Every so often on vacation, magical travel memories appear right before us. But, all too often, we’re preoccupied clicking away on our cameras in search of that perfect shot to realize what we are experiencing. Alas, that perfect shot alludes us anyway, and all we’ve done is miss the opportunity to be amazed at the wonder before our eyes. Don’t let this happen to you. It’s time to put down your camera…at least for awhile.

how to create traveling memories without a camera

Looking for those travel memories ahead of us. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Luxe Traveling Mom.

Capturing Travel Memories…Without Missing the Travel Moments

The most astounding experience  recently happened to me on an Un-Cruise in Alaska.  The crew called it “whale soup.”  To me, it was something I had never seen before, and in all likelihood, something l will never witness again.

Literally, everywhere, humpback whales surrounded the boat. You didn’t know where to look first. But, instead of just being mesmerized at this sight, I had my camera out; zooming in, zooming out, looking left, looking right, all the while forgetting to just watch the travel memories unfolding before me.

Our boat sailed to Frederick Sound on the Monday afternoon of our 7-day northern passage cruise. Our goal: whale watching. What we experienced was beyond all expectations and something the crew said they hadn’t seen in years.

For 4 hours, we watched between 50 and 100 whales – everyone had a different estimate – doing everything whales do. It was as if time stood still for us that afternoon, so we wouldn’t miss a minute of their powerful presence.

how to create travel memories putting down the camera

Going for the perfect whale shot. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Luxe Traveling Mom.

Why You Should Put Down the Camera

I kept shooting pictures hoping to get the shot that everyone would ooh and aah over, and I could proudly post to Instagram. I’d even check to see what the photo looked like and do some deleting of unacceptable shots. Then, get right back to playing photographer.

Did I have the perfect breach, the perfect pectoral fin slapping the water, the perfect spray emerging from the blowhole before dissipating in the air? How many different flukes can I capture and in different positions?

My mind and camera were reeling.

Then, about two hours into our watch, I looked to my right and saw the face of a woman sitting on a bench; no camera, just binoculars, and realized how at peace she was. She was just smiling, uttering an occasional,”Oh, my goodness.” She was so in the moment.

At that moment, I put my camera in my pocket, sat down next to her, and decided just to take it all in. The last picture I took was of this double breach.

how to capture travel memories without a camera

Capturing travel memories. And I didn’t even realize I captured a double breach. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Luxe Traveling Mom.

Travel Memories, Did You Hear That?

For the next two hours, I sat on the bow or moved around the boat,  just smiling, watching everyone else taking pictures or being amazed, and thanking the universe for bestowing this spectacle on me.  I’m not sure which I enjoyed more. The magnificence and grace of the whales. Or the expressions on the observers’ faces who probably had never been happier and full of anticipation for the next amazing feat.

But, what truly was most fascinating was the sound.  I now had all of me available just to listen.

For awhile, I even closed my eyes to pay attention only to the sounds and not the sights. I heard the crack of pectoral fins slapping the water; whistles; fog horns; exhales; snorts; monster splashes; the whoosh of spray emerging from a blowhole; birds chirping; and whale songs that I can’t even begin to describe as I heard different sounds from different whales as they cruised through the water.

Then, I’d detect the sounds were loud or distant, so I knew just how far away the whale was.

Learn How to Make More Travel Memories

Watch and Listen

I learned an amazing lesson this day on the boat. I can thank both the woman sitting next to me and the “whale soup.”

But, it’s something I should have learned from my husband long ago.  He rarely, if ever, takes photos on vacation; it has to be a really special event or scenery for him to pull out a camera.

He always just watched and listened.

how to create travel memories on vacation without a camera

My husband just watching and listening. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Luxe Traveling Mom.

So, I vowed during my remaining whale experience to focus on Alaska and its many wonders for the rest of the trip and not so much on getting the perfect shot.

I actually did pretty well.

While I kept my camera in my pocket, I only pulled it out for something spectacular like bears and cubs, waterfalls, and icebergs.

The rest of the time I adhered to my new vow and after I got one picture of an iceberg calving, I put it away for the rest and let me tell you, IT IS THE MOST AMAZING SOUND!

capturing travel memories without a camera

Just imagine what the splash of this calving iceberg sounds like. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Luxe Traveling Mom.

For the future, unless photography is the purpose of my trip, it will be a photo here and there to show friends and family and for social media. Because honestly, most of the time they just sit on my SD card anyway, right?

On my next adventure, my time will be spent focusing on what’s right before my eyes, the people I’m sharing the journey with, and ensuring that I’m creating magical travel memories for myself.

I encourage you to pay attention to your behavior on your next vacation.  If you’re like me, I hope that you can bring yourself to put down the camera, at least for a little while, and let the beauty of the world unfold before your eyes and ears.  You will be truly amazed at what you’ve been missing…and how many more travel memories you’ll capture by watching and listening.

how i created travel memories without a camera