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Saving memories

I've had several memorable holidays with my grandparents.

When I was 23, my granddad and I went to Rome with a guided tour. We visited the Vatican and Hadrian's villa, and we ate melons with ham in little side streets, and I wrote a dozen postcards, all of which were eaten by the Italian postal service and never reached their destination. 

During every stop of the tour, people would take out their cameras and experience the sights through the lenses of their cameras. I did the same, and was quite proud of my photographs. One day, I was finished before everyone else and leaning against the railing, looking out over the landscape of Southern Italy. A little old lady was standing next to me, shaking her heads at the people taking photographs. She never took photographs, she told me. Her kids were grown and could travel on their own, or look at pictures on the internet. And she said that she got a more intense experience of her travels if she just soaked up the atmosphere and built her memories that way. I remember thinking that it was admirable, but that it would bore me to do the same. (I was young and inexperienced.) But that conversation and the ice cream we had outside the Pantheon, which had been on my grandfather's wishlist and made him giddy with joy), are the moments I remember most vividly.

When I was fifteen, my grandparents and I went to the island of RĂ¼gen. I learned how to play Skat, we saw the famous Kreidefelsen, my grandmother got her nickname, and I took a lot of photographs that I was proud of. I also tried to sketch the cliffs, but apparently wasn't happy with the results, so I threw away the drawings soon after. I lost the photographs as well - it was well before the digital age, and I didn't keep the negatives. My grandparents' strongest memory of that holiday is the fact that I had to read a play, and my granddad reenacted it with me. Mine is a blurry idea of a photograph taken in the swampland, and of trying (and failing) to sketch the cliffs, seeing my grandparents walking along the beach, waiting for me to get done and enjoying the wind and the sea.

During my last trip to London, I tried something different - I made a travel art journal. I took some pictures as reference (or, in the case of Clarkson, Hammond and May Live, to stare at for the rest of eternity), but apart from that, I took my journal everywhere with me, and sketched what I saw. When I think back now, I remember CHM Live, and certain tiny and not so tiny people I've met there, but I also remember a lot of small moments I've tried to capture in my drawings. 
It is a very different way to travel - you have to carry around a journal and your favourite art supplies, and you will not see as much. But you will see more of the things you do see. (Does that make sense?) It is an intense and, to me, very fulfilling experience, but of course it also means that I didn't see Buckingham Palace or the Tower Bridge, or that I missed out on several exhibits in museums I visited. I don't mind, but of course it's different for everybody.

It was not a problem to take my time in London, because I went on my own. And when I go on another holiday with my grandparents tomorrow, it won't be a problem either - they can't walk as much anymore, and will happily sit on a bench and watch the people around them while I draw something I like. It's a good arrangement I think - and I look forwards to the moments I might capture. (And to saving them on my little art blog, because who knows, I might lose the journal one day just like I lost the photographs - and that way I can share my memories, and save little reminders for later :).

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