62: Mental Selfie

62: Mental Selfie

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Mental Selfie

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast — you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.

~Eddie Cantor

I picked up my phone to take a picture of the beautiful scenery we were passing through while the tour guide spoke. We were heading to our hotel where we would be spending the night before traveling to the next country on our tour.

I swiped my iPhone lock screen to get to my camera and got a message that was one of my worst nightmares during a vacation: “Cannot take photo: There is not enough available storage to take a photo. You can manage your storage in Settings.” I panicked and quickly went to my camera roll to see what pictures I could delete. No candidates. I needed to keep all 1,456 of the photos I already had. So I tried the next best thing: to delete some apps: Yelp — need it! Facebook — nope! Need to stay in touch with friends and family and the same thing for Instagram and Twitter and GroupMe and Viber and Whatsapp.

My dread turned into anger — anger at myself for not remembering to transfer my photos the night before; anger at Apple for having apps that I couldn’t delete that took up valuable space that I needed at this moment; and anger at technology in general for failing me when I really needed its cooperation.

Then, I accepted defeat. I would just have to ask my newly made friends in the tour group to share their photos with me.

In the minutes that I spent working through my storage issue, I missed many breathtaking views that the tour guide was pointing out. I would probably never get to see them again, and wasn’t I on this trip to see them? I thought back to the conversation I had with my brother a couple months before planning this trip.

I had wanted to visit Switzerland, Italy, France and many other European countries for as long as I could remember. As I started to book the trip, my brother said, “What is the point of actually going there? You’re spending pretty much all of your savings to buy tickets, then you’ll have to sit on the long flight there and then once you reach your destination you’ll have to deal with countless more obstacles and crowds in order to experience these countries for just a few hours or if you’re lucky maybe for a day. Instead you can sit here in the comfort of your own home and look at thousands of pictures and videos of Switzerland and all the other countries you want to visit and much more. You will probably also be able to get a much better and complete view of it than if you were to actually visit it.” I knew what my brother was saying was all just crazy talk! How could photos and videos compare to actually going to Switzerland and experiencing it?

But wasn’t that exactly what I was planning on doing? I was planning on looking at Switzerland through a screen in order to take pictures and that is exactly what I had been doing since the beginning of this tour. Sure I got to see some things when I gave myself a chance to look up every once in a while between taking pictures, but I was robbing myself of the experience that I had been looking forward to for so long. So while at first I was annoyed at myself and heartbroken that I wouldn’t have pictures of my own, it was actually a blessing in disguise. I was forced to take mental pictures and to experience Switzerland without a camera coming between us. Throughout the last couple days of the tour, I reminded myself of this and forced myself to experience the other countries the way that I had with Switzerland.

Now, a year later, as I continue to share my travel experiences with my friends, I no longer use countless pictures that they could see on Google to tell my story. Instead I use my memory and my unique experiences to create an image in their minds that no picture could ever match, because this experience was mine: the mental pictures that I took, the beautiful and sometimes horrible smells, the taste of different cuisines, and the first time I ever touched a snowflake. These were all things that I touched and felt without a screen getting in the way.

Is my first instinct still to reach for my phone to take a picture? Yes! But over time I have trained myself to limit it to a couple of photos rather than 1,456.

~Shehfina Mamdani


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