I won't tell you the number of times I've reviewed the 800 pictures I took while travelling through Croatia and Turkey this summer. I click through them with pride, thrilled to think that I was there. Only a little over three weeks since I came back, reviewing these pictures left me feeling a little empty. Just yesterday, I had the audacity to wonder "was it worth it?"
My friend and I spent eight months carefully planning and dramatically anticipating our trip. The wait was torture. We spent a lot of money. I took time off from work. Spent weeks away from my partner and family. Travelled half way across the world, expended energy and risked fatigue.... all, for what? 800 really, really good pictures?
I was motivated to plan a trip after hearing people share their experiences travelling, and of course, being envious. While watching a movie, my boyfriend had the ability to point out yes, that was the Grand Bazaar that James Bond just drove his motorcycle through. A colleague at work could tell me that two girls may not feel totally comfortable travelling in Turkey alone. Both individuals had experiences that no matter how much reading or hoping or saving I did, I would just have to get my butt out there to know for myself.
After reminding myself about that last night, I transported myself back to Croatia and immediately remembered the warmth I felt on the beach. The salty taste of the fresh fish on the boat. The terror I felt driving and navigating on a scooter. In Istanbul, I remember the way my sides hurt when my travel mate and I stumbled upon the Whirling Dervish. And the tension that hung in the air at Taksim Square.
That's what made my trip worth it. Not the pictures, not the fact that I saw those sights or walked that street, and definitely not the fact that I can check off Istanbul and Dubrovnik on my long list of Places To Go Before I Die. The innumerable feelings I had of wonder, excitement and calm is what made it an experience. Not what it looked like.
Of course I feel empty looking at pictures. They're a two dimensional representation of an experience with more dimensions than I have pictures. There's no way they could do justice to months of planning, weeks away from home, and thousands of dollars spent. My experience isn't captured in them, and they don't contain my memories.
But they do act as welcome triggers: