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When you get wrapped up in schedules, work and errands it’s easy to forget that you should be paying attention, and appreciating, the day to day activities, habits or routines. I do really well keeping a journal or notes of my travels – I feel like I see and do so many new things each day and want to somehow document them to remember and look back upon. While I’m traveling the feeling that I’m fully experiencing life is at it’s highest, yet when settled in one spot for longer than a couple weeks, I tend to stop taking note of how I’m spending my time. I’m doing similar things day in and day out and there’s less novelty, less urgency, to write it down or feel like it’s a once in lifetime experience.
But it is.
Even if you’re doing the same thing for the hundredth time, there’s something unique and special about that moment. And, looking back, wouldn’t you rather remember the details about what you spent most of your time doing rather than just the ‘big’ events?
I’ve always enjoyed history – learning how things were in the past, what places looked like and how people lived. Looking at old photos, I think it’s more interesting to see the spontaneous, unintentional shots with random details you normally wouldn’t think of to document in many posed pictures. The old car in the background, the 60s-style wallpaper, the previous forms of tools, appliances and electronics. This is what people used and looked at and interacted with everyday.
This was their life. Not just a high school dance portrait or getting dressed up on Easter Sunday.
Of course, when you travel you want to see the big sites, the attractions and activities that are known around the world. And those are important. It’s incredible to see something in real life that you’ve always only heard about or seen pictures of. The Eiffel Tower, a red double-decker bus, an exotic jungle temple. Even if the reality doesn’t meet your expectations, there’s still a moment when you think, “This is it“- and that’s special.
But I’m even more interested in the things you don’t initially think out or set out to go find.
I don’t mind long bus or train rides traveling, even during the day, because I can just watch the world around me and pick up clues as to how the people there live their lives. Especially in Southeast Asia, where so much of life is lived outdoors or less private (many shops also double as people’s homes, everyone eats outdoors year round because of the warm weather), you can see a lot just riding through. You notice families sitting on the floor watching television and eating dinner, walking their motorbikes inside the front door for the night, sitting in groups outside with a bottle of whiskey and short glasses of ice and soda.
When you live in a place different from home you pick up on so many details and ways of doing things that are different from where you came from. I would never think twice about what the bus tickets look like in Seattle, but here I’ve kept tickets from all my trips. Even the mundane errands, like going to the dentist or getting your oil changed, are opportunities to learn more and see a different side of where I’m living. I’m not just going through the motions because everything is still new and different even if just in some minor way.
Though I’m more aware of these little daily occurrences while they’re happening, I still don’t do anything to document them. I already know these are the things I’ll want to remember, and yet the ones that I will probably forget the quickest. Funny how that works.