One of the greatest joys you can experience while traveling to remote locations is the ability to present a polaroid photo to the local people you meet who may not be as fortunate to own a camera themselves.
It is often one of the best gift you can give.
There is a truly special and undeniable happiness on the faces of those you present with a polaroid. Camera phones have reached even the most remote places on earth these days so people are usually familiar with seeing their photos on small screens and even on a general camera screen. However, most have never seen a photo being printed instantly.
Polaroids are also one of the world’s greatest “ice breakers”. A change occurs during these moments that surpasses language barriers , cultural differences and nationality. During my experience the photos have created a lot of attention. Ive had entire villages line up for photos and have been made the guest of honor.
On a countless number of occasions I have been invited for endless cups of tea, a glass of pristine whiskey and even accommodation for the night. Not only are you able to bring joy and laughter to others but you have the possibility of changing your position as a tourist to an authentic traveler – interacting with the locals and experiencing a side of their life you would never seen otherwise, all because of a small photo. Just be sure to carry enough film as I’ve had to disappoint a few people when Ive run out.
Locals get very excited!
Over the years I have brought my Polaroid camera with me to Western Sichuan in China, South Russia, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Cuba. In each destination it has brought excitement to the locals, even Havana, Cuba´s bustling capital. Presenting these photos always ends the same way … with an unbound number of smiles and laugher. This also saves you from promises to E-mail photos later. For myself, I know such a promise is unfortunately far too easy to break.
So, if you ever travel through any of the places I mentioned and notice a polaroid photo on a wall, its most likely from me.
Traveling with a polaroid camera may come with a few hassles. Other foreign tourists have nagged for photos when I’ve used the camera in more touristy places and in a few countries Ive encountered plenty of turmoil from Customs.
The camera itself is big and bulky and not travel friendly. Ive had packs of films die from heat (Dubai) and cold (Northern Pakistan) even when they were safely packed inside my backpack. Film is also expensive and sometimes impossible to obtain even in well-developed cities.
However, any amount of hassle is well worth it when you witness the smiles, the laughter and the unspoken bond a simple printed photo creates.
So often we take pictures for our own memory but having a polaroid allows those we meet along our journey …. to remember us as well.
Don’t be selfish, bring a Polaroid camera on your next trip.
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© Christian Pa Tur Lindgren, Miranda Murphy, Unusual Traveler, 2016