My travel “essentials?” I’m so glad you asked…
Running shoes, a bikini (if there is even the remotest chance of water and sunshine), my current journal, and my camera. Now, don’t get the misguided impression that I’m a carry-on only traveler. Not the case. Ever. But these are the “specialized items I’m not going to find in an airport kiosk or roadside shop. I’d rather forget necessary phone numbers than my running shoes! And perusing swimwear on vacation time sounds torturous as my interest in anything “retail” flags once I’ve purchased souvenirs for the folks back home.
So; how is it that I found myself camera-less in Akumal, Mexico (Ooh. I’m cringing just writing those words…)?
I could blame it on the passport frenzy that ensued when international travel requirements were updated to reflect present day realities. The kids’ paperwork was on its way well before the media grabbed the story in the spring of 2007, but when subsequent applicants expedited their passports; my three children were apparently relegated to the back of the tourist line. My Congressman Pat Tiberi’s office was responsive and helpful, but our margin to departure had dwindled to two days before our mail gal happily waved the envelopes at me from the end of the driveway. Maybe that blew my focus a little?
The sad reality is that when we arrived and I reached for a fresh camera battery, I suddenly remembered plugging my battery charger into an outlet by the garage door where I couldn’t possibly forget it. And I couldn’t remember unplugging and packing it.
With the dying battery light already flashing ominously in my camera screen, I checked out the options. The Wal-mart in Playa del Carmen was my distant oasis of hope, and we didn’t plan to be near the city for several days. Thankfully, my more organized daughter had brought her camera, spare batteries and charger, and was displaying more than a casual flair for photography (Still haven’t figured out how she got both the creative gene and the organizational one; seems a little unfair…). She was annointed the trip photographer as I stingily snapped the odd photo, conserving what battery power remained.
Our eventual Wal-mart expedition was “educational”. I’d had a humorous Wal-mart experience previously in which my limited Spanish landed me my desired bug repellent only after a helpful employee first escorted me to the deodorant aisle. This time, we gathered Spanish language magazines and Mexican candy (“hot” chewy Skwinkles) for ourselves and friends at home. But when I asked about replacing my fading battery at the photo shop, I was informed that my closest possibility lay in Cancun to the north. Big sigh.
It was one of those “recheck your priorities” moments. Spending precious vacation time driving and shopping for something we might not even find in order to chronicle our happy adventure had the tone of an oxymoron. Another big sigh. Then, I resolved to maximize what was still available to us.
My daughter graciously considered my suggestions on “must-have” photos as we explored Mayan ruins and allowed strangers to snap group shots of us with her brand new digital camera. And I focused on capturing some mental snapshots and videos, because photographs are only one method of preserving memories…
I’ve written about my so-called “perfect moments”. They virtually save themselves into our internal data base, but with intent, they can become almost a transport point from days ahead to moments long behind us. It’s a matter of hitting your own “pause” button and then gathering in the messages that are nudging your senses. Like the stirring of a breeze as it ripples skirt against skin and hair into disarray. The lingering fragrances of sunscreen and ocean-salted children. Bubbling laughter layered over the rhythmic track of the tide… When deeply inhaled, these fragments fuse into a tangible place you can revisit within yourself.
Do I wish I’d had a working camera? Of course. Did it ruin my vacation? Never.
*Photographic credit goes to my daughter Hannah and a couple of anonymous passers-by.