I Lost My Camera in Colombia – A Blessing in Disguise?

I just got home yesterday from a 10 day trip to Bogota and a couple surrounding towns. It was an amazing vacation, and before leaving Toronto, nearly every person sent me on my way with a ‘Have fun! Be safe! Take lots of pictures!’ type of message. Another equator-bound lady and I scoffed at such cliches, thinking ‘Ppff! Like we’re not going to come home with hundreds pictures of this new place we’re going to!!?’

And I took them! I took classic shots of my feet in cute little shoes on top of sewer grates or ground-maps that said ‘Bogota.’ I took simple, wide, landscape shots of the churches and the mountains and the crazy masses of yellow diesel-fueled taxis and insanely packed buses everywhere. I also captured unique, artistic close ups of graffiti,  colorfully painted villas, exotic flowers, and road-side cows, chickens, donkeys, sheep, horses, and dogs. I ensured there were photos with me framed perfectly in front of the dark salmon terra cotta walls of the house of Simon Bolivar, and sitting on the ledge of a beautiful rock wall backed by huge palm trees in Parque Nationale, and on top of little bridges over an adorable creek in Parque de Los Novios.  But none of these will make it to their destined profile-perfect internet home; instead, I came home with 45 shots, and they’re all from my camera-phone.

There is something terrifyingly soul-sucking about losing your camera while on vacation. I realized it Tuesday evening, while on the bus back to Bogota from La Mesa. I searched frantically through my backpack at least four times, trying to convince myself I hadn’t explored some corner of its contents. I succumbed to the loss. It was after an incredible day of fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants (yet guided by an awesome Bogota local named Mauricio) travel, which brought me into the home of a lady, which was so  incredibly beautiful and unique, I thought I had entered a museum.  We climbed down a flower, coffee, banana, orange, and mango-filled mountain to a town of San Javier. I had taken nearly 300 photos on that day alone. I literally had a moment where the thought ran through my head “I want to go home now. Tonight. This isn’t worth being here anymore now that it’s gone.”

And then I stopped crying, and I took a deep breath, and I remembered that it’s JUST a camera. Yes, there were images on there, but I still have the memories. The hour that followed had me participating in one of the biggest rationalization games I’ve ever had to play, and I did a pretty decent job:

At least it wasn’t my phone, wallet, or passport, and I wasn’t hurt.

I recognized that I’m only 28, and this is only one trip, and everyone writes about travel, but that this might actually be something unique to share, that everyone experiences at least once.

I remembered that my travel partner had taken more than a 1000 photos on his phone and camera, and thought about how he was probably just as upset about my losing my camera as me, since we sort of took turns being the shutterbugs each day.

I thought about how the camera was only found in my over-filled apartment a couple months before, so the actual loss of the plastic and metal and magnets was completely inconsequential. My memories can’t be lost or stolen or damaged.

I hoped that whoever found the camera would know how to use it, and be excited about having a new toy. I imagined it would be some adorable child with a keen eye, who would then become a world-famous photographer in their teens, forever seeking me out, to thank me, with a gallery named in my honour  (I may or may not have been high on altitude at this point).

In the two and a half days that remained on that trip, something really interesting happened; I saw fewer things, but in greater depth. I remembered small details a bit more. It was like I was seeing things, and registering the words I would use to describe them, rather than capturing them through my screen.  In my own last article about Artbattle in Toronto, I reminded people to put down their screens for a bit, to experience things through their own eyes, and as upsetting as it was, I was given an exercise to do just that.

After relaxing at home yesterday, high on oxygen in the diesel-less, lower altitude T.O, I felt energized and excited to go for a run in the alleys of my own neighborhood. I jogged down the first one, and came across these two messages:

This was just the beginning. The ‘run’ ended up being a self-guided slow trot tour of the old doors, windows, stencils and graffiti that were all less than a kilometer from my house. I couldn’t stop noticing the contrasts between old and new textures, colours, and materials.  In remembering to look harder at details in my last days of vacation, it ignited that same sort of observation in my own, regular surroundings. In telling stories to a few people since I’ve been home, I’ve focused on the sounds I heard, the foods I tasted, the scents I smelled, the feelings I felt. I also gave descriptions of sights I saw, but the stories have been richer, for the lack of photographic evidence.

So, in my post about Bogota and La Mesa and losing a camera in San Javier, Colombia, I end with this gallery taken on my Blackberry of photos of my own beloved neighbourhood: Little Portugal, Toronto.

  1. Lori Bigwood said:

    Wonderful Lee-Anne. I can picture your journeys by the description words you write and I can feel the energy in you. I’m glad you had a great time and I can’t wait to HEAR about everything you saw! Love you, Aunt Lori. xoxoxo

  2. Chantelle said:

    Lee-Anne, I absolutly love your positive energy and how mindful you are. We all go through life so busy not appriciating moment to moment. You have always been a mindful woman but I think this trip sound’s like it brought even more awarness to you and your journey. Sound’s like a wonderful trip filled with awsome memories. Glad you are home safe. You are inspiring!

    Love Always,


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