Travel without camera

travel without camera

How a day without taking photos can change your worldview

During our two weeks in India I took 621 photos and videos. Or let’s say: within 12 days I took 621 photos and videos. Once a week I deliberately took a day off and didn’t take photos.

Why once in a week I refrained from taking photos

The reason is simple: mindfulness. On a day without photos I don’t feel forced to capture certain moments, situations or view. I recognize everything. Even the images that don’t really qualify to be photographed.

For instance, I look at cars that look just the same as in Germany. Or beautifully boring bus stops. I become aware of the structure of the pathways, the sneakers of the people in the park, print shops, street lights, the sky. During my photo-free day I am more perceptive than ever.

And the best about it: I become aware again of the fact that all these impressions are mine alone. Now, in this very moment, I see and experience this very part of the world. Nobody has ever seen it like this before, and nobody will experience it again like this – not even I myself. Actually it is this way in every second.

But with my camera hanging around my neck I wrongly imagine to be able to capture and keep the moment. However, people who look at my photos often see totally different things from the once that are important to me. And the vibe of a moment can hardly be captured on a photograph anyway.

More advantages of travelling without a camera for one day

  • Less luggage. Without a camera I have to carry less.
  • Hands free. I can pick up a leaf, tickle my baby’s foot and eat food from a street stand, without worrying about my camera.
  • Walking flow without interruption. I don’t have to stop all the time – my companions neither.
  • No worries about security. For everyone with the unpleasant feeling of attracting thieves with a camera, a day without it is pure relaxation.
  • Less digital baggage. With my average I’d have 100 photos more on the memory card. 100 photos more to sort, print, save, …

How I organise a day of travel without camera

  1. Clear resolution. I irrevocably decide: On Sunday I won’t take any photos. No matter where we’ll go or what will happen.
  1. Hide cameras. In order to avoid any temptation, I pack all devices that are able to take photos into their bags and covers and then to the back and bottom of the closet, suitcase or backpack.
  1. Enjoy the day. It’s hard but I try not to think the whole time: Oh what a pity, this would have been a great shot. Instead, I become recognize my surroundings with all my senses.
  1. Question your actions. I ask myself: Why do I actually take photos? For whom do I take photos? Who will see them later? What do I show and what not? What would be the alternatives?

Why are there no photos on this blog?

This blog isn’t a travel blog in that sense. It’s about something bigger than my personal travel experiences. I want to inspire you to travel responsibly and aware. It’s hard to express that with holiday snapshots. That’s why you won’t find them here. Most of the images are from Unsplash.

The ultimate guide to taking pictures in Africa

I wrote an article about how to take photos in Africa. Beyond shutter speed and angle there are hints on using a camera mindfully.

9 things people in India did with my baby

travel with a baby to india

Travelling with an infant is different from any other way of travel I did before.

  • Packing gave me some unknown challenges. (How many diapers are enough? How many are too many?)
  • I massively slowed down the itinerary. (We tried to take a break every other day.)
  • And travelling with an infant was probably also the easiest way to get in contact with local people around me.

Here are 9 things they did with my baby which they might do to yours if you let them.

1.They called my baby’s name (when he was almost asleep).

One of the first questions was for his name. And once people knew it they would call it over and over again. Even if the pronunciation was difficult to them. Especially, when I was trying real hard to make him sleep.

2. They called my baby other names.

Sweety Pie and Chubby were only some of the English names I understood. The ones they gave him in their mother tongues passed me.

3. They pinched my baby’s cheeks.

To all occasions and in various degrees my son was pinched in and twitched at the cheeks. I had read about it earlier and realised that it is a common thing to do to babies. Although he didn’t love it, he never complained about it either.

4. They held my baby.

Much quicker than any German before, many Indians took my son into their arms. Several of our hosts seemed to see it as their duty to let me have my arms and lap free so that I could eat. Therefore they carried him a lot. But also total strangers would pluck him from my arms. One young woman even asked whether I would remove him from the wrap I was carrying him in so that she could hold him. I had to explain to her that she should at least wait until he woke up. But when he did, I had my arms free once more.

5. They carried my baby around and away.

Once people held him, it didn’t take long and they carried him around and showed him things in the other room, in the yard or elsewhere. Several times a day I was wondering where my child was.

6. They fed my baby.

In India my baby started to show interest in food other than mother’s milk. Since it was his first time to have solid food I tried to be careful with what he ate. I didn’t want to overwhelm his little stomach. He ate biscuits, though, and other Indian food that people gave him.

7. They talked to my baby in their mother tongue.

He doesn’t speak yet and he is growing up with at least two different languages anyway. So the languages in India may have not been more confusing to him. Only I didn’t understand what people told him.

8. They took photos of and with my baby.

We as a family have a policy. We don’t want photos of our baby to be spread around. We tell people that it’s okay to show them to others but they need permission before sharing them online. In that way we are trying to keep control over the distribution of our baby’s photos. I should have mentioned that to the many people in India taking photos with and of him. I just felt uncomfortable and wanted to be polite so I didn’t. Next time I will.

9. They blessed my baby.

I don’t know what it means when a woman moves her hands around my baby’s face and then clicks her finger bones on her temples. They did it a lot. But I consider it as a blessing. All the things people did to him, including starting to cry, people did out of happiness and joy about him and for his best.

Visiting Krishna’s temple with catholic priests

The way towards the temple reminds me of a theme park during off-season.

You don’t have to queue for the attraction. However, the way to the roller-coaster is long and leads through an interlaced labyrinth of fences guiding the masses in drops to the ride during main season.

That’s how we wiggle past the shoe deposit through the security check where I leave my camera. Father Thomas has kept his socks on and tries to climb on the fence to avoid the water which was sunk in the floor, probably for clearing purposes. He doesn’t manage quite as well as Father Santosh who is significantly younger and more agile. So Father Thomas continues with one wet sock.

Awestruck I follow the priests who appear almost as touristic as I. Sporadically, families and groups of young people move past us. They seem to know better how to behave in this place and which way to follow.

A voice chants the holy names of Krishna through speakers:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

And again. And again. Believers walk one step ahead after each verse. Praying in that way, they slowly come closer to their destination inside the temple. There’s a way for visitors, too, and we simply skip the act by walking up marble stairs.

We reach the first two shrines.

In each one sits one God. They wear sparkling adornment on their heads and their faces are black and serious. Father Thomas tells me their names. One of them is Hanuman, the monkey.

Few steps ahead there’s another God in a shrine, this time with the black head of a lion. Visitors like us are guided along in a big distance to the shrines. The Gods look serious at us, or through us.

Following yet more steps that make Father Thomas breath heavily, past even more bannisters, we finally reach the terrace in front of the main gate. It gives a good view over part of the city. Close by I see clothes, neatly hung on long lines for drying. Behind, half-finished skyscrapers shoot towards the sky. In between linger smaller buildings with light colours, and green spots here and there. The big birds throwing themselves into the breeze in between the tall buildings must have an even better overview.

There’s a draught in the entrance. In front of us, facing away from us, four monks sit in the cold breeze on a little stage, play music on a harmonium, cymbals and a drum and sing. They look and sounds exactly like the monks in Germany’s pedestrian zones.

In front of the stage believers are sitting down on mats. We follow the bannister guiding us round the high temple hall anti-clockwise, past the golden altar-like space in front. Radha and Krishna stand there like porcelain dolls, but their faces are shining gold. First I think they may have put on masks. But the impression results from the contrast to the black faces of the other Gods being a little livelier.

In front of the couple, hidden from us by a screen, three monks look as if they were sitting in shop windows. They fulfill their rituals which are not visible to us. We can only see their side- faces and the curl on the back of their heads.

The bannister guides us to a canopy.

A statue of the movement’s founder, who already passed away, sits there.

His face is frozen in golden seriousness, too, but his little height makes him somehow human, despite all the enlightenment.

We meet him two more times. Once in his office behind his desk. Through the open door he suddenly looks quite real, maybe because his face is off skin colour this time. The second time he sits cross-legged in light orange clothes and looks into deep emptiness. On his bold forehead he wears two thin white lines ending on the root of his nose. The corners of his mouth characteristically move towards his chin.

He smiles in a very serious way and I don’t dare imagining what goes on inside his head. I’d probably surprised by the simple clarity of his thoughts.

The way out is almost as long as the way in. Now we pass stands with books, souvenirs, pictures, clothes, toys, jewelry, art. Two paintings are catching my attention: The artist painting little Krishna on his mother Yasoda’s lap has managed to portrait well how mothers hold their children. And on the picture of Ras Lila (which can glow in the dark and the shopkeeper is happy to show us) I adore the traces of naked feet on the nightly beach and the faces of the women. It must be a controlled dance being performed there, quickly filling the dancers with deep joy.

Meanwhile Father Thomas is amazed by how cheap the statues are. At the same time he warns me: Catholic priests are never recommended to buy something from a temple. “Because they have a certain influence,” he simply says, and I don’t understand whether he means the spiritual influence of the statues or the political influence of the confession that he doesn’t want to support.

Father Santosh buys me a piece of pastry that is as big as my palm and drips off fat and sugar, from the next stands that stretch for metres and bend under neatly piled little colourful snacks. I take a bite and am surprised how refreshing such a sweet thing can be.

In one corner a family has sat down and has lunchbreak with about ten different little bowls full of a colourful variety of dishes. They are not the only ones enjoying the food here.

Gratefully I decline the free splodge from a massive pot served by a monk with a big spoon into a pressed banana leave. I just don’t want to strain my stomach too much on my third day in Bengaluru.

I don’t dare either to accept the free mantra, printed on pink letters on a small card as Father Thomas’ eyes are meeting mine.

In the evening, lying in bed, I am waiting for sleep which refuses to come.

Suddenly, through the nightly street noises, I hear a flute playing.

Maybe that’s Krishna, who can’t sleep either, considering all his calm joy and enlightenment. But I may be just imagining that.

4 reasons why my baby is a more mindful traveller than I am

baby travel mindful

Mindfulness means paying attention to the very moment and living in the absolute present. It means being. It means acceptance, patience and openness.

To travel mindfully, I open my mind as wide as possible, curiously letting all impressions in without judging them. At least I try. Here is why my baby is much better at it.

1. Baby lives in the present.

It is admirable how children live the present moment to the max. Baby doesn’t worry about the future and ponder over the past. All that counts for him is what is there right now. That is why even  the hundredth time my funny noises are funny to him.

2. Baby discovers something new in everything.

To him, everything is an opportunity, everything is interesting, everything is new. Keys, blankets, trees, people and the floor – he tries to discover them all with the same undivided amount of curiosity, as if he saw them for the very first time.

3. Baby doesn’t judge.

Whether I give him a fancy toy or a random spoon, he will play with both. Whether a grumpy old man passes him or his favourite aunt, he watches them both curiously and is open to what they may have in store for him.

4. Baby trusts.

He knows everything will be fine. He doesn’t fear falling from the bed, being knocked by a car, banging his head on the floor or slipping through his dad’s arms. Baby just enjoys being thrown in the air and trusts he will be caught.

In short: Baby has an open heart.

  • He treasures the present moment.
  • He acknowledges the opportunity in everything new.
  • He is non-judgemental.
  • And he trusts.

How to travel as mindful as a baby

Live in the present moment.

Don’t rush to tick the sights on your bucket list. Instead, pay attention to the place you are in right now. Practice that a lot during your trip. Be it the waiting lounge at the airport, the hostel room, the river bend, the temple, the kiosk. How does it look like? How does it sound, smell, taste and feel like? Simply experience the places without liking or disliking them. Do that often.

Focus on mundane things and people, too.

If you consider an area at your destination more boring than the others, go there deliberately and be open for surprises. Look out of the taxi window knowing that nobody ever had this view, which is your very own this very moment, before. And nobody will ever have it again. Not even you. Be curious for the way people live. See what you can learn from them.

Don’t judge.

Try not to compare life abroad with what you know and take for granted. Instead, sit, breath, listen and watch. It is not your job to divide all impressions into good or bad. Instead leave the categories closed and just focus on the experiences flowing by.

Get lost.

Start walking, not knowing where you are going. You might have to ask strangers for help to get back. Trust that all your encounters will be beautiful. I am not suggesting to behave risky and mindless. On the contrary: Be mindful and pay attention to all the possibilities coming your way when you simply trust that you will be fine.

Mindfulness is like a muscle. It needs to be trained. But then, after some exercise, it will work seamlessly. I am constantly reminded by my baby how fluent time is and how needless to try to hold on to it. Instead, I try to open my heart as often as possible, practice mindfulness and let the world flow through me for a second.

How I take better travel photos with this one step

There’s a simple secret to better travel photography and videography: Take more photos and videos, even before travelling. It sounds simple and maybe disappointing, but it is true. And I have proof.

A year ago I was given a new camera by a very nice person. It came with a bag and a handbook and I was so happy and overwhelmed that I didn’t use it for three months. I always thought, in order to make full use of all its features, I had to read the handbook first. Which I was too busy to do.

But the only way to get used to a new camera is to take photos with it.

Long time ago I found some truth: Doing comes from doing.

As in:

  • If I have no clue of what to cook, instead of thinking about it, I go to the kitchen and start chopping an onion. And before I know it I have cooked a full meal.
  • When I need to come up with an article, researching won’t do the job. I actually need to open the writing programme and start typing, even if it’s just “I don’t know what to write.” I will write this funny sentence until I actually know what to write and get an article written.
  • And in order to get used to a camera and tune my photography skills, I need to go out and take photos.

To cut the long story short: I still need practice for travel photography in India. So I keep taking photos. At the bottom there are the results from an end-of-summer walk. We did not only say goodbye to summer, but also to my village. It was shortly before we moved from the South to the West of Germany.summer

There is also a video. If you were so kind to support my trip with 9€ or more, you may already have seen it. If not: Go ahead – and thank you so much in advance!

better travel photography 1

better travel photography 6

better travel photography 2

better travel photography 5

better travel photography 4

better travel photography 3

 

Travel inspiration and preparation – 4 essential websites and why you don’t need the rest

If you are reading this, you know that I am about to travel to Bengaluru with my husband and baby soon. I know nothing about India and even less about Bengaluru. For preparation and inspiration, the internet is at my fingertips. But the internet can also be overwhelming. So here are the four essential websites I use for travel preparation:

Roads and Kingdoms

Stories beyond the touristic tales. Stories that give you a feel of your destination. Stories that open your eyes for the daily life in the country or town you are about to visit. Their Know Before You Go Guides have great insight.

For my journey: unfortunately no guide. Instead, a story about the strongest man in India (which really is a story about Christian and Hindu faith and the values they share) and a mouthwatering description of Rava Idlis for breakfast.

Matador Network

For inspiration and anything odd and interesting from around the world.

For my journey: a story about how the nightlife changed in Bengaluru.

The collection of images from India have the common clichés like yogis, colours, temples, henna and mountains. However, the 12 signs of a first-time India traveller are funny and the 10 ways to humiliate yourself in India are helpful.

Couchsurfing

A bunch of open-minded locals and travellers who have ever been super friendly and helpful for any issue I had.

For my journey: I already got offers from potential hosts, without even having to look for one! And I might ask a couple of questions. (Where to buy diapers? Breastfeeding in public? Weather conditions?) I know I can rely on the answers and the lovely people giving them. And I might look for people to hang out with.

Journeywoman

Tells women how to dress appropriately anywhere in the world.

Websites I don’t use

Tripadvisor

I have the feeling that Tripadvisor tilts towards the touristic way of travel which I have long given up.

Lonely Planet

This page, too, lists a lot of sights. The Thorntree Forum can help mostly with visa requirements, itineraries and travel buddies, otherwise it is rather overwhelming.

What I use instead

  • I will borrow one guide book and leaf through it for a general overview.
  • I will stay with locals who can help me move around.
  • I have some contact persons already who are organising the event I’m going to whom I can always ask.

Okay, okay. Let’s be honest. I did some further research. These websites are not essential but beautiful and inspiring:

Legal Nomads

Discovering the world through food.

For my journey: a photoessay on cows and a food guide for celiacs.

Chris Guillebeau

Travelled all countries in the world.

For my journey: If I have time, I will click through the 109 search results for India. Some of them are portraits of other travel bloggers, so there might be some time consuming “getting lost” involved.

Why I try to prepare less

Preparation creates expectations. Expectations can easily be disappointed if not met. So if I avoid preparation, I will also avoid a bad mood because of disappointment. That doesn’t mean that I don’t take care of vaccinations, visa and accommodation. But I try to limit myself in “reading around” and instead look forward to experiencing the place once I’m there.

But how do you find “the good stuff”?

Maybe this may sound a bit esoteric, but I am convinced that news or information I must get will find me. That is why I can’t tell you how I stumbled upon Bengaluru By Foot. I love the idea and we may end up on a guided tour with them. And we are also considering a visit at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living ashram. I just found out that it happens to be located in Bengaluru. My husband is a great fan of him, but that is another story.

Here’s my advice: Don’t stress out too much about travel inspiration, preparation and your itinerary.

Mindful travel means to take the destination in the way it is – when you are there.

Trust that the rest will fall in place.