instax Polaroid camera back in 2016 before I studied abroad in Australia. I’ve gotta say, it’s been one of my best purchases for travel! While a Polaroid can take up extra space, it’s well worth it in my opinion. Why? Because you end up with great shots. On top of that, you have the physical copy to keep about a minute after you take the picture. I’ve taken my Polaroid with me on all of my trips. I find that I spend much less time worrying about getting pictures than if I had brought my DSLR out with me.
Disposable cameras are also great because you have to wait to develop the pictures and don’t know what you’re going to end up with. I find it just adds to the anticipation and surprise. My friend Maria gave me the idea of a disposable camera when she brought one around the North Island of New Zealand. It also made an appearance at a music festival which was such a good call!
Listen, ask questions & learn
It’s easy to rely on technology to learn about a new country you’re traveling to or just arrived at. I personally find a lot of spectacular places (and spots to create content) just from Instagram alone. Apparently everyone else is doing the same these days, which can be problematic. It leads to everyone going to the same places over and over again to replicate a picture they saw.
If you’re trying to strike a better balance of content creation vs living in the moment, it may be worthwhile to put down your phone for a second. Take time to talk to locals and other backpackers! You’ll learn more about the culture of the country, as well as different places you may have not typically thought to seek out.
I’d also recommend striking up a meaningful conversation with local. This can happen anywhere from on the plane to a vendor you meet on the street. I happened to have a great conversation with a woman on a bus in Sri Lanka. It really helped me put things into perspective and reminded me why I decided to travel in the first place.
Take videos instead
When it comes to content creation vs living in the moment, video is key. Changing the way you create content and taking videos instead of pictures can help you find a better balance. I personally find using a GoPro to be the best option as it’s so small that you can take it anywhere.
Video also allows you to capture a moment in a way that you can’t with pictures. Use an old GoPro without a screen to make things even more interesting because you have to wait to see the footage.
Wait to review your pics
Sometimes you want to make sure that the few pictures a stranger took for you turned out okay. In that instance, it’s perfectly fine to check them right away. But let’s face it – that’s not always the case. Sometimes a photo shoot happens and you end up spending a little too much time sorting through all of them. I find this can easily take away from your trip.
When you end up taking heaps of pictures throughout the day, don’t fall into the trap of looking through them as the day goes on. Wait till the end of the day when you’re in bed and done for the night to go through everything. This has helped me stay more present when spending the day with a new friend and forces me to get to know them a lot better. Some of the most life changing conversations I’ve had, happened because I wasn’t staring at a screen. Instead, I was open to engaging with someone new.
Capture memories, not places
It’s all well and good to take pictures of beautiful rolling hills, a field of flowers, a mountainous landscape etc., to share with friends and family. BUT … why is it that you always end up with 500 pictures of the exact same thing? It leaves you with 499 pictures you won’t end up sharing and that will live indefinitely on your computer.
This often happens because it’s easy to get so caught up in capturing the place, rather than a specific memory. I personally love sharing each place I’ve been to with my friends and family but I’ve noticed a few things when I do so. #1, a picture will never fully describe a place and #2, they weren’t there when the memory was created. Therefore, the people you show won’t attach as much meaning to the place as you will.
After returning from many trips and showing my parents a beach in the Philippines, the Swiss Alps, the Nine Arch Bridge in Sri Lanka and more, I never got the reaction I was secretly hoping for. That’s not anyone’s fault. They simply can’t appreciate it in a way that I can. Once I came to this realization, I stopped simply holding down the camera button and shooting and focused more on taking pictures that would be more memorable for myself. This helped me drastically cut down on how much time I spend taking pictures during my travels.
Know when to put the camera/phone down
During my last backpacking trip, I found myself becoming more present when I paid attention to how often other people were taking pictures or spending time on their phones. It was a reminder that if I wanted to take away the most from my travels, spending all of my time creating content would take away from the entire experience.
One way you can limit how much time you spend taking pictures is by putting a limit on yourself beforehand. If you set aside a few minutes to get some pictures and then out the camera away, you’ll be forced to spend more time taking it all in. You won’t find yourself getting caught up in a full fledged photo shoot. I find this a great way to manage content creation vs living in the moment.
Content creation doesn’t have to live only as pictures. I’ve found journaling to be a great way to not only hold onto memories from my travels in greater detail, but also help me reflect on the experiences I have. It forces you to be more present and reflect upon what you’re seeing and doing each day. I know that writing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For some, the thought of writing in a journal each day can seem monotonous, but it’s definitely worth a shot if you’re trying to find a better balance between living in the moment and capturing a moment.