The Moments that Escape Us

In our travels, we take photos of everything.  In fact, we have nearly 30,000 pictures of all the great places we've explored around the world from the grandest view of the Great Wall of China all the way to a simple sewer cover in Vatican City, a stay in London apartment rentals, or a delicious meal.  They all have meaning, and even though sometimes may be excessive in number they are a priceless souvenir of the wonderful experiences we have while traveling.  You could say that being robbed of money is a horrible travel experience, but to be robbed of our camera or memory cards would be a fate that much worse as these images would only be stored in our minds, never to be seen by a friendly face again.

Still, some photos elude even our click happy fingers.  These moments that escape us are fleeting.  A rare animal encounter, a low light condition that makes an image blurry, or a once in a lifetime experience that lasts but a fraction of a second.  We may not have record of these events to prove how true they are, but the stories that come from these experiences are often ones we tell the most.  In many cases a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, but the stories for the photos we did not capture are even better.  This is the place for those stories.

A Photo-less Story

This post does not have photos.  In fact, that is the point.  This post is to host the stories of some of our and our favorite travel bloggers' moments that went away faster than the shutter could be clicked.  No trace of these scenes are recorded and no images entertain readers in a blog post.  These stories are unique, and only remembered in the traveler's mind and through the stories they share.  Here are a few of our top missed experiences that plague us to this very day.
  • Flying out to a two week trip for work, I tried to make the best of the 4 hour plane flight and take a nap.  It was only 45 minutes after take up that I awoke to some rough turbulence.  The cause? A 30 mile wide electrical storm about 50-100 miles off in the distance.  With 2-3 lightning bolts per second spanning the entire horizon, the 10 minute ride was worth the turbulence that we sat through at our quite safe distance from the immense power of nature.  But being dark and moving at breakneck speeds through the heavens, I wouldn't have got a good photo even if I tried.

  • Our second missed moment also comes from the view of an airplane.  As we were returning from our honeymoon in Spain we encountered a light rain while taking off.  Shortly thereafter the skies cleared and we were flying, quite literally, above the top of a rainbow.  The view lasted for only a few seconds, and by the time we considered grabbing the camera and breaking the 'no electronics' rule, the scene was gone.  But for those few seconds the entire arch was below us, at an angle we'll never see again.

  • My third missed moment happened while spending the night sleeping on a felucca on the Nile river.  I woke up very early to see the most amazing sunrise I've ever seen.  The sky was a deep orange/red and the Nile reflected the color in perfect harmony.  But instead of reaching for my nearby camera and waking up my fellow travelers, I fell asleep before the thought even occurred to me.  The rest of the sunrise wasn't nearly as good and so far no other traveler's photo has matched the beauty I saw that morning 

  • Finally, in Vietnam, I saw a postcard printing with an image of a water buffalo being carried by someone on a motor scooter; it's legs bound and laying across the bike.  Surely this doesn't happen, right?  Little did I know that a few hours later I would see that very same scene in person, and only have the mental image to take with me as I was just not fast enough.  The best part? It's tail was wagging.
Our experiences aren't the only times where a traveler misses the moment without their camera.  Many of our favorite travel bloggers have also suffered from this same fate.  We interviewed a few of the industry's best travel bloggers to get their opinion on the topic. 

Stories from Other Travelers
  • I toured the salt flats in south Bolivia for 3 days and was blown away by the scenery. I took zillions of photos, or so I thought I did... for two of those days I had my camera on the wrong setting and all the pictures turned out white. Stupid Lindsay. - Lindsay, The Traveller World Guide 

  • My without-camera travel moment was unintentional. See, I decided to dive the Great Barrier Reef on a whim -- I had no interest in diving prior to then, really -- and so I didn't have an underwater casing for my DSLR. I felt like Ariel from the Little Mermaid as we swam through coral gardens, teased giant clams and frolicked with sea turtles (my divemaster was something of a Japanese "Eric"), but for once in my life, I have absolutely nothing to show for it. - Robert, Leave Your Daily Hell 

  • I missed a remarkable sunset in the mountains in northern Thailand along the Burmese border I would love to get back. The sun was setting as we were racing our scooter through the hills, looking for the next place to spend the night. With nothing booked, no map, temperature dropping, and the light quickly fading (making driving exponentially treacherous), I pushed on, missing an incredible opportunity looking down over the peaks and valleys. - Dustin, Skinny Backpacker and Too Many Adapters 

  • Our plan was to stay one night in Nantes (France), rent a car, and drive out to a music festival in Corsept the next day. We never once researched Nantes and made a hasty hungry and tired decision to just leave our camera at the hotel and grab something close by so we could get to bed. Of course nothing was open and our quick jaunt turned into a long journey. Next thing we know we find ourselves standing infront of a huge castle surrounded by a moat! I look back at all of our castle pictures and none compare to this one. - Deidra, Dream a Little Dream  

  • It was early morning in the bush and there were some innocent antelope feeding on some grass. Suddenly, the wind shifted and they looked up. Something was wrong. Then, I saw what they saw. A lion and her cubs, who were just old enough to join in a hunt. The expressions on the mother's face sent a chill up my spine. I just had to capture it, so I reached for my video camera. Unfortunately, the battery had just died. Out of luck. By the time I reached for my camera, the scene had changed. The antelope had fled and the cubs were sitting together playfully. I was able to get a few photos, but I missed the big moment - Lisa, Chicky Bus
Our fellow travel bloggers are not the only ones who missed the epic travel shot by not having their camera ready at the most opportune moment.  We are sure that everyone reading at home has had a similar experience at least once while on their travels.  If you have had an experience like one we've brought to you above, share it by commenting in the box below.  We'll select some of the best comments and update this post to include your stories as well! 

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  1. Great post notion Jeremy! There must be scads of such photo-less travel stories, just waiting to be told.

    Shoot, right off the top of my head, just in the past few months - there's at least 3 dozen amazing sights I've witnessed whilst whizzing on the back of a motorbike (in Saigon's legendary death-wish traffic) but alas, no way to snap a pic, as I'm generally too busy praying. ;)

    For starters (as recently pecked in my new "Only In Asia" series on my TravelnLass blog), there was "...the Salvador Dali vision one morning of a gleaming white porcelain toilet strapped to the back of a motorbike. Not remarkable in and of itself mind you, but the toddler perched atop - with derriere wedged appropriately within the bowl, feet dangling over the edge above the spinning back wheel, now THAT caught my attention."

    Plus, just days later "...a passing bike (wheel spokes spinning at a gazillion rpms no more than an INCH from my ankle) whizzed by - the driver, reading an open TEXTBOOK!"

    Ah yes, would that I could have somehow had my trusty Lumix poised to capture such surreal moments!

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  2. It's funny that you mention the motorbike scenarios in Vietnam because I have several more stories that I did not include in this post of that very same phenomena. I would understand if you got used to driving on a motorbike that you may take part in more dangerous driving styles, but to go as far as reading a text book or carrying your toddler on a toilet is a bit much!

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  3. Oh yeah... that happened to me climbing Mount Fuji. I took a ton of awesome sunrise shots and then when I got back my computer lost them all. Ugh. And I am NOT climbing it again lol

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