Visiting somewhere new, it’s a common reaction to try and bottle the moment somehow.

Whether it’s watching the sunset on Halong Bay in Vietnam, or seeing the snow fall on the Rocky Mountains, once-in-a-lifetime experiences are often so fleeting, it’s only natural we attempt to capture them forever.

Luckily, armed with today’s camera phones, there’s nearly always a quick and simple way to do this. The problem is that by sticking a screen between our face and whatever’s being admired we’re taken out of the moment. So we get the photo, but we’ve barely enjoyed the experience in real time.

Before cameras were small enough to put in our pocket, or even stash in our daypacks, lots of people carried sketchbooks and a pencil – or even a small brush and water colours – in order to create their own keepsakes. Not just artists, but regular folk who were keen to enshrine the places and cultures they saw around the world. Or even just down the street.

by sticking a screen between our face and whatever’s being admired we’re taken out of the moment

It’s a tradition that’s ripe for revival, as the pace of life keeps increasing, to the point where even our holidays are action packed from go to whoa. The concept of stopping to sketch something might seem weird, but it’s the perfect circuit breaker. We’re not talking about practicing to become a great artist either, just the basic act of attempting to get something we see down on paper.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw, because even by studying something long enough and intensely enough to sketch it will force you to see the world in a new way. Not only will you always remember whatever you’re drawing, unlike the thousands of forgotten photos buried on the hard drive of your computer, but you’ll also start looking at everything through fresh eyes – you’ll notice the profile of rooftops, the way fruit is stacked on food stalls, and how light filters through different trees.

But don’t take our word for it. Next time you’re packing for a trip, swap the camera phone for a sketchbook and see the results for yourself.


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