Over the past month, our family has spent a lot of time looking at pictures. My father-in-law, once an avid traveler and adventurer, now finds pleasure in perusing old family photo albums. Seeing all of the photos from the past, while at the same time putting together our family’s 2017 album, leads me to wonder about all of the pictures that people take today. I hear countless people talk about the thousands of photos on their phones. I cringe at the tales of those who have lost thousands of photos because of a phone failure. I recall all of the pictures my grandfather took throughout his life, so meticulously placed in albums and labeled with tender loving care. And I think about the albums I have put together every year since 1992 that my children still love to pull out and go through, laughing at their childhood antics and fondly recalling those who are no longer with us. How will it be for future generations when there are no longer any photos to see, no albums to leaf through, no tangible proof that any of us were here? I get that people are taking lots of pictures, but what do they do with those photos? Where do those memories go?
I wonder how many people have never created a photo album or even own printed photos, other than a few framed prints around their house. We all know people who have boxes of developed but undocumented photos stashed away somewhere or laptops filled with pictures with no idea as to whom or what are in them. We live in a world where most pictures depict someone’s face, with their forehead cut off or their tongue sticking out, that is here one instant and self-destructs the next.
My oldest daughter disagrees with me about this being a problem. She says that her generation takes more photos than any other, and they print and enjoy looking at them with their friends. She believes that the digital age has allowed the taking of photos to become more popular than ever. But that isn’t my point. The Professional Photographers Association claims that 42% of people no longer print photos. Some claim that this isn’t an issue because digital drives can be handed down from generation to generation. Yep, those old floppy disks full of pictures sure are valuable today, aren’t they? Or those flash drives that hold all of your family memories? How will those be accessed in twenty years? No problem, you say, because Instagram and Facebook hold a treasure-trove of photographic memories. Not true, my dear, not true. I noticed recently that even those photos only date back a few years. Facebook is deleting your memories, and I bet you didn’t even know it. Go ahead, check for yourself. All those pictures you shared several years ago are gone.
Things looks pretty dim for future generations when it comes to remembering what great-grandma looked like or how much someone resembles his grandfather.
Cameras are being sold at record low numbers. Everyone depends upon their phones for pictures, but once a digital image disappears, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. I recently read Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs, a novel about a photographer who specializes in recovering newly discovered film from years gone by. Working with anthropologists, historians, and families, she’s able to identify POWs, MIAs, and other people whose pictures have survived the years, locked inside a roll of film in a forgotten camera. Will there come a time when there are no cameras, no never-before-seen film or even SD cards to help unlock secrets of the past? Adding to the problem is that most people who do print photos use cheap printers with ink that fades and have no idea how to actually go about properly preserving photos.
Judging by what I’m seeing and hearing, Ancestry.com is exploding with people looking for answers to their past. DNA tests are becoming commonplace among people from ages twenty to fifty. We are yearning for a connection to the past, a window to tell us who we are and from where we came. I can’t help but wonder if it’s because we no longer have as many photographs to help us find that missing link. No more photos of common things like preparing a meal or families enjoying a simple day at home. All photos are either staged for Instagram perfection or are filtered before being dispersed to cyberspace for a quick laugh and instant destruction.
I hope I’m wrong and that younger generations do realize what a gift they have with all of this modern technology and and will use it in a way that allows them to pass down cherished images to their children and grandchildren. I hope more people will begin taking and saving photos in some way or another instead of continuing down the road of only taking selfies that have no meaning and no lasting significance. I hope my daughter is right and that her generation of twenty-somethings are saving their photos in a way that will let their children and grandchildren see them. I hope everyone strives to preserve pictures of the past and of those important people who should never be forgotten but will not show up in any history book. Otherwise we are not only losing the Greatest Generation but our link to all generations since then.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Meand Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016.Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.
Over the past ten years, I’ve done more than my fair share of traveling, both foreign and domestic. With a husband who travels weekly, I often have my pick of getaways; and all the frequent flyer mileage adds up, meaning I can travel with Ken on business as well as travel on my own or with friends and family. I’ve learned a lot about traveling, sightseeing, and staying sane when all plans seem to go awry. Here are the most important things I’ve taken away from my experiences.
Plan for the unexpected. We used to laugh at my grandmother who always carried an extra pair of underwear in her purse in case she was stranded somewhere. And an extra pair of shoes, but that’s another story. We might have thought she was crazy, but she was on to something. More often than they’d like to admit, airlines screw up. Twice in the past five years, I arrived at my destination without a bag. Both times, I had a carry on with enough clothes to get me through a couple days. Included in the bags were my essentials – reading glasses, contacts (when I wore them), camera, device chargers, and any medication I might need. This past week, I spent almost three days without my luggage. No need to panic. I had just about everything I needed and could easily obtain the rest. Okay, the thought of losing all those souvenirs almost killed me, but I had to let the worry go and have fun. Thankfully, everything showed up just when I needed it.
Plan your itinerary. Last week, Katie and I met a mother and son traveling from Florida. Maru had an extensive list of everything she wanted to see on their trip. As they traveled, she checked off the items one by one. Katie and I also had a list, but ours was a daily itinerary of what we should see each day. We checked the list each night to see what we did and what we missed. The key to doing this right is to research ahead of time, and know what you want to see and how much time it takes to do each thing. But in the end, you must be willing to….
Be flexible. Not every day goes as planned. Waits in line can be longer than anticipated. An unexpected visit from the queen might cause the palace you planned to tour to be closed for the day. Or, like Katie and I, you might meet others and decide to switch things around so that you can all do things together. While in Canada, we completely shifted gears and gave up our second night in Halifax after falling in love with the smaller coastal towns and opting to stay in one of those instead. While planning can save you a lot of headaches and heartaches, being flexible can make the entire trip go more smoothly and be more enjoyable.
Know your money situation. What is the currency? Does your credit card charge fees for international use? Does your debit card work overseas? Do you really need to use foreign currency, or are US dollars better? In some countries, particularly in South America, they are. Research before you go. Know if you’re visiting countries that are more expensive than than others. How will this affect your travel? A word of advice: if you’re going to Iceland, plan on eating a lot of hot dogs and drinking water; and in Copenhagen, know where the McDonald’s is. Or be prepared to allot a hefty sum for food and drinks.
Know when you need a camera and when you don’t. When Ken and I visited the Holy Land, it was impressed upon us to not worry about taking pictures because it’s more important to concentrate on being in the moment in the holy places. While we did take pictures, we took far fewer than we normally would, and we tried to really soak up everything around us before worrying about snapping the shots we felt would be the most meaningful. Sometimes, I take my camera with me, but other times, I rely on my phone. If you’re climbing a mountain or walking behind a waterfall, leave the camera behind. Reach for your phone only when you know that you, and the phone, are safe from harm. Are you going biking on an island off the coast of Australia? Then the phone is sufficient. Riding a tour bus with several historic and scenic stops? Then the good camera is a must. Be wise, and know which is the best option for the type of photos you want or the logistics of the place you’re visiting.
Take the bus. Most often, you visit someplace where you want to explore every alley and corner. Other times, you just need enough time to see the highlights. And many times, there’s just one particular thing to see. Whether it’s a ride to Stonehenge or a twelve-hour manic race to see everything in a thirty mile radius of Quebec City, don’t be afraid to join the tour. Bus rides provide so many opportunities and benefits – you can see multiple sights in a day without having to rent a car or read a map; you have a built-in tour guide (and they’re usually fabulous); you can meet other travelers along the way and get ideas for other places to visit; you learn a lot about the culture, history, and landscape of the place you’re visiting; and, though you may be disappointed that you can’t hit every shop in each town you go to, most of the time, the driver has the timing down to a tee. He or she knows exactly how long it will take for you to climb to the top of the waterfall, take a boat ride on the Loch Ness, or visit the black sand beach.
Don’t be afraid to drive…on the left. When Mom and I went to Ireland, I admit that I was pretty nervous about renting a car. Butour plan to see every single part of the country in eight days would not have worked otherwise. So I bit the bullet and rented the car. Though it felt a little strange at first, before long, driving on the left side of the road become natural. A year later, when Ken and I visited New Zealand and decided to take a drive up the coast, I actually offered to do the driving. Just like riding a bike, the skill came back to me. Would I be nervous to do it again? Sure, I would. It’s not the way I learned to do a task I do every day, but I wouldn’t say no.
Know when you need a guide. Most of the time, you can see everything you want without help. We have the Internet to teach us history before we go. We have the Maps app to keep us from getting lost. And there’s a City Pass for almost every major city in the world that cuts your cost or saves you the wait in line. However, there are times when it’s best to hire a guide. Some examples: the only way to avoid the three to four hour wait at the Vatican or the Colosseum, is to have a guide. Not only is it well worth the time you save, you will learn more about the Basilica and museums than you ever could on your own. Likewise, if you really want to get know the city of Florence, with hundreds of years of history, a guide is your best option. And those kooky nighttime ghost tours you can do on your own with the online guide – forget about it. Only a guide will really make the stories come to life. By the way, that City Pass I mentioned? I highly recommend them. But do your research. We found them to be a total waste of money in Madrid, and depending upon your schedule, choosing the right length of use can be tricky. But I wouldn’t visit New York or London without one.
Be alert. I have never felt unsafe when traveling, and so far, I’ve never had anything stolen or taken from a pickpocket, but those things do happen all the time. Know your surroundings. Keep your distance from people or situations that don’t look or feel right. Always know where your money, credit cards, phone, etc. are at all times. I sacrifice my purse for a smaller cross-shoulder bag whenever I’m traveling. It keeps everything close to my body and keeps my money and cards stored neatly without the need for a wallet which can be easily lifted from an open bag. In Barcelona, last summer, a woman walking near us on the sidewalk kept steering uncomfortably close to me. Bells went off, and when she reached for my purse, I was ready. Firmly holding onto the bag with both hands, I looked right at her and said, “No, go away.” She quickly darted through the crowd without looking back. When my family asked what happened, I told them. I knew my instincts were right, and it was a good lesson for my girls. If I had been one to pay more attention to my phone than to those around me, that story could have had a very different ending.
Keep a check on your items. While I’ve never had anything taken, we have had the unfortunate lost article or two. Twice on this last trip, Katie left something behind in her haste to pack up and move out. One was a tube of posters she had bought in London for her dorm room. The other was the blue and purple tartan scarf we bought in Scotland that so beautifully matched her eyes. If you’re changing planes or trains, or grabbing a quick meal somewhere between destinations, always pack up before it’s time to leave, check your area, and then double check that you’ve gotten everything. A coupe posters and a scarf can be easily replaced and don’t present a large monetary loss. A piece of art, a hand-knitted sweater, or a one-of-a-kind purchase, would be another, tragic, story.
Make friends. I know, that sounds crazy. How can you make “real” friends while traveling? Believe me, you can. Some of my closest friends are people Ken and I met on a ten-day pilgrimage to the Holy Lands. While that is a little different as it’s an emotional and spiritual journey rather than just a vacation, the same general rule applies when traveling. While you can’t fully let your guard down with strangers, you can make friends. On a cruise, several years ago, my girls joined the kids’ clubs offered onboard. To this day, they are still friends with a number of those kids and keep in touch via social media and email. Rebecca even went to a senior prom with a boy with whom she became friends. Katie and I had so much in common with the mother and son that we met in Scotland last week, that we’re trying to make plans to get together again. You never know where a chance meeting might lead, what long-lasting friendships may develop. As I’ve said many times before, I don’t believe in coincidence. Everything happens, and every person enters our lives, for a reason.
Enjoy every moment. Don’t lose sight of why you’re there and with whom you’re traveling. Put down the phone (I know, you all get tired of hearing me harp on that), talk to your companions and to other travelers, savor your meals, rise with the sun, and go to bed when everything shuts down. Do that late night ghost tour. Eat that local delicacy you never thought you’d try. Visit the museums, the parks, the beaches, the out-of-the-way overlooks and grueling hikes. You will never regret having done those things, but I guarantee that you will regret what you don’t do. Life is short. You might never get back to the same place twice. Take advantage of everything you can while you’re there.
Be inspired. Traveling has taught my children to reach beyond their own worlds and eat new foods, learn about other cultures, and dare to try something new. This sense of adventure can often lead to new experiences even after returning home. After discovering foreign foods that we like, we often go home and attempt to recreate the recipe. More times than not, it works! Reeling at the expense of the Icelandic sweaters, Katie bought a kit with yarn and a pattern and is planning to knit one for herself. Ken’s cousin, Crista, came home from traveling and began brewing her own craft beer. We all took up kayaking after Ken and I paddled with the penguins off the south coast of New Zealand. And I’ve won two literary awards for my book, Whispering Vines, inspired by a trip to a small, family-owned winery near Verona. Be open to learning and to doing. Every trip has the potential to lead to something bigger in your life.
Finally, share your love of travel and your experiences with others. Some may only see these places through your eyes. Others may be inspired to follow your lead. It’s both a large and a small world out there. See all that you see, and let others know how easy it is to do the same.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.
I have spent the last few days working on digitizing our family photo albums. It’s a tedious task but one done with love. For the first fifteen years of my marriage, I meticulously recorded every event in our lives by hand–cutting, pasting, and decorating page by page until each scrapbook was perfect. By 2009, I had graduated to a digital camera and started creating all of my albums on my computer. It’s a mandatory family tradition that we all five gather, just after New Year’s, to “watch” the album on our big screen TV to critique, correct, and finalize the year of memories before I send the pages away to be made into a book.
As I’m going through each non-digital album, scanning in page after page, I’m reliving every little moment of the lives of my girls thus far (though to be honest, I have so many albums with so many memories, that I haven’t even begun to scan the “Katie and Morgan years”). It’s hard to believe that Rebecca, who turned twenty-one this past Sunday, was ever so small. Everything was recorded from her birth to her first laugh, her first crawl, and her first best friend.
Every year, my scrapbooks grew larger as I filled the pages with childhood milestones, family get-togethers, vacations, and, later, school memories. It is not an exaggeration to say that our albums fill an entire bookcase in our house. And the best part is that the girls really do love pulling them out and looking through them. Katie can see her Baptism, the first time she held her own bottle, the first time she lifted her head, ate spaghetti, and laughed at our beloved Granny.
Morgan’s early pictures from her birth to her first steps and first Halloween reveal her orneriness and her deep, genuine love for her best friend and big sister, Katie. As I look back at all of the fun times and cherished memories, I think of their closeness, and it makes me both happy and sad. Happy because I’ve never known two sisters who are closer than they are. Not that Rebecca isn’t greatly loved by her sisters, but a deep, unwavering bond exists between Morgan and Katie that I pray will always remain, and that is where the sadness comes in.
For you see, our albums are changing as the years go by. There are fewer photos of Rebecca as she leads a life away from home, and next year, my Katie will leave on her own new adventure. The Schisler Family Album for 2017 will portray senior portraits, law school and college acceptances, two graduations, and a world that consists of Mom, Dad, and Morgan, without Rebecca or Katie. It’s an unfamiliar landscape that is sure to bring ups and downs, highs and lows, and the promise of change around every corner.
At least I know one thing for sure. No matter where my children go, I will always have them tucked safely away inside my heart and on my bookshelf.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines,is a 2017 Illumination Award winner; and her most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.
Ken has always given me a hard time on long car rides about having my nose stuck in a book instead of looking around. While I can’t argue his point that there’s so much to see, those long stretches of highway just scream for distraction. However, I’ve always managed to know when to put the book down and take in the beauty around me. Sadly, this knowledge seems to be lost on most people today who can’t lift their eyes from their phones for more than thirty seconds. There is so much that they are missing. Here are just a few of the reasons why everyone needs to put their phones down more often and open their eyes to the world around them.Read more →
I know that when it comes to taking pictures, I drive my family crazy. Countless times I have heard the phrase, “Another picture?” or “Haven’t we taken enough?” or “Can I go now?” They can keep complaining. It doesn’t phase me. I will continue to take their pictures, their friends’ pictures, our pets’ pictures, our family pictures, our vacation pictures, our holiday pictures, and any other photos I feel like taking￼ because it all boils down to one thing – this event, this memory, this small moment in time will only happen once and only last for an instant, and I want to remember it forever. Read more →
Is it just me, or is there something special about this time of year? The days are still warm, but the nights are crisp and cool. Routines are being established (or re-established), bedtimes are earlier, my favorite shows are coming back on TV, the holidays are just around the corner; here on the Shore, the crabs are fatter and tastier, and I could go on and on. Spring might be the time that the world renews itself, but fall is my time to renew and reflect. It’s when I start thinking about and writing my newest novel. Truthfully, it’s when I do my best writing. It’s when my head seems to be clearer, and my mind is ready to focus. I think a lot of it has to do with the girls returning to school. We are all ready to get back to business. But there’s no question that a good part of it has to do with living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland at this most beautiful time of year. Read more →
These days, I am driving my daughters crazy! You may ask, isn’t that normal for a parent? Yes, but right now, it’s worse than normal. You see, I love this time of year, from October through Mid-December. No, not the holiday season, though I do love that as well. It’s autumn that I love. Okay, let me clarify that. Do I love the drop in temperatures, the countless leaves in the yard, the frost on my windshield and the morning fog? Well, no, I honestly don’t. However, I do love the autumn, and I’ll tell you why. Read more →
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