Travel Research

Why You Should Leave Your Camera at Home the Next Time You Travel

Research has found that you’ll remember something better if you don’t take a photo of it. According to a recent study, photographing your travels can actually diminish your memories of them.

I love taking photos while I travel. Even though I know next to nothing about photography, I find it a relaxing form of self-expression. But as a travel blogger and an active user of Facebook and Instagram, at times I feel this enormous pressure to take photos whenever I hit the road, if only so that I’ll have photographic evidence of my trip; proof that I went somewhere and had fun. Because if a traveler falls in a forest and doesn’t Instagram the experience, did it really happen?

That’s why every once in a while I’ll go away for the weekend and won’t take any pictures. And while I’ll feel strange and vaguely guilty (what kind of travel blogger am I?! I should be blogging about this!), it’s really nice at the same time, too. Sometimes it feels good just to take a break from recording your life and just be fully present.

This article on Psychology Today details the results of a new study that suggests perhaps I’m on the right track with the whole ‘no photo vaca’ thing. Researchers conducted an experiment where they had people photograph artwork while on a tour in an art museum. The following day, the participants were asked to describe details of the art. They found people were better able to recall details from the art they hadn’t photographed than the ones they had. The conclusion? People don’t pay as much attention to what they’re looking at when they know they’ll have a digital memory of the scenery to view later. Interesting.

Travel for Travel's Sake
Leave the camera at home and travel for travel’s sake.

I remember visiting Germany and Scotland in high school with only a disposable camera. When I lived in Japan when I was 15, I don’t think I even had that. And even when I lived in Europe during college, I didn’t have a real camera. I only took maybe 30 photos the entire year I was away. It’s crazy to think about that now, especially considering how addicted I am to Instagram, but this was before the days of cell phone cameras and social media. And I have to admit, I sort of miss it. Back then, I just went places to go places. Very few people knew I’d gone anywhere and if I took pictures while away, the only people who saw them were my immediate family members. Now it seems like most people are more excited about taking pictures of a site or tourist attraction than of actually being there. People don’t just sit and enjoy sunsets anymore. They sit and enjoy sunsets while taking 17 photos of the sunsets and uploading them to Facebook. They practically miss the sun going down because they’re too busy fiddling with their image edit filters and coming up with clever Twitter hashtags. And that’s sad.

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