Raafia Jessa
Wanderer. Nomad. Graphic Designer.

Musings about Normalcy


You know sometimes you see a really good picture and it breaks your mind? Ah, I’d love to be able to do that.
I’m not a photography noob, but I’m not on mind-breaking picture-taking level yet. So, for the past year I’ve been trying to get better at photography.

What a good time to learn, eh? Travel, go to cool places and photograph cool stuff.

Before all this nomad craziness, I never really traveled at all until I was in my mid-to-late 20s. My parents took us on trips as kids, but from my late-teens until I graduated from University, it just wasn’t possible. Work, school, school work, internship; there was no time to even think about it. 

The only, only thing on my “bucket list” was to see the Colosseum. Having studied Art History, in my mind it was this magnificent, glorious symbol of war, but also of politics and art. Something barbaric from another time. I really, really wanted to touch it.

I kept thinking, I’ll get through school, get a good job, be more financially stable and then one day in the distant future, I’ll go on vacation and touch the Colosseum. If I could make this one thing happen, then any other opportunity to travel that came after it would be extra. Icing on the cake.

As I said in my last post, I am middle-average and I’ve spent a large part of my life in North America. The norm here (when going to foriegn destinations) is that this is done in the form of a “vacation”. What does a normal middle-average vacation look like?

  • Pick a place in the world that you’d like to visit (Maybe you saw an advertisement somewhere or your friend told you about it or you saw it on social media)

  • Take a break from your job - as much as you are allowed - and start planning this break from work (a “vacation”)

  • In the limited days you have, you try to see as much of the chosen destination as possible, and take as many pictures as possible. The likelihood that you’ll return to this place is limited. You’ll go home to your job, and the next time that you have time away from work, you’ll go someplace else. (Why would you go back to the same place on your limited time off, when there are so many destinations to see?)

Makes sense. 

Here is my picture in front of the colosseum. There was a moment while waiting in line that we considered just leaving and not even going in at all. Made it to my dream destination, and was considering not going in. But, I was there, I had to take a picture with this thing.

Anyways, I graduated, got a “big girl” job and was given the magical gift of “Paid Time Off” (PTO).
September 2017, I used my PTO and went on “vacation” for the first time: First time in Europe, visited Italy, touched the Colosseum.

Italy is so flipping beautiful. But the Colosseum, honestly, it was kinda sucky. We had to wait in a very long line for a very long time. Once inside, the place was full of people taking pictures, so many pictures. Some of the historical masterpiece but a lot more of themselves - always making sure that the “landmark” was somehow included in the photo (yet secondary). The photo was not about the location, but about themselves and how they were at this particular location. We didn’t even go into the catacombs because it was so full of people.

There was a gift shop - of course there was a gift shop - to buy trinkets and little artifacts. (You can find some of those same trinkets outside the Colosseum for a much lower price). The one and only thing on my bucket list turned out to be an overpriced gift shop.

But, still, obviously, I was so happy. Italy! So Cool.
I have amazing memories from this trip; my first adult travel experience. But, my fondest memories are not of the thing I had gone to see (the Colosseum) but of a tiny beach town in Sicily which, according to Wikipedia, had a population of 226 in 2011. (Can’t find any stats further than 2011). 

So, going back to the original point. Photography.

I’m still trying to learn photography as I travel. Since, I now work remotely and nomadically, there is no such thing as a vacation. I’m always “working” so I can stay longer than a regular “vacation period” in some really cool places. I try not to focus on the most obvious destinations, but I’m not going to stop dreaming of going to Paris just to avoid crowds.

I mostly want to go to Paris to see The Louvre; it sounds like a magical place. Maybe one day I’ll go and take a tour of the museum and look at all the beautiful art. Obviously, other people also want to see The Louvre so I can’t be mad when there’s a horde of people already there. Most likely, the entire time will be spent dodging and weaving through people, and maybe a few glimpses of the Mona Lisa will be visible through gaps in the crowd. Most likely, there will be lots of people taking really distant, very zoomed-in pictures (over other people’s heads) of poor Mona Lisa to prove they had been in her presence.

Most likely, the thing I will see most in The Louvre is lots of backsides: backs, backs of heads, lots of butts.

In an effort to minimize the dodging and weaving, I’ll make sure to go in the “off season” and hope there are less people. Maybe, I’ll skip visiting Mona because it’s The Louvre and sorry but she’s just one of many masterpieces that lives there.

A distinct pattern that emerges in places like The Louvre: Walk in, camera ready, take a photo of the overall place, find a spot to stand and take a selfie, tell whoever is with you “Hey, take my picture” (making sure the “destination” is in the picture), walk around a little, take another photo of the place, exit. This is what is allowed in a middle-average schedule. A small break from reality, it must be photographed!

So, since everyone wants their picture taken with or in front of all the cool stuff, that’s what I’m doing. I’m not making any judgements (positive or negative), just observing. I get why this behaviour happens. But still, it’s quite comical.

An ongoing photographic series about touristic photography from the eyes of a middle-average nomad.

Raafia JessaComment