Friday, 19 December 2014

The Amazing Race 25, Episode 12

Manila (Philippines) - Los Angeles, CA (USA)

As has become the norm, The Amazing Race 25 was decided in the final episode by a test of the racers' memory of the sequence of places they had visited.

It's tempting to make fun of people who travel around the world while staying so focused on their next destination, rather than on where they are and what is happening around them, that by the end of their journey they have difficulty remembering where they've been without consulting their notes.

There's more than a hint of reality, however, to this aspect of the reality-TV show. You might not keep notes about where you've been. Or maybe you do, perhaps in the form of blog entries or Facebook updates. But how much do you remember about your previous journeys without looking through the photos you took? How many images do you remember that you didn't stop to photograph when you saw them?

Some people can't remember anything that they are told in a class unless they take notes, even though they never look at those notes once the lecture is over. Is what matters to your memory looking at your pictures after your trip? Or is it the act of photography that focuses your attention in the moment, and fixes images in your memory at the same time that it fixes them on film or in arrays of digital sensor data?

How much are your travel memories, and your travel stories, shaped by the tools that you use to record and refresh your recollections? By the practice of repeated retelling?

There's a genre of travel writing and oral travel storytelling that blurs the lines between fact and fiction. I have a couple of friends who get paid to tell travel stories on stage as performance art, and many written travel narratives compete more with novels than with works of history or geography. Readers and listeners aren't expected to take them entirely at face value: We allow considerable artistic latitude when travel stories are presented as entertainment or even as educational parables, rather than as journalism. Is it more fun to read or listen to a good story, or to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

But do we ourselves retain the ability to distinguish the way things appear in our travel slideshows, or in the stories we tell about our travels, from the way they appeared in the moment to ourselves or others?

A common theme of interviews with people who've participated in The Amazing Race is that the story told by the TV broadcasts -- ten hours or so of video edited down from a from a month or so of filming around the world -- doesn't entirely correspond to cast members' memories of what happened. But The Amazing Race is different from most travellers' reality in that cast members don't carry cameras themselves and don't see any of photos of their trips until the TV show -- edited by someone else, from a different point of view -- is broadcast several months later.

If the racers sometimes have difficulty remembering details of earlier events that seem obvious to TV viewers who have seen them focused on, and if the racers' sometimes feel that they are watching a TV show about other people, detached from their own experience, that should perhaps be a lesson about how much our own memories may differ from the way that other people -- those we travel with or those we meet along the way -- might tell the stories of our trips.

What determines what you remember about your travels, and how you remember it?

Please share your thoughts in the comments during this hiatus -- like the season of storytelling between big trips -- between seasons of "The Amazing Race".

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 19 December 2014, 23:59 (11:59 PM) | TrackBack (0)
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