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In praise of travel albums

I visited my friend recently after she came back from her month-long trip to Asia and was anxious to see her travel pictures. She said, however, that she hadn’t printed any out, nor did she plan to, but I could see them on her Facebook page. I received a similar response from a friend who had just travelled to Europe, and had posted her pictures on Flickr. While digital cameras and the internet have made it easier, faster, and cheaper to share our travel pictures, there is something special about putting them in a physical album, rather than an online one.

Before digital cameras, I remember how excited I would be to get the film from my camera developed when I got back from a trip. I couldn’t exactly remember what shots I had taken, how they would turn out, or how many of them would have my thumb in them. Now with digital technology, you can see the pictures you have snapped right away. After a trip, many people leave the pictures on their camera, transfer them onto their computer, or upload them onto an online album. I, however, still print my travel pictures out and actually put them into an album.

Unlike online albums, which have ample space to put all of your pictures up (no matter how many similar shots of the Vatican you might have), physical albums only have a set number of pages or slots for photos, so you have to be selective in which ones you include. Putting an album together therefore takes more thought and involvement. With physical albums, I also like that you can write on the back of pictures when the shot was taken, where it was, or a funny story about it. Sure, you can do that with on-line albums too, but putting anything in hand-writing for me always makes it more special.

One thing I love about putting together a travel album is that you can also include mementos from your trip. That’s something you can’t do on the internet. I like including ticket stubs from museums I’ve visited or baseball games I’ve gone to, a business card or stationery from the hotel I’m staying at, the flap of a matchbook from a restaurant I enjoyed, and the pass for the metro I used while there. I also include a postcard or two, just in case the picture I took of Gaudi’s building didn’t turn out as well as I hoped, or if they have some unique or funny ones there.

A physical travel album is a keepsake you can flip through and relive the memories from your trip years later. Who wants to have to boot up their computer and have to search for their online album to do that? And who knows if that album can even be accessed when you want to go back to it a decade later, or if you’ll even remember what your log-in or password are?

When I was in school, my teachers used to say that we should always keep a hard copy of our work, just in case we lose it on the computer. Why not do that with our precious travel memories too? After a trip, go through your pictures, print some off, and have fun putting them in an album with other mementos. It may be more expensive and time-consuming, but it will definitely bring a smile to your face when you stumble upon it and dust it off years later.

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