“What are your ways of staying present and more deeply observant when you travel?”
I asked that question in last week’s Australia Letter, when I wrote about a coastal hike that led me to wonder what I was missing by delegating memories to my camera, not my brain.
It resonated with many of you. Dozens of readers wrote to us with thoughtful suggestions.
So I’m turning the newsletter over to you. Here are some of our favorite responses, edited lightly for length:
Take photos, but mindfully
“I give myself a quota of no more than 20 photos per travel. That way I think about each and every photo I take.”
— Michelle Baltazar
“I stay present when I travel by bringing only a film camera for photos. Digital cameras (even your iPhone camera roll) are the devil, you will never look back on hundreds (even a few tens) of digital photos. But you’re sure to treasure those precious few rolls of 36 exposures when you develop them after arriving back home.”
— Greer Clarke
“Ten-minute rule. Look. Don’t touch the phone or camera for at least 10 minutes before snapping. Let impressions sink in. Contemplate, then capture.”
— Tom Neal Tacker
Find creative ways to observe
“I carry notebook, colored pencils and a biro to study a scene, then sketch down — that image stays in my mind years later.”
— Mary Mowbray
“I love the idea of drawing but I’ve never been very good at it. So my substitute is to write stories about places. I take what I’m seeing — the people, the wildlife, the coastline, the atmosphere, the history — and condense it into fragments of fiction that, for me, really encapsulate the feel of a place. As I go back and read them I remember the places I visited, and when I revisit places I can add onto the stories I wrote the first time around.”
— Javiera Scarratt
“At the end of a day of travel, my boyfriend and I wrote separate diaries of the day’s events. We then read them to each other. It was remarkable how different our observations were, like we didn’t experience the same things.”
— Marsha Matson
Ditch the camera
“In 1980, I spent four and a half months hitchhiking from San Francisco to New York. Two months into my travels I mailed my camera back to Australia — I didn’t want anything coming between me and what I was experiencing and the people I was meeting. Even now with an iPhone in my pocket, a small sketchbook is what I’ll use if I want a visual record.”
— Matthew Martin
“I turn the phone off and only turn it on when I really want to remember the view. The odd thing though is it is the ‘feeling’ of the vista, rather than the vista per se, that holds the strongest memory.”
— Mark Thomas
“Stop and breathe for a second or two longer than is comfortable.”
— Lisa Murray
Now, on to the news of the week.
Australia and the Pacific
China Is Leasing an Entire Pacific Island. Its Residents Are Shocked. What could Beijing want with Tulagi, where Allied forces fought a bloody battle with Japan in World War II? Some fear it has military ambitions.
Australian Booksellers Block Sales of Ronan Farrow’s Book. “Catch and Kill” was pulled by two of Australia’s biggest online book retailers, amid legal threats from a former National Enquirer editor who features prominently in it.
Can Mayors Save the World From Climate Change? Australia’s northern coast is a case study on the impacts of a warming planet. Small-town leaders there are struggling with constituents who doubt reality.
Nick Cave Searches for Solace on ‘Ghosteen.’ Four years after his son’s fatal accident, the Australian musician has made an eerie, meditative album.
A Virus in Koala DNA Shows Evolution in Action. Many animals, including humans, have DNA left over from ancient viral infections. In koalas, researchers are studying the process in real time.
Around the Times
The China Connection: How One D.E.A. Agent Cracked a Global Fentanyl Ring. Fentanyl is quickly becoming America’s deadliest drug. But law enforcement couldn’t trace it to its source — until one teenager overdosed in North Dakota.
12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia. The Russian Air Force has repeatedly bombed hospitals in Syria to crush the last pockets of resistance to President Bashar al-Assad, according to a New York Times investigation.
Boris Johnson Has a Brexit Deal. Now He Need’s Parliament’s Support. With a Brexit deal in hand, Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces an uphill struggle to marshal enough votes for his plan.
How Climate Change Impacts Wine. Changing weather is forcing winemakers worldwide to rethink how they do business and, in some cases, transforming centuries-old traditions.
Why Don’t Rich People Just Stop Working? Are the wealthy addicted to money, competition, or just feeling important? Yes.
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