When traveling, it is easy to feel very disconnected from all that is familiar. In the past, I have made quite an effort to fit in when I have lived and traveled overseas. On this most recent voyage to France, I certainly want to speak French with as much ease and proper pronunciation as possible, but I also find that I feel more free to be myself. I don’t necessarily think of myself as solely an American. In fact, I have rarely felt like I “fit in” in the United States. I simply feel more at ease in my own skin and find myself worrying less about asking questions about culture, how to wrap a scarf in the French way, the meaning of a word. I don’t mind that people see me taking a photograph of every little detail. I like noticing the details.
Of course, I am also realizing that it might be freeing to leave some of the details to the capacity of my memory and others to fate. My husband tells me that it might not be necessary to take a photograph every three steps as we walk through the city of Arles. I realize that I spend so much time trying to capture everything that I may be missing out on the experience of just being immersed in the beauty of the peeling paint, the fragments of stone walls, the awe of imagining growing up in a place with such history and just thinking of it as home.
When I lived in Africa, after six months I felt like I was simply walking through the streets and markets of my home. Yet when I showed photographs of my life to friends and family, they would exclaim that it was as though I was living in a National Geographic magazine.
So, here I am taking photos of people’s everyday, trying to capture it all for my own personal National Geographic.
I also find myself struggling with wanting to buy the beautiful things I see: a pair of earrings, a skirt, a wind chime with a wren in metal on top.
There are so many things in the world; you cannot have them all. Perhaps, you should think of the National Park statement, leave only footprints, take only images, my husband tells me.
I know he is right, but I still want the wren chime.
I take a photo, and we continue walking.
I wonder if my desire to buy the beautiful things I see is connected to a desperate feeling of not wanting to regret anything in my life. I have this one opportunity to live, and I don’t want to miss out.
But I know that this concept, too, is beyond ridiculous. Each choice I make opens one door while closing another. And that is ok. It just is.
I see images of friends in foreign places and imagine their lives are more full than mine. But I know that each person makes some sacrifices for the life they choose to lead. I have made sacrifices to be where I am today, but I am better for it.
So now, I am working on sacrificing the very first world problem of keeping my life simple and light.