Why we travel

The forecast was off, but only the camera noticed. London, August 2005

The forecast was off, but only the camera noticed. London, August 2005

“Travel tends to make us hyper-aware of details…when we are away from the distractions of our lives, we come awake to the small moments. That’s why we travel, and why we take pictures. The trick is to bring that hyper-awareness home with you, and keep it alive.”  
George Lange

Until I read this quote from Lange, I had never thought about it, but I think he’s right.  When I’m traveling in a place that is unfamiliar, I tend to see far more than I do during everyday life.  It’s a bit like when you put that photo or note on your refrigerator door, and after awhile you tend to stop seeing it, simply because your eyes grow too accustomed to the sameness.

For me, using my camera daily (or nearly so) is one way to bring that hyper-awareness home.  The lens can frame a scene and shut out competing distractions.  Especially with the long telephotos that are increasingly common even in inexpensive cameras, we can “zoom in” and see things we might otherwise miss.

You don’t have to have a camera, of course.  To see your world in a new way, try being hyper-aware of the details.  Remember the game “I Spy?”  See what you can spy in your world, and report back to us.  Did you notice anything you had forgotten about, or maybe never knew was there?

One year ago today:

A full expression


  1. HarryS

    And we may see The Unseen! 🙂

    • Reminds me of this quote: “All there is to thinking is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren’t noticing which makes you see something that isn’t even visible.” ― Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs Through It

  2. Good morning, Julia! Yes, Lange is right. I hadn’t seen that quote before, but I totally know how we get desensitized by our routines. We can do some of our dailies without even being “present.”
    I also love to travel, and your photo reminds me of a trip to London that I took back in high school with my church youth group. Church? Yes, we were studying John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. I kept dropping my camera on that trip (awkward age? ) And the back kept opening and the film cassette kept scuttling across the floor. Obviously I lost some pictures, but wasn’t sure I’d even get any, so I bought a notebook and journaled each day. Fortunately, cassettes don’t let in light, as roll film would, so I did come home with some photos (such as a young high school student would take), but was lucky to have the written impressions, as well, as they captured my personal perspective of how enormous something was, or how old, or how the birds in Trafalgar Square nearly made Gwen cry; she’s so afraid of flocks of birds (something about a bad experience involving her hair, I think).
    Oh, I have digressed. (Even Raynard might be impressed!)
    The point was: yes, I agree with you and Lange.
    Have a great day!

    • Susan, as you know, I love digressions! My writing tends to ramble so that I’m not sure if ANYTHING actually constitutes a digression, anyway! I enjoyed your story of your trip, and I’m glad you didn’t lose all your photos, but it was wise of you to keep a journal. I wish I’d done that for my travels. That open-camera thing happened to me once, when I began learning photography and our class took a trip to Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee. I had been climbing waterfalls and getting what I thought were once-in-a-lifetime shots. Then I made the mistake of opening the camera before the film rewound — probably because I thought it already had — with 35mm, as you know, that exposes the WHOLE ROLL. I was so upset. My professor just said kindly, “That’s OK, Julie, we’ve all got horror stories.” 😀 Hey, anyone frightened of birds surely would be freaked out by Trafalgar Square. Those birds are amazing to me. Hope you have a great day too!

    • Rene

      I did that with my son’s 4th birthday party. I was so into all the activities I had planned, I forgot to assign someone to take pictures. When I realized I had no photos (shortly after the last guest left), I got out his baby book & wrote a long, detailed description of every little thing I remember. I thank God for words!

      • Rene, that was a really smart thing to do. Too often, we end up with pictures and no words, and I’ve been surprised over the years how much I forget even with a photo. Especially people’s names, places, occasions, etc. Those words you wrote will be a gift to others many years from now.

  3. The lens can frame a scene and shut out competing distractions – true. Sometimes we need to do that. The distractions are too many and we may lose sight of what we should see. Loved that pic for all the wetness.

    • Thank you Bindu! Yes, there is plenty of rain in London. I probably have more photos of wet pavement there than anywhere else. But I love the rain, as long as I don’t get drenched. I like having a camera to help me focus, since I’m so easy to distract.

  4. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. I awoke, threw open the draperies and said, “Good morning, Tuscany!” as I’m overlooking the Childress Vineyards. 🙂 I said years ago when we moved to our little beach house that I would never, ever take that coastal setting for granted. You remind me so often how lucky I am when you comment about that. 🙂 You’re up early…. I’m saying a little prayer hoping you have a day of goodness, my friend!

    • Thank you Sheila! Lately I’ve been getting up with Jeff in the mornings (5:30 am) and walking while it’s still cool and the birds are in full chorus. I am often catching up with other details before I get to the blog, however. I am happy just thinking about you in your beach house; almost as good as being there myself! I hope you enjoy the sights today. Jeff and I will have to catch some North Carolina Tuscany soon. There are vineyards here in Virginia, too, though I’ve never seen any except from a distance.

  5. singleseatfighterpilot

    I spy something fishy. Or would that employ another of the senses? If there is any shortcoming to the all-seeing (and assumed all-encompassing) camera lens it would be noticed in the questions we read in 1 Corinthians 12:17.
    The most detail-noticing person I have ever known was Harold, the blind man. Harold never traveled, as far as I knew, farther than from Fayetteville (just south of Atlanta) to the Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, to “see” the Braves play. We were in the cheap seats in right field. About the fourth inning, the very first pop of the mitt in the bullpen enlivened Harold: “Uh-oh! They’re gonna pull Glavine. Who’s warming up in the bullpen?” he asked me. One more illustration from my association with Harold. If there was a touchstone represented by the theme song to the TV series, “Cheers” (I never watched a whole episode.) The line “where everybody knows your name. . .” speaks to a human need. Harold knew me. Many times I’d enter the supermarket where the manager was kind enough to allow Harold to sell the bags of peanuts he’d roasted. I would approach Harold from behind, and he would hear my footfalls and call out: “Eric! You’re back from New York (or Cayman, or San Diego)” Harold KNEW me! But not on sight 🙂

    • Eric, that’s exactly the point I was making; the camera is NOT all-encompassing. It allows us to frame and focus on aspects or details that we might miss in the overwhelming expanse of everything else. This is likely the same dynamic at work with your friend Harold; he noticed details others missed, and maybe this was partly because he was without the distractions of eyesight. Not that any of us would ever wish to be blind, nor to be forced to see always through the lens of a camera. But sometimes, we have to focus tightly to catch the details that do not draw immediate attention.

  6. Often on a long drive, the destination not of any matter, I focus, as the camera you speak of, on the scenery that we pass-by. I lock in on a particular bush or tree, and think of its particular living uniqueness, among all the sameness that it is in the midst of. It is, and yet is apart.
    Then I apply that to people. Same yet different in our uniqueness.

    • Alan, of all the things in this world that amaze me, the thing that amazes me most is how many people there are, and no two exactly alike! But that uniqueness is lost on us until we focus on it, as you suggest.

  7. This is so true, Julia. Having just returned from a recent holiday, I am still in that lovely travel afterglow – but soon enough routine may narrow my view of the world around me again. I think that’s part of what I love about blogging too, though. It forces you to look through a camera lens at the world around you in a different light. I truly love that! I also love your blog. I always read it even if I’m pressed for time when it comes to commenting. Your content is always informative and thought-provoking. Thank-you so much for the effort you put into it. xoxoxoxoxoxox

    • Thanks so much Dani, I appreciate your kind words! I too love blogging as a way of traveling from home. Just hearing from you puts me in touch with Australia in a way a textbook or news story never could. Plus I get delightful mental images of Tigger and Casper! That wonderful post-travel awareness does tend to fade quickly, but with bit of effort, we can prod ourselves into keeping it alive until the next trip. I hope you have a lovely weekend!

  8. MaryAnn

    After spending most of the day “in” the American River; my grandson, Aaric, & I were in a newer part of Sacramento, CA looking for a Cole Stone Creamery. As we searched the road signs, God gave a visual sign of His Presence. The most beautiful, perfect, huge, FULL rainbow was bright in the sky! Then Aaric was all excited to say: “It is a double rainbow!”
    We stopped to take photos w/ his phone. What a glorious ending to a wonderful day, we thought. But that was not all, the sunset lit up the sky in the opposite direction! All of that made our side trip (which was not on the way home), very much worth it!
    Out one window: a double rainbow, out the other a marvelous sunset! We were praising God & singing Hallelujah!

    • Mary Ann, thanks for sharing those beautiful experiences with us. What a perfect day to spend with your grandson. Perhaps he will be sharing these same experiences with someone many years from now! Hope you have some more unexpected blessings this weekend.

  9. Oh, love that quote and agree entirely. It’s seems easier to have a keen sense of awareness when there’s no home distractions like making meals, laundry, gardening or pets. Plus, someone else’s home town always seems so much more interesting because as you mentioned, we become complacent at home. When we were in Europe, I wanted to photograph everything we went by. There’s so much history and it’s so different from living in the west. I love history and learning about past cultures, families, cities, artists, architecture. I love it all. It’s just so cool to touch a brick that some roman laid down a thousand years ago. I still can’t wrap my brain around it. Yet the locals who drive by The Colosseum everyday don’t even think about it.

    • When I read this I thought about how fascinated with California history I am – how I loved to go to the gold rush country and the Spanish missions – and yet all of that is relatively recent in the grand scheme of things, and we now divide our time between two homes that sit squarely within areas that were colonized in the 1600’s. In 2001, I spent a week in England visiting a friend, during which time I did a lot of exploring amid some of the more ancient areas. I was laughing at myself by the end of the week, because anything after 1400 had begun to sound “recent” to me. Just think how far back Asian history goes, too, and we start to realize what “youngsters” we European Americans are!

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