From my limited understanding, Saint Christopher is a popular saint among travelers (among many others). I’ve heard stories of travelers carrying Saint Christopher medallions or placing small statuettes on the dashboard as protection on a journey. I’ve never been particularly religious – we went to Midnight Mass a few times. But I’ve given this Saint Christopher thing some thought recently.
I had this thought on the journey home from work today. Seeing as this is a travel blog, for all intents and purposes, maybe I want to veer occasionally into the things (not just the places) I love and trust on the road.
So for this momentary diversion – my first travel product, I guess – I’ll start with my camera. I always – always – have at least one camera with me.
I love taking and collecting photos (I take after my father that way). I always take at least one camera with me – and in the past decade or so, often two (or three, if I count my smartphone). For a long time I used point-and-shoot film cameras; in high school, I moved onto a film SLR (when I took a photography class). In college I took my SLR with me on my junior year abroad to Australia; my brother, understanding my desire – my need – to take too many photos (and keep them, store them somewhere), sent me a small digital camera for my 21st birthday. (I still mostly used my SLR on adventures; took the digital camera around to the bars.) Eventually, I moved onto a combination of a digital SLR (dSLR), a pocket point-and-shoot digital, and a Polaroid (unfortunately…just before Polaroid went under). When I moved to Morocco and China, I took a basic Olympus camera with me, and my Canon dSLR. (I ended up needing to replace the point-and-shoot at some point – but don’t we just love Hong Kong for that? The dSLR is still going strong, 10 some-odd years after I bought it.) I took my dSLR with me on every adventure I went on. It’s amazing – but dang it if it can get heavy after a long day of trekking around somewhere.
I knew I was going to take the dSLR with me on a two-week trip through Japan, followed immediately by a week in Bali. I can’t remember if I planned to take my pocket point-and-shoot too, but just before my trip, I was talking to a colleague in my department about the pocket point-and-shoot he carries around on his more tropical adventures. It was his favorite camera for shooting his daughter and his wife in the pool, on the beach, while snorkeling, you-name-it. See, here’s the thing – the camera he showed me, the Olympus Tough, is waterproof and shockproof. Perfect for beach or pool vacations with a toddler – or for someone, like me, who drops everything…and loves swimming. I was…intrigued, especially since the third week of my three-week trip would undoubtedly include water.
I hopped through my two weeks in Japan happily with the dSLR, and got some amazing shots. At some point, near the end of my trip, I meandered into a department store in Tokyo, and saw that they had the next generation of the Olympus Tough. I had managed my budgeted pocket money well enough throughout the two weeks (a feat, for me). I ended up returning the following evening to buy it (on sale, and with a tax rebate on my American passport even!)
The Olympus Tough features a lot of settings and filters I haven’t even used much yet, even now; it can even be used semi-manually by setting the aperture, white balance, exposure balance, ISO, all that fancy camera-talk. The biggest boon might be its size – it fits into most of my purses (and granted, I usually carry around a huge bag). Sure, it’s not a dSLR – there is not as much manipulation to be done on the camera itself – but it takes great photos for such a small thing. It even has a cat mode and a dog mode – which ended up coming in handy much later when I needed to take “passport photos” of my cat to get her out of China and into the US. But that’s another story for another time; for now, I was excited to get going in Bali with this little thing.
On my first full day, I booked myself on a snorkeling trip just off the coast of Menjangen Island off the northwest coast of Bali – the perfect first test for this camera. I’ll admit, I was new-toy-nervous. I attached the wrist strap to the camera, and kept it around my wrist while I tentatively put the camera underwater the first time. I swam around the reef, taking more and more photos, generally getting more comfortable with the camera in the water. Now would be a good time to remember what I said a moment ago that I tend to drop everything.
I got…too confident. I had the wrist strap on, after all! So I decided to take a break from holding the camera in my hand, and let it sit on the wrist strap. Half a stroke later, my right hand suddenly felt several ounces lighter. I looked down and saw – to my dismay – that the wrist strap was, indeed, still on my wrist but the camera was tumbling down…down…down the left side of the reef. If it had veered to the right, I might have been able to grab it off the reef, maybe 8 or 10 feet down – or could ask the guide to help. But no – it was going left, down the small cliff. The camera I had bought less than 48 hours ago. I impulsively grabbed onto the wrist strap (so it wouldn’t float away), jack-knifed, and scrambled down – and somehow found the oomf to dive far enough down to grab the camera in my outstretched right hand before it tumbled further. I managed to scramble back up to the surface in time to hear a German fellow-snorkeler say, “Whoa – that might have been the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time.” I tightened the wrist strap, and did not let go of the camera at all after that. I did get some amazing photos after that – under water and on land.
The camera has not left my bag since then – it has become my own personal version of a Saint Christopher medal, a token that comes with me on every new adventure. Sometimes I’ll break out my dSLR – or even my old film SLR lately – but that little red Olympus Tough, the little camera that could, is almost always tucked away in my purse, my satchel, my beach bag, or my backpack.
When I got back to work in China, after the Bali adventure, I related this story to my coworker. He immediately said – “What, you didn’t get the floaty attachment? I can’t live without it.” Huh…being someone who drops everything – obviously – that probably would have come in handy. But then, the camera would not have become my self-imposed traveling good luck charm.
As a bonus (since this is a product placement, after all) – here are some of the photos I took on that snorkeling trip.