My husband and I just returned from an unforgettable trip to London and Paris. It was noteworthy for several reasons: we’ve never traveled abroad, have never taken a vacation longer than one week, and have rarely traveled without other companions. And despite some pre-travel jitters on my part, it was memorable in the best-possible way.
Of course, as a photographer, I was anticipating the many photo ops I’d encounter. I had two cameras at the ready at all times–my Fuji X100S and my Polaroid SX-70. And as you might guess, I captured more images than anyone (except myself and my husband) will ever care to look at. In London we saw many of the usual tourist spots: the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, The British Museum…you get the idea. And I couldn’t get enough of the street art, local markets and charming street scenes.
But another aspect of the trip that excited me was the chance to connect with an online friend for the first time.
In fact, this particular friend was Viewfinders’ very own Kirstin McKee! My husband and I had the pleasure of spending time with Kirstin and her delightful family on our last evening in London. Together we enjoyed walking through Greenwich, drinking cocktails in the garden, and feasting on home-baked bread and pasta. And you know what? We took very few photos in our time together. Our focus was on getting to know one another, and cameras were mostly set aside.
Kirstin snagged this selfie at the Greenwich Observatory.And I took a portrait of Kirstin in her garden. (Ah, I love Polaroid for portraits.)
How wonderful it was to meet a virtual friend in real life! Photography brought us together initially, but spending time together in person gave us the chance to connect on a different level.
Here’s the thing: There are many reasons to dislike social media, and what we see online is often a misrepresentation of actual daily life. But connecting with other photographers, no matter if they’re across town or across the ocean, is one aspect of social media that I adore. Building friendships through Instagram, photography blogs, Flickr (remember the Flicker heyday?) and other platforms has brought new friends into my life that I’d otherwise never have known.
So, if you’re not making connections on social media, perhaps today is the day to start. Beyond the double-tap or “likes,” take time to comment, to start conversations, to engage on a deeper level. Who knows…maybe the virtual friend will one day become a friend IRL.
P.S. I have more to share from this trip, so stay tuned! (Also, are you interested in seeing my process for keeping a travel journal? Let me know in the comments below.)