When pictures and video take over

One of the few pix from our recent trip to the San Juans.

One of the few pix from our recent trip to the San Juans.

How many pictures do you take on your family trips? How much video? According to a story in this weekend’s edition of The New York Times, it might be too much.

The piece, which appeared in the Style section (technically it’s Fashion & Style, but I’m old-school), was titled, “That’s a Wrap. What Did I miss?” It investigated the current phenomenon through which traveling families—including kids themselves—feel such a need to document vacations that they run the risk of failing to experience the trip without the help of a lens and screen.

Though the story was a bit superficial (most Style pieces are), it raised some interesting questions. IMHO, the most important one is this: In today’s age of Smartphones and GoPros, how many pictures and/or videos are too much?

It’s a question I ask myself on every trip. My wife is a bit of a Luddite, which means all of the documentation falls on me. I embrace this role because I’m a journalist (and because I’m always thinking about what will make good shots for this blog). At the same time, I shun the role because I’m a huge proponent of living in the moment and I can’t stand having to experience stuff with a device in my face.

(This, of course, is separate from our annual tech-free trip, about which I blogged earlier this month.)

What usually ends up happening is what I like to call the “hunt-and-peck” method of photography. We go places. I keep my phone (a Samsung Galaxy S5) in a manpurse (yes, I carry a manpurse). I whip it out to snap individual photos every now and again. I usually get one or two decent shots. And that’s it.

Because I’m such a spaz about privacy, most of the pictures I do take have nothing but the backs of the girls’ heads. Also, at no point on our family vacations do we do video. And I don’t let the kids use my GoPro (I use it mostly for adventure travel assignments such as this one).

The result? We rarely capture that many images from our trips.

Most of the time, Powerwoman and I are fine with this reality—as parents we share the belief that experiences are the most important part of traveling together as a family (for more on our philosophy, read this and this). When we come home, however, we usually lament the fact that we don’t have pictures of Adventure X or Beach Day Y to print out, frame, and toss on the mantle.

Where does this leave us? Ahead of the game but behind the curve, I guess. I encourage everyone to take fewer pictures, record less video and just BE with your kids on vacation. At the same time, don’t give it up cold turkey. Every now and then a memento or two can be nice and can make you smile.

What’s your approach to pictures and video on vacation and why?

Special needs, yet just like us

Meghann Harris, courtesy of The New York Times

Meghann Harris, courtesy of The New York Times

I always am encouraged when I see articles geared toward parents of special needs kids who love to travel. The fact that these parents prioritize travel is wonderful; that reporters actually pay attention to them is something even better.

Naturally, then, I was delighted to open up the Travel section of The New York Times this weekend and see a Q&A with Meghann Harris, the founder of SpecialGlobe.com. The site is a travel website for families with children who are on the autism spectrum and have other physical and cognitive challenges. In short, it’s a great resource for special needs parents who want to travel but don’t know how.

The Q&A, written up by Rachel Lee Harris, is short and sweet; it details a bit of history about how the site was founded, and offers insight on the day-to-day challenges of traveling with a special needs child.

Personally, I don’t care how long or detailed the piece is: It raises awareness, and that’s huge.

I discovered SpecialGlobe.com while researching an article for one of my clients—a nonprofit that focuses on educating and informing parents of children on the autism spectrum. I was moved then and I’m moved now. Families with kids who have special needs travel just like families with “ordinary” kids; the special needs families just look for different things. It’s about time we started including these families in the overarching conversation about family travel. Thanks for broadening the discussion, NYT.

Great read about family travel, world affairs

One of Julie's incredible photos from Mexico City.

One of Julie’s pics from Ayotzinapa protests in Mexico City.

I’m lucky to have some super-smart and super-talented writer friends. That means I get the privilege of knowing the people behind some pretty powerful and amazing and thought-provoking pieces. It also means I get to share their work when the work warrants sharing.

The latest example of this phenomenon: An epic essay for The New York Times’ “Motherlode” blog written by New York City-based pal, Julie Schweitert Collazo.

Julie’s article touches upon everything from family travel to world affairs—in particular attempts to cover protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Mexico City, Mexico. The story inspires readers to think about how to discuss sensitive issues with kids, and sparks further consideration about how we as traveling families can guarantee our children learn about the world from the stuff we experience with them on the road.

In short, especially if you strive to inform your kids about current events, I consider it a must-read.

For more of Julie’s work, check out Collazo Projects, a site that showcases some of her diverse portfolio and doubles as a personal/professional blog. Julie, who is a mother of three, often writes about family travel in this forum (sometimes in Spanish, too!), and always offers a perspective worth considering.

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