“It’s too soon to tell” applies not just to giving yourself time to process your experience and thoughts. It also relates to the items you’ve used to record those experiences on your trip. In my case, this means a journal and far more photos than I will ever use.
When I first get back from a trip, I’m excited to review what I’ve shot, cull the obvious bad photos and then begin the process of finding the true “keepers.” The trouble is, when I first get home and go through all the photos, I don’t see the photos. Instead, I see the places themselves since the memories are so fresh. I’m not yet able to view the photo the way an outsider would but instead I see within that digital image the very place and circumstances of the moment it was taken.
Only later, after a week or so, can I begin to see the image in the same way a person who wasn’t there perceives it. Even then, I’m partially blinded by the experience of having been there, but more objective than on those first few days home.
Of course, everyone wants to see your photos right when you get back because a week or two later and they will barely recall that you were gone. But wait. Resist the urge to show anyone anything until you have time to see the images more objectively. It will make it a better experience for them…and for you.
For example, here are two photos from the same spot, the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo, Peru. The day after we returned, I would have shown you the first image, not the second. Why? Because it had more immediate meaning to me.
We took the shot because a local vendor had told my wife that the rock on the side of the mountain bears the resemblance of a face. None of the rest of us could see it at the time, but my wife, Kris, was convinced of it. This first photo is her testimony to the “obviousness” of the big Inca guy looking down on the valley.
You can be the judge, but it seemed like such a stretch at the time that we joked for rest of the day about seeing faces in walls, dirt piles and even that night in a heap of green mashed potatoes (yes, green – potatoes come in a rainbow of colors in Peru). Thus, when I see that picture, I tag it with all the humor and affection associated with the event.
The second photo (or third if you count the close-up of the first photo) shows the same mountain and the rocks of the face, but other elements as well such as additional ruins and the fountain in the foreground. This image takes nothing away from our associations with the face on the mountain. But it adds additional context that makes it easier for others to share in our story.
Photos serve as personal markers of events and the related experiences from our trips. But they can also be gateways for others into those experiences. And when we give ourselves time after we return home, we find that we can select images to share that still convey meaning to us while translating at least some of that meaning better to others.
They won’t be able to appreciate the fullness of your experience, but maybe, just maybe, they can make out the shape of a face on that mountainside…