Cultural Experience | Italy

How Circumnavigating the Globe Taught Me to Watch a Sunset


There is so much to see in this world and it’s so much more beautiful when your eyes are not hidden behind a camera lens.

Trequanda, Italy is a tiny town in Tuscany where I spent the end of a five month journey traveling through Asia, Africa, and finally Europe.  I was staying at my aunt and uncles beautiful home with two of my friends from school.  On one of the last nights there I slipped out of the house as my friends were finishing their laundry and my family was starting dinner.  My goal was to just wander around the cobblestone streets and take in the fresh air for awhile but I only reached the top of the first street before I had to sit down.

As I had turned the corner I was staring at the most stunning sunset I have ever seen.  As the sun sank beneath the Tuscan hills and the twinkling lights of Sienna began to glow in the distance, I crawled up on the stone wall and dangled my feet off the other side as I watched in awe another example of the beauty of Italy.

Immediately one’s first reaction is to reach for their camera which is exactly what I did.  As I spent the next few minutes becoming increasingly more frustrated when each setting just didn’t quite capture the magic I was seeing, a realization dawned on me that would forever change my life.

No matter how many times I try to take a picture of it, the actual sunset will forever be 1000x prettier , magical, and more extraordinary than any photo I managed to snap.  And the more time I spent trying to make it work was just more energy spent wasted trying to replicate a natural, organic moment in order for me to what exactly?  Post on Facebook for whoever happens to scroll past in on the newsfeed?  Instagram it while covering up the actual beauty by putting a filter on it?

I put my camera down and then just watched.  As the sky turned a mix of cotton candy blues and pinks and the hills glowed in a sea of oranges and reds, I realized how important it was to be in the moment.  Now don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that pictures are a fantastic way to document life.  In fact I believe it’s an extremely important way to document life.  But there is a difference from actually living that life or just viewing it always as a photograph in somebody else’s album.  Being present in your own present is a concept that I have come to realize over the past five months of temples, hikes, conversations with strangers, and constant adventure that enveloped my life during my travels.

So my message to you, future travelers of wherever your voyage may take you, is this:  Take the picture.  But then put the camera down.  Don’t critique it and adjust the lens or setting or shutter speed or whatever!  Just put the camera down and wait to look at it until the moment has long passed and you fully soaked up every inch of magic that moment had to offer.  There is so much to see in this world and it’s so much more beautiful when your eyes are not hidden behind a camera lens.

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Jordan Couey

San Diego State | 3 stories

Psychology major at San Diego State University who recently sailed on Semester at Sea and has an intense love for the ocean, music, and all types of travel.


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