Warning – Grumpy old man mode is on...
Interesting word isn’t it?
Where it comes from is disputed but I like the explanation that in ancient days, when maps had “there be dragons” on them just to fill blank space, brave souls went out to fill those vast expanses of emptiness. And there they found villages under feudal control, where the lord of the manor granted the village 8 fields around the settlement so they could grow their own food. So common was this practice the mapmakers developed a shorthand for these places, small as they were, to allow them to be marked on the map.
And the symbol they used at the time was: #.
You can see how that represents 8 fields with a village in the middle I’m sure.
Of course this symbol has appeared in multiple places and has so many stories about it that it could have originated in many places but I like that story.
Fast forward and we are oh so aware of octothorpe, or as it’s referred to these days, the hashtag. So many social media platforms use it and users of those platforms are liable to overuse it in order to get coverage as I’m sure we ’re all aware #StatingTheObvious (yeah, sorry, couldn’t resist!).
And in order to spread their message, thoughts, inclination or brainwave (or just the “look at me” post) people get formulaic, litter the message with hashtags, add a great photo so you are drawn in and whammo, the message is read and, if they are lucky shared/commented on.
And in order for this to work people will go to great lengths to find the required image for Instagram, Facebook etc. This in turn leads to thousands of identical images as THAT is the image for the location.
A case in point - a pleasant sultry evening in Marrakech found us stood on a rooftop at Jemaa el-Fnaa (the main square) where we should have been relaxing, looking down at the lights of the market, watching the sun go down. Instead what we had on that rooftop was 40 people crowded around the edge of the balcony, all clamouring for that same view.
A look at Instagram shows that over 300 photos of that view were taken that night, varying by a few feet and a few minutes. And most claiming (in that message they are so desperate for the world to read) to be the first, unique, special one capturing that moment.
Yet none of them really took the time to enjoy the view, the spectacle of the sunset, the beauty of the view. Too busy snapping photos and/or posing for the ideal Instagram picture, they missed the beauty of the moment.
The reason I still go up there time after time is the way the colours change as the sun goes down, the different hues and shadows, the market coming more to life, it’s amazing and I always see it differently every time.
Focussed so much on the close view and the sunset they missed the view of the Atlas Mountains changing colour as the sun dipped below the horizon. Not a picture that can be achieved easily unless you have the greatest of cameras. But, what a magnificent vista it presented. You would need to be made of the same rock as those mountains not to be moved by it.
Don’t get me wrong, my memory is rubbish, so I take photos, but sometimes photos exist already that you can share (within the laws of copyright of course). Some days are better than when you are there, clearer, sharper, just nicer. Just because you didn’t take it, well who cares, you need to concentrate on getting the memories first and then the images second. Pound to a penny I bet there are better images out there than you will take.
So the point of this rant?
Well, that really. It appears people are so obsessed with getting that image, that memory, that perfect message out there that they forget why they went to see 'there' in the first place. Sharing those memories with others should be the second concern. You need to make memories in the first place. And if you don’t stop to look for yourself sometimes then what was the point, you might as well have stayed at home and looked at the photo from others and read their memories.
How to Make Travel Memories
She says...After his usual rant it is only proper that I give you ideas for making memories. I love to make memories and they aren't always with my camera believe it or not. Mindfulness, living in the moment and enjoying life NOW is so important.So here goes, a few simple ideas for memories from your travels:
Go with an open mind. Don't miss something that could be amazing just because the guidebooks say it is rubbish. Use your common sense, read between the lines of the reviews and if it really is truly awful, find something similar instead. Remember the books and reviews aren't always true. No-one is you and what you find interesting and exciting may not be in alignment with anyone else. It works both ways; the reviews may be stunning and you find the whole experience under whelming as much as disappointing reviews of something you loved.
Don't go with a jam-packed itinerary. Travel should be carefree not a time to race around. As has been said in "How Food can Make Memories", there is always next time. If it isn't achieved on this trip then return. Things will still be there to be enjoyed next year or something even better may have been found.
Find the smaller attractions or the 'non-attractions'. The bucket list mentality is good, but for real travel it is so much better to go off-piste. Find your own attractions, make your own memories. The best memories are those that just happen. Have you gone all the way to Florida to have a picnic on a pristine beach with pelicans surrounding you? - maybe not, but I can guarantee it will be a lasting memory. Far better than the memory of queueing for hours in the Florida sun as you wait for a 10minute thrill at the 'must visit' theme park.
Sit, eat, drink and watch. Time in street cafes eating local food is not time wasted. The sights, smells and tastes of that moment will come back to you. (He woke up choking one night after sipping mint tea that was too warm in his sleep - how about that for a memory!!!) Memories are made by the cat that comes to beg at the table, the two year old having a hissy fit as he is marched across the square or the old gentleman who comes to sit at the adjacent table and starts a conversation with you. I bet you don't remember the MacDonalds burger that you ate on the hoof in Beijing...
Journal and draw. This is so personal and everyone has their own way of recording their memories. Bullet journalling is one way, sketching as Candace Rose Rardon does is another (and oh how I wish I could produce journals like her's!!). Sitting and sketching or journalling as the world goes on around you is so special.
Find something small. You don't need big souvenirs or tat. Memories from holidays can be something tiny, it just needs to be a trigger. A pebble from the beach, a piece of sea glass, a feather or a small trinket found on a little stall. Keep them somewhere safe and remember the good times. I have a kilner jar with my holiday memories safely stored. Little pebbles, pieces of sea shells, a small snapshot, all tucked away. A special friend buys something to hang on her christmas tree from each adventure so each December when the tree is decorated she remembers the good times and her adventures.
Make it a ritual. Our gin and pistachio moments in Marrakech signalled the end of the day and time to think about what had happened amongst the warm madness of the city. Those moments will be gone forever if they aren't recorded. Even a simple note on your phone may be enough to trigger your memories in a few weeks, months or years. Sitting down, talking about the day, enjoying the moment but also the calm that our riad balcony provided was the perfect time to reflect and chill.
You come first. So what if you don't get your pictures onto social media, so what if you don't share the moment with all 427 people who are your friends. You are what matters. Live in the moment, sharing comes later if at all. Nothing is going to happen if you don't share your adventure that day (unless you are being paid to do so!!) or even that week. Living without social media is the way forward. Give it a go, you may be surprised....