Journaling with a Lens

It’s only fitting that I am among the last to post my final blog post. Cultural Routes is an experience unlike anything else. I think it takes me so long to write these blogs because I am afraid I won’t be able to effectively communicate everything that needs to be said. It is impossible to summarize the three and half weeks the eighteen of us in Europe, but I will try my best.

One of the things we are supposed to do on CR was journal to keep up with what we did, how we felt, and what we learned. Some people on CR, Davis and Lance for example, were amazing at keeping an up to date journal despite the long, crazy days we had during our time in Europe. I was not. I simply could not keep up. I only truly journaled once on CR which was right after touring the castles in Munich and I hated it. In order to document my time in Europe, I had to journal a little differently than most people. I documented my memories, thoughts, and experiences through pictures and videos. Going into CR, I knew I didn’t want to forget anything or let anything go unnoticed. I captured these moments with my camera. I was constantly taking videos on CR. This continues to be such a blessing to this day as I am able to go back through pictures and videos I took and remember so much about each day in colorful, intricate detail.

There are so many pictures that transport me back to an exact moment in Europe. The Residence in Munich. I still stand in awe of the Residence; every time I look at pictures of it I still want to lie down in the middle of the floor and stare at the ceiling for hours. Butternut squash soup at the top of Europe. Breakfast in Cinque Terre. When we almost missed the bus out of Tuscany. The crooked, dirty, off center fountain in Rome. Skydiving in Interloken. Breakfast in Munich after the night train. All these pictures transport me back to these moments. They say more about my Cultural Routes experience than any journal I could have kept. Of course, not every moment could be documented, but that makes those moments off camera even more special.

Making the CR video was the closest I could get to showcasing every amazing moment from those three and a half weeks. I realized while making the video and preparing for my Pecha Kucha, looking through everyone else’s pictures, how differently each of us saw Europe. We all have a unique perspective on what we did or felt or saw on CR. The pictures and videos I took represent what I saw during our three and half weeks in Europe – they are Cultural Routes through my eyes.

Taking on the role of photographer/videographer allowed me to take a step back and analyze situations, people, and places for myself. I am a people pleaser and I often hold loose opinions that can be shaped to fit any situation. I don’t like to disagree with people and I am indifferent about most things. CR challenged me to develop my own perspective on people and the world. It allowed me to really look at things and form my own opinions.

Being behind the camera helped me learn how to better read people. The pictures and videos I took were almost never planned or posed – often times people didn’t even realize I was filming. I captured genuine emotions and feelings. This was special because I was able to see people when they weren’t trying to be anything but themselves.  I learned how to better love and understand each person for who they truly are and nothing else.

My role on CR also helped me learn how to be selfless and present in big moments. Since I was filming the whole time I’m not in a lot of videos. I mostly appear in selfies or full group pictures.  CR taught me how to be a good team member and how to take a step back in a situation and capture it for the group. There were so many amazing moments on CR where I had thought to myself, “I never want to forget this moment.” These are the pictures and videos I am most grateful for today. They are a gift I will forever treasure.

Most clips in the video are unscripted and completely candid. I filmed the fun, the not so fun, hard moments, silly moments, and everything in between. This changed the way I viewed the trip once I got home. By the final day in Europe I was ready to go home. Cultural Routes was harder than I thought it was going to be. It was not all sunshine and rainbows every second of every day. By the time I got on the plane back to America I was physically and emotionally exhausted, home sick, and fully spent, a testament to how all in we truly go on Cultural Routes. Once I began to look through footage and pictures from the trip I gained so much perspective. Despite the hard and tired moments, and trust me there were plenty, I still saw the great moments. There were so many great moments. And even one great moment made every difficult moment worth it.

My favorite picture from the entire trip is a picture of the restaurant owner of the Mexican restaurant we went to in Munich. It was taken after our epic dance party that got shut down by the police by the end. He is clapping celebrating with us and looks so proud. To the right is the reflection of Dr. Pitcock in the mirror on the wall. He is smiling too and looks even more proud. I can only imagine what he was thinking in that moment. I think he was looking at his familia, before we even knew we were one, thinking about how much we still had left to experience. I love looking through pictures and videos from early in the trip because there was so much ahead of us that we didn’t know about yet. The group I filmed the first day of Berlin was not the same group I filmed the final night in Rome. Getting to literally watch our group’s growth throughout the trip is incredible.

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The amazing people and places around me made it easy to film. The eighteen other people on Cultural Routes taught me more in three and half weeks than I could have asked for. I am honored to have captured our journey together. And even though I didn’t write anything down and I didn’t keep a journal, I will be able to remember Cultural Routes forever through these pictures, my unique and colorful journal.