If a woman goes to Italy for 36 days and no one is around to see it, did it really happen?
Maybe that’s why I Instagrammed my solo trip through Italy…to ensure it’s existence. Each photo, a footprint that left traces of my path. I even Facebooked little anecdotes when I was in the mood. (Yes, Instagram and Facebook are also verbs.) And as I wandered and snapped pictures, alternating from my iPhone and my pocket camera, I wrote silly captions in my head. Documenting. Framing. Storytelling.
As I took my passeggiata day, in the vein of an Italian evening stroll, processing my trip and what it felt like to be back, I came to the conclusion that life is lived for stories. If all of us are here for human connection, that moment only happens when a storyline begins. If language is the foundation of culture, how we live is ultimately defined by what we say. In some ways, we are what we say we are–our stories are how we make meaning for ourselves.
“Dear Diary, You’re dead.”
I brought one of many travel journals with me. I think I opened it and wrote one entry somewhere in the first two weeks of my travels. The thing is, I cannot write for myself anymore. Our world–big and small–lives another life online. Privacy is dead. The knowledge that I am writing for an audience, even if my audience is anonymous and isn’t physically present, changes how I talk to my inner self. Hilarious or tragic? We are–any one of us who has a social media account at all–accustomed to having a 24/7 audience whether we call them followers or friends or connections. Even the definition of a selfie is about putting oneself on stage.
Say What You Want to Mean, Meaning from What You Said
And so I’ve come back to this blog to share my travels. And I asked myself why. As I asked myself weeks ago why is that I’m spending precious moments of my trip posting inane comments about this and that on Facebook. To tell a story, to share a thought, to communicate–is to create meaning, structure and purpose. (I also just like to write–both for and not for a paycheck.) We put words to what we want to matter. We shade experiences with emotion through language. Mine are words and Instagram pictures. Yours might be music and tweets. Videos (or Vines) and postcards or Pinterest pins. And in this case, the message is the meaning.
Making Moments into Memories
I also remind myself over and over that everything in life is fleeting. And travel teaches you that sad lesson each time you return from a trip. But our photos and posts and stories help us hold on to moments a little longer. Cementing memories. Producing proof. Saving little pieces of ourselves to share over and over again.