Have you ever gone through old photos on your computer or flipped through an old photo album? Have you ever relived moments through looking at photos, remembered things you wouldn’t have without the photo?
Has looking at these photos made you, maybe just for a moment, wish you still had that lifestyle, that haircut, those friends?
Because I have.
I was trying to get some more space on my external hard drive, so I was looking through photos and files trying to decide what I could get rid of and what was important enough to keep. It turned out to be a fairly useless exercise. Every photo I looked at I didn’t really want to throw out. Every photo I looked at brought back memories and laughter, I could feel them. I couldn’t delete them.
A few came up from my trip to Vietnam where I lived for a year and a half working as a kayak and rock-climbing guide. Guiding took up a significant amount of time, and sure there were photos of looking professional and having a great time with the customers and guides. But the more memorable moments came from what happened after we were done for the day.
One photo was of myself and two of my friends there, a girl from the Philippines and a girl from the French Canada. We had a drink in each hand, taking in humid air after a day of sweating through our guide job. The bar was one floor up from our office, so committing to after work drinks was easy enough. I was drinking something blue, sugary and blue enough to stain my teeth.
I think that was just the beginning to a long night and knowing we all had to be at the office by 7:45 the next morning. But looking at the photo I could taste the sweat on my cheeks dripping into my mouth, I could feel the claustrophobic heat that drained energy; I could even feel the fake leather seats that suction cupped thighs to them.
It was an easy life, no matter how much we complained. We didn’t have the modern struggles of a so-called normal life. Room and board were taken care of. Now I have to worry about a mortgage, and bills, and buying groceries and taking my car to get snow tires on (which I still need to do). Now I have to clean up my house, do laundry, wash dishes and this is almost daily.
Sometimes I know it would be easier to say the heck with it all and go live out of a backpack and own three pairs of clothes.
Another photo was one I took of my first and only (so far)motorcycle. It was blue and white and had an octopus Sharpied onto the gas tank. I bought it for 3.5 million VND or an easy 150 USD, which was probably more than the bike was worth. First time I hopped on it, also the first time I had ever been on a motorcycle, I burnt my calf on the exposed exhaust pipe. I stalled a lot.
The bike broke down a lot. I’d take it to the mechanic, towing it behind another bike, or coasting downhill to the shop, and the mechanic would just see me and laugh. I had taken it in enough times that we came to an understanding even though neither of us spoke the same language. He’d patch it up enough to run for a week or so and I’d keep coming back to him knowing even the best mechanic in the world couldn’t fix it.
I burnt myself on the exhaust pipe not once, not twice, not three times, but a grand total of 4 times on the same leg in the same spot before I left. Apparently, I don’t learn the hard way.
The blue bike had no front brakes, no speedometer, no gas gauge, no horn (essential for driving in Vietnam), the tires were pretty bald, and the back brakes weren’t great. You had to kick start it to get it to run, there were a lot of exposed wires and things that a bike shouldn’t really have dangling from it. But I loved it even if the rest of the crew called it a death bike.
Riding a motorcycle was one of the coolest things I taught myself. And I could get all these memories from just one photo. How could I ever delete it?
Now I’ve been told not to get a motorcycle even though I got my license in September. Although it wouldn’t be quiet the same. I’d ride in shorts and flip-flops in Vietnam, definitely long pants, helmet, boots, and jacket here. And there’s no way I could find a bike here for $150 unless it was just a part of a bike.
There were so many photos I couldn’t bring myself to delete. A shot of us all climbing on our day off, another bar photo. A going away dinner party brought back memories of rice wine, warm beers, and great friends. A sunset photo reminded me I have seen some of the most amazing sunsets with some of the most amazing people. Some photos of our days off were some of the best memories. How could I get rid of photos that brought back such strong and valuable memories?
I couldn’t. So my hard drive is still full. And I can still go back and relive moments that I’m not ready to forget.