For the second year in a row, my sisters and I have taken a sisters trip. Our mother and aunts have done so for years, and we have been giddy to be old enough to start the tradition ourselves. Laura just graduated from undergrad, Caroline just finished her first year at Teach for America, and I made it through my first year living in New York City.

What better way to celebrate than to take our annual sisters trip overseas to Paris and Ireland?


As a full time photographer and lifestyle blogger, much of my days are spent on the computer, social media, editing, and living with my camera in tow. With the weeks leading up to the trip it was back to back (to back) shoots, meetings, endless emails, and it seemed as though there was always “a shot to get” for social media. Always, always was I doing at least three things at once. To say I was heading towards burnout is putting it lightly. My mind felt muddied and overwhelmed. My priorities were out of whack and my soul was undernourished.

After much debate with myself, I decided that I was not going to take my camera with me, and that this trip would be a social media free and work free holiday. For those of you visual artists out there, you’ll understand the magnitude of what this meant for me. It was no easy thing. Instead, I chose to bring an old Nikon Film 35 mm camera, seven roles of film, and decided to allow myself up to ten square iPhone pics a day and that’s it. My soul was eager for the break. My mind was up for the challenge.




The trip began and almost instantaneously when I shut the phone off, my soul took a huge sigh of relief. What transpired was a space of presence. I wasn’t worried about “catching that frame” for social media, or obsessing with my camera settings to “nail” the shot. I was present and the craziest thing happened. I became at such peace. I didn’t realize just how much my life was wrapped around getting the shot until I gave myself permission to not get the shot — to just, be.

Instead of doing, I was being.

Instead of looking to create a manufactured moment, I was living real life in the moment. My senses were alive to the smell of street crepes, the taste of salted carmel ice cream, the touch of the slightly itchy grass beneath us as we picnicked at sunset at the Eiffel Tower, the sight of rows and rows of Gardens at Versailles. My heart enraptured in beautiful conversations with my sisters, and with it life unfolded all around me. The tightness in my chest and the stress from my day to day life disappeared the moment my phone was shut off.

Instead of looking to create a manufactured moment, I was living real life in the moment.


Without my camera or phone as a constant companion, I became present to the world around me. I didn’t realize how much my head was down and disconnected throughout my day to day life.

Yes, I brought my film camera and got some beautiful shots, but they’re not perfect. In fact, from a technical standpoint they’re riddled with mistakes.

But, I see such beauty in the imperfections.

Once I gave myself permission to be completely present in the moment at hand, my soul could breathe. A soul at rest is a soul that can truly create. I wonder how much more beauty we could actually create in this world if we all stood back, put our phones down, and looked upon the the world around us teaming with life, spontaneity, beauty, and adventure.

My thought is that it could be life changing.

What are some of your most favorite travel moments that weren’t caught on film?

Images courtesy of Kat Harris of The Refined Woman


  1. I am so inspired by these words! The ability to be able to set aside the idea of a perfect shot and then take what is the moment of what is happening is a beautiful movement. I love these photographs and this article and will try to live it.

  2. oh, I loved this! This is something I struggle with so much–wanting to capture all of those moments and yet being free of equipment and the need to get the perfect photo. This was such a good reminder/encouragement, thanks!

  3. my beautiful travel moment not-caught-on-film was during an impromptu drive to atlanta from chicago. it was 3am. my boyfriend was asleep in the passenger seat after a 6hr driving stint, bless his heart… there was no one on the road for miles and there were even fewer lightposts. but when i focused my eyes just right, i could catch silhouettes of georgian mountains; huge black masses against a blacker sky. they were hypnotizing. i swerved the car quite a bit in my attempt to decipher their outline against the backdrop of night… but i guess that’s what happens when you see a bit of God on the road.


  4. Loved this article – I almost always use film. I love how it captures the moment. It captures life how it was in that second that a iPhone/digital camera cant capture.

  5. I love this. I spent almost 16month traveling solo recently, and brought my digital and film Nikons with me. 4 months into the trip, I hadn’t picked up my digital once! So I sold it to buy a plane ticket to Bali. Best decision I ever made. I spent the next year shooting solely on 35mm, coming home with a huge waterproof bag of exposed rolls in the top of my backpack. (And developing those? Wow! What another life experience!) I’ll still use digital for the ease, practicality and convenience as a modern photographer, but I will forever have a true love affair with film. The joy, peace and presence that it gives me when shooting comes through in my art, and my photographs are more authentic and raw than ever.

  6. I did the exact same thing when I went to Waikiki this summer. I only took my point-and-shoot Minolta film camera and a single roll of 35mm film. This allowed me to take only a couple of photos a day. Not only did every shot on the roll turn out, but I was free to spend more time enjoying the trip and less time with my camera in hand.

    My personal reminder when picking a camera for a trip is WWSSS (What Would Susan Sontag Say).

  7. I am so glad to see an article like this! I had a similar experience in France this summer. I brought my Canon 35mm AE-1 camera with me, and the days I decided to leave my dslr back at the hotel was such a blessing. It was great being able to focus on a single shot because I was able to stop and enjoy what I was looking at. My experience was so difficult to put into words and this article truly accomplished that.

  8. loved this… how hard it can be to be fully present… and yet we all crave it.

  9. This definitely hit home. I’ve realized I spend a lot of my travels with six inches of machine in front of my face, and that’s a whole lot of barrier between you and a full sensory experience. Lovely.

  10. I’ve been doing this as well! I received so much pressure and criticism at first, saying how could I be a passionate photographer if I didn’t shoot all the time, yada yada… but the breaks are so refreshing. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!!

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