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Vineyards, Selfies, & Waterparks

Ever notice when you hand someone a camera, they act like you just asked them to defuse a bomb? They take it like they've never seen one and say something like: “What do I do...I don't really know...Where do I push?” Unless you carry a tripod, taking family photos with a camera often depends on the kindness of strangers. After asking a stranger to take our photo, they handed back the camera and I saw the photo count hadn't changed. I clicked back through the photos. No family photos. Some days I wish I just carried around a phone for photos. Everyone seems to know exactly how to manage them. But I'm old school. It took a lot of years and grumbling before I'd give up film and darkrooms—and the idea of giving up a camera for a phone seems even harder. Although I acknowledge some of the perks. While I lug around a 35 lb camera bag, the average cell phone weighs 4-8 ounces and slips nearly unnoticed into a pocket. Standing on a glass walk in Portugal, we looked down 1903 feet to the Atlantic ocean. We were standing on the 2nd highest sea cliff in the world—but it wasn't the awe-inspiring height that drew our attention, it was the cellphones. The majority of people weren't looking out across the ocean or magnificent landscape. They weren't even looking down to the raging ocean below. Instead they were staring back towards land into their phones. It wasn't just quick shots to commemorate the moment and then turning back to enjoy the salty air—it was lengthy sessions spent angling the phone, dropped their chins and pouting their lips. One girl stood in a painful-looking position, holding her phone low and flinging her scarf around her. She must never have gotten the flip just perfect, because she was still flipping that scarf when we finally decided to pack it up. There's little doubt though, that the photos she got were more stunning than mine. Our pictures showed a family with dirty shoes, messy hair, four smiles—and a big camera bag. Farmer’s Fate In was in the Canary islands I noticed we were down to three smiles. We had been touring the countryside, fascinated by the semi circles of stones farmers would stack around each grape plant in their vineyards. (See photo below.) It was terribly fascinating to me, and as I took yet another photo of the kids in front of these circles, I suddenly recognized my own pained childhood smile on his face. My dad would drag us through greenhouses and tour other farmer's fields while were were on “vacation.” Apparently it's something you grow to love with time—but my Little wasn't there yet. We changed up our plans, and the next day we went to one of the top water parks in the world. They had three rankings for their rides: easy, moderate, and extreme. I'm a little terrified of water slides, so we started with one of the “easy” ones. A float trip down a lazy river. Bright blue water, parrots in the trees, soaking up the sun—it was lovely. Then suddenly, we were propelled up a large, rubber escalator—I was nervous. But at the top we found ourselves on yet another lazy river and I relaxed. Upon rounding a corner, a lifeguard stood in the middle and was guiding parents with infants out of the river. My family must have seen my panicked eyes, for they immediately reminded me that we were on a “mild” ride. Suddenly, I was dropping and twisting down a cement waterfall. It seemed a lifetime, but the water began slowing as we passed through a tube in an aquarium filled with rays. Not seeing tears, my boys pushed me to try a “medium ride.” Against my better judgment I agreed. I went double with my husband. The second we began moving I knew I'd made a mistake. It was pitch black—then the tube dropped from under us and we spun in the darkness. My husband said I screamed all the way down. I saw light at the end of the tunnel. Then water, bubbles and blood. And a lifeguard tugging my arm. I'd ripped off a nail, and both knees were bleeding—but I was out of that tube! I was shaking as I stepped out of the pool—and my family wanted to it again! Travel isn't always pretty (except on wellfiltered selfies). It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it even hurts (like my missing nail). But travel isn't about going home the same way as you left. The journey changes you—it should change you. It leaves a mark on your memory, your consciousness, your heart—and yes, sometimes, your body. Wherever your adventures take you, may they always bring you closer together, even as they take you far away.

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