The short answer: It just sort of happened.
The (very) long answer:
Before we began our year-long adventure, I thought about what I hoped to focus on personally while on the road – taking the time to make photographs with my camera instead of always using my IPhone and practicing my Photoshop editing skills. I was pleased that these personal goals dovetailed with creating a blog to record our family experiences on the road – several birds with one-ish stone! I really enjoyed the creative and technical learning experience of designing and setting up the blog site and initially I embraced and prioritized reflecting on our daily or weekly activities and adventures, using both text and images. But then several things happened that slowed the photographing down, and because it was linked to the blogging (with the one-ish stone mentioned above) it slowed the blogging down, too.
I began to feel that carrying my camera around with me was getting in the way of actually enjoying the moment. It was partially the physical size. As minimalist as I try to be and as much as I encourage Grace and Max to take responsibility for their own belongings, heading out with small children seems to involve carrying an extra bag of stuff, especially when hiking in changeable weather is involved – rain jackets, fleeces, diapers, water bottles, snacking provisions, a distraction toy or two. I found it was more enjoyable to simply slip my IPhone in my pocket than jam my camera into an already-full hiking backpack.
But it wasn’t just an issue of packing and carrying logistics. I found I enjoyed working with a smaller device to make photographs. Which surprised me. And also disappointed me. I had been hoping to get inspired and invigorated about “proper” photography and perhaps start conceptualizing some post-trip professional projects. And I felt like I was letting myself down when I ended up embracing my phone-taken Instagram images over the camera-taken blog ones. Also there was just no time to edit the images in Photoshop, even if I hadn’t been completely out of Photoshop practice, which I was.
Carl and I both underestimated the all-consuming, all-encompassing, personal-time-evaporating nature of traveling fulltime with small children. And this gave me feelings – photography defeatist feelings. So somewhat subconsciously I focused more on written entries on the blog (often bullet-pointed written entries typed late at night on the top bunk of the camper van in the company of a glass of red wine and/or jelly beans). And for a time, blogging life was all good.
But then those feelings started bubbling again. Why wasn’t I on top of life enough to focus on the two small goals I’d set for myself? Why couldn’t I get Photoshop to do just about anything I wanted it to do? Why didn’t I have a consistent visual style? Why didn’t my children ever listen, especially in the evenings before bed? Why hadn’t Grace miraculously taught herself to read? Why had Max un-toilet trained himself? Why were diapers so expensive? Why did Carl always lose his wallet and have such big ears? Why was I asking such irritating questions?! Why did I feel like I couldn’t’ breathe?!?!
And so I took a beat. And a breath. And I remembered that I’m fundamentally someone who needs at least a little time to myself to recharge and I just wasn’t getting it. Being on the road and exploring the world have so very many pros, but they don’t have babysitters or part-time nursery schools or extra rooms with doors to shut or consistent bedtime routines that leave you with a few adult-only hours in the evenings. And so I did what I could – I started to read more. And that helped. It also meant I used my camera and blogged less. And that felt ok. And then I took a big step: I sent my camera back to the US. And that felt good! (Also I binged listened to the Serial podcast. And ate a lot of biscuits).
I also realized that sometimes blogging just felt too neat and tidy, in a way that a quick IPhone photo didn’t. There were lots of happy, silly, invigorating, loving, lovely, peaceful, gorgeous, joyful moments all over the place. And pulling my phone out and capturing them felt spontaneous and honest and satisfying. I really try to focus on the positive in the hope of attracting more positive – in life, in conversations with my children, in social media (the operative word being try). But there were also frustrating, tearful, impatient, raised-voiced, disappointing moments all over the place, too. I tried to acknowledge and embrace both experiences in my writing, but somehow the whole blogging process just started to feel a bit forced and false. So I stopped. For about three months.
Over these months I’ve taken many photographs on my phone and posted some on Instagram, keeping a little photography in my life and also a visual record of our time in Australia and Japan. And I haven’t given up on blogging completely. After some time away, I’m feeling re-inspired to share periodic reflections. We left New York nearly nine months ago and I can’t quite decide if it feels like forever or just a few (sometimes shaky) breaths. I do know it will be bittersweet when this yearlong journey comes to a close. So I look west toward Sri Lanka, the next stop along the way…