Expat Life: Should I Clean Up My Act?

by Miss Footloose

Going nutsSometimes it’s all too much. You’ve got thousands of them and your head spins thinking about the sheer number of them and what to do with them, and why in the world do you even have them, keep them?

Thousands of what, you ask? Photos. Pictures. Snapshots. Clogging your computer, your jump drives, your old CDs, and, of course, littering cyberspace. I was going through my photos the other day, the ones taken in all those exotic expat and travel locations I have graced with my presence. Pictures of things and people I would never have encountered had I stayed put where I was spawned, which is the Netherlands, the country that’s number four on the list of the happiest people in the world. This is neither here not there, but I thought I’d throw it in here for the heck of it.

Where was I? Oh, yes, photos. What to do with them? Who will ever want to look at all that flotsam and jetsam once I depart to the afterlife? Well, maybe you do – just a few. Really, just a few. Like this one for instance, taken a few years ago in Albania.


My prince and I were invited to lunch in a small village house. I loved that old stove, and the contrast of the modern remote control snoozing next to the olives on the table.

On vacation in Turkey, on a little boat cruise, I was charmed by a bunch of butts. You never know, do you, what might catch your fancy?

Turkey boat trip

Why do I take pictures like that? Who knows. I didn’t know these people from Adam, but I liked the various shapes and lines on this picture, including the red life preservers.

On home leave in the US one time I found this intriguing sign in a bathroom at a rest stop along one of America’s main highways and felt perversely compelled to snap it.

Bathroom Sign

Now you tell me, who flushes jeans down a toilet?

One time while living in Armenia my man and I were invited to a birthday party in a village. There was much eating and drinking and toasting, as they do with much enthusiasm over there in the Caucasus Mountains, and it was all very fun and entertaining. The mother had created a special birthday cake in the shape of the country, Armenia, even showing Lake Sevan in the center. She asked me to take a picture of it. I did, and here it is now lounging in my photo files of many wonders.

Armenian Birthday Cake

The sweet shape of Armenia

I seldom take photos of people unless it’s clear that they don’t mind. This man was asleep and I sneaked up on him. It was taken in Ecuador in South America, where we vacationed for a few weeks to see if we might want to live there in the future.

Sleeping in the park

Below another picture taken in Albania. You go to a country and who knows what you end up seeing; it’s not always in the guide books, trust me. Here I was, walking around in an olive curing barn (shed, building) and what did I see? Lots of olives, for sure, but then my eye caught a hole in the wall. And the view through it. So I took a few pictures from different angles. Other people take pictures of the Taj Mahal or the Pyramids. I take pictures of a hole in a wall. Maybe something is wrong with me.


We loved going to the beach when we lived in Ghana, West Africa. Coconut palms, drinks brought to your lounger, golden sand, lobster for dinner. Get the picture?

African fishing nets

So I took a picture of a fishing net. How could I resist? Now this image is hanging out in my computer somewhere, taking up space.

I’ll stop here. Trust me I have thousands more like it. Clearly, I am not talking here of family photos which might be interesting for later generations. (I’m getting a lot of fun out of old photos from past generations of my family. No, I won’t show them to you.) I’m talking about the useless products of my just-for-the-fun-of-it happy-snapping.

So, should I just stop my photo-littering, stop clogging the environment with my junk photos? Sadly, it’s too late for me. I’m addicted. I’ll just keep snapping.

* * *

Tell me what you take pictures of. And what do you do with them? Store them? Print them? Delete them?

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Oy. This topic gives me a headache! I have thousands and thousands and thousands. I’ve been going back through Delhi Bound to replace pictures that Google ate and while I am LOVING the trip down memory lane, there are just TOO many!!!

I don’t print many pics – although my husband does insist that I enlarge some for art / framing on our wall. Mostly I create photo books with them and external-hard-drive the rest!

I love taking pictures of cats, doors, windows, and clotheslines, in particular (I am always thrilled and inspired by the sight of a well-arranged clothesline), but like you, there are times I find other weird things so compelling that I just HAVE to have them on film. I say don’t stop taking pictures, but you should know that I am an enabler.

It’s these small moments that are life! Keep them!

I think you’re very lucky. I often regret that I have a million photos of the Merlion and Raffles Hotel, but not many of the small day-to-day moments that made up my life in Singapore — and those are the most important moments of all. BTW, your hole-in-the-wall pic is my favourite.

Oh, I love taking photos. I nearly always will have my camera with me, so I can take shots of whatever. Old boots lying by the side of the road, twenty times the same view, colleagues and whatever else catches my fancy (which is a lot). And I will show them on my blog. All those weird and wonderful things I see…

This is a great example of how advances in technology can create problems as well as solve them. Digital photography has been such a boon, but like you I’m overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of photos I just can’t bear to delete. I do create physical photo books for special events, but that is just a drop in the bucket. How about storing them in online albums? Flickr now gives you a terabyte for free, which according to my calculations would be 1 million 1MB photos. That ought to be enough for anyone!

I take pics, go through them, delete some of them, keep others — some of which end up on my blog to share with others! 🙂 Have to say that I take and keep way more photos with my digital camera than pre-digital versions. I even went through periods of my life — particularly the 1980s and 1990s — when I decided that I got better experiences when I wasn’t looking for good shots to take. But now… I actually think a lot of it has to do with having a blog. On a related note: I post quite a… Read more »

You should keep them all, Karen! I’ve never been a photographer, and what photos I have of my travels were taken by my wife. My weakness is pieces of paper; I have to force myself to discard even the most useless of notes. We hoarders have to support each other!

But I do have photos of my son and his children as a screensaver on my computer – one of those programs that change the photos every five seconds or so. You might like to try that, if you haven’t tried it already.

Angel of H.O.P.E

Funny that mentioned your pictures today, when I woke up this morning your pictures came to my mind. I was thinking how nice it would be to catalog them in one or many volumes and share them with the rest of the world. For i know how much I have enjoyed them, I usually look forward to Saturday for them and I have a feeling I am not the only one. I miss it when you stop for awhile, so share them with those who unlike you and people like me, cannot afford to or for whatever other reasons cannot… Read more »

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