On slide projectors and longing for elsewhere

Travel memories work like an old-fashioned slide projector. They hum, the crunching gears cruelly reminding me I’m no longer elsewhere. Eventually, I fade into the memory once again, and the humming fades with it; I’m elsewhere for that fleeting moment. Then, click, I’m jolted to the next memory, forever too soon.

In college I traveled regularly, reveling in the fear, glee, confusion, angst and self-awareness it inevitably offers. Without the flexibility of traveling in my post-grad life, I’ve found my gaze lingering on photos of Istanbul, Izmir, New York, New Orleans (and more), bummed I can’t remember every little detail like I promised my mesmerized college self I would.

Izmir, TurkeyRather than ogle at my painting-like Izmir album any longer, I returned to the root of my fascination with world traveling, one I hope to realize.

My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Stone, broke out his slide projector only on the most special days, days reserved for faraway places and more importantly, ditching the cliché rubbish of your typical world culture textbook.

With each wheezing journey of the projector, we visited Japan, China, Russia, Africa through his travels, each slide lingering long enough to provide a tiny twinge of longing, a silent “Wait!” when the “click” sounded, ushering me into a new elsewhere. I hadn’t had time to process every pixel of the previous photo, after all!

Memories operate like the beloved, resilient slide projector, I learned when I fell off my couch the other day. While trying to find the perfect angle for my new frame featuring the Izmir, Turkey, skyline, I had plenty of time to take in the photo, to relive the memory in its fullness. That’s what I thought, anyway.

After nearly 10 minutes of juggling the frame and my level with ever-poor balance, it bothered me that I couldn’t remember every detail of that experience — how we got to that lookout area, what kind of flowers bloomed there, even the name of it.

Then I realized it’s OK to not remember every detail because when I stop worrying about the natural fading of tangible memories, I find it’s easier to re-experience the beautiful feeling of wandering, wherever I am.

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