Staying Present: Traveling & Content Creation

A snap from my amazing time during a day trip to Braga.

I love having this blog and an iPhone to be able to capture and document my memories. I am able to look back on my past travels, such as my first solo trip to Montreal and remember the little things about the experience. And now with technology our phones can capture amazing quality photos and take great videos that can also remind us of our great times.

However, there’s also a danger with all this. Because I know I wanted to capture my experience while in Portugal I became really aware of my surroundings. I thought, “this would be amazing in a blog post” or “I can’t wait to review this!” These thoughts aren’t necessarily bad, but even as a small “blogger” I can now see how consuming it can be to get content. It’s so easy to disconnect and not stay present. Here are my suggestions on how to get great content yet still stay present while traveling.

An Anecdote from Porto

Bordalo II Half Rabbit in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

During the last two nights of my stay in Porto (technically Vila Nova de Gaia) I wanted to make sure I saw the Half Rabbit street art in Vila Nova de Gaia. It is by Bordalo II and was made using recycled parts and trash from around the city. One half is painted and the other half was left in its natural state. It wasn’t on many lists of things to see while in Porto, but I’m glad I did view it. It’s quite amazing, isn’t it?

So before heading out one day I went to find it. Luckily, it was less than a 5 minute walk from my Airbnb. There were a group of people around, taking photos in front of it and just admiring the work. I felt a little awkward taking selfies and even just being around there alone. So I took a couple photos and videos and then went about my day. However, something kept lingering throughout the duration of the day. I felt like I only looked at the Half Rabbit through my camera screen and not my own eyes.

When I tried envisioning it, it came through what I captured on my phone. That’s not how traveling should be. It made me think of concerts and the countless of spectators that keep their phones out during the entire concert. Sure, it’s great for the fans who can’t make the show. But it’s important to put your phone down and really be present at the concert. I wen to Albany to see Ariana Grande open up her Sweetener Tour and made a concerted effort to stay present by putting my phone down during certain songs entirely. Even the clips I did get weren’t of the entire song,

Here is my vlog from the Ariana Grande concert. I was able to capture plenty of footage to look back on. But my memories don’t come from my phone, they come from my mind.

So… I headed back to the Half Rabbit

This didn’t sit right with me. So I headed back to the Half Rabbit. And this time I didn’t take out my phone at all. No photos. No videos. Just me, other tourists and the Half Rabbit. I made sure I got a really good look at it, admired it’s beauty and appreciated the fact that I was there. This sentiment didn’t stop here. These last two days in Porto I spent a lot of time around Cais da Ribeira.

Cais da Ribeira

Cais da Ribeira is right near the water and the Dom Luis Bridge. There are a bunch of restaurants and shops around. It’s very crowded and touristy, but I love spending time by the water. While I did catch some cool photos and videos of this area, I spent a lot of time not on my phone. And, well, not doing anything at all. Often times I would opt for a book when I wanted to stay outside. But people watching and soaking in the environment is just as amazing. It’s an awesome way to connect with your surroundings and yes, be present.

Some of my favorite moments in the city of Porto came from doing absolutely nothing but staring at the water and appreciating that I was there. It’s been almost a month since I returned (at the time of writing this) and I’m still in shock that I was there. In FREAKING EUROPE. Taking this time to be present with myself and where I was is something I’m so grateful for doing.

Remember why you’re there

This may be hard for travelers who travel for work. I myself don’t, this isn’t a full time job (yet). So remember that while you did come to take in the sights and see all the cool scenery, your lust probably didn’t want to be in just seeing in though a lens. You could do that on Pinterest or Google Images. Instead, you wanted to experience it yourself. So do just that. Experience it.

Of course I’m not telling you to take photos or videos. I still loved doing that during my trip. Just don’t let that be the main focus of any outing. Don’t let it overcome your experience where you’re just worried on capturing the right moment for the ‘gram. Being present may be extra tough in a society that has groomed us to always be on the phone. It’s great to share your experience with your friends, but remember that they’re only seeing one part of your trip. Or they should be. Remember that there’s so much more to experiences than ones you capture.

Gratitude

A snap from Lisbon, Portugal

Everyone who is creating content/capturing memories while traveling has their reasons. For some it’s a job, others have a side project such as a blog or Youtube channel, others just love photography and some just want cool photos to post online. No matter the reason, take a step back and appreciate that you’re there. This is probably the best way to stay present while traveling. Have gratitude and recognize that there are others who wish they could have the opportunity to travel. Recognize that YOU yourself wanted to travel for a long time and get to do it.

The weather in Porto was cold, rainy and dreary most of the time. It obviously put somewhat of a damper on things and there were days I felt like I didn’t enjoy as much due to this. But I told myself to snap out of it. First off, I’m from New York and spent four years at college in Albany, I can deal with cold weather. I told myself I could have cold, dreary weather in New York or Newark where I lived for a brief stint (and didn’t like at all). Or I could be in the cold, dreary weather on European soil. For this gal who has dreamed of exploring Europe for years, the choice was obvious.

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