There’s been some buzz about a bunch of dudes who’ve taken the same photo in the same spot every five years for the past 30 years. That buzz led to this article about travel photo traditions—a guy named Andrew who has photos of himself doing handstands all over the globe, a girl named Claire who takes pictures of her feet around the world, a stuffed bear named Bear who appears in the travel photos of a woman named Sue.
It’s Bear that particularly caught my attention. Bear reminded me of my own memorable experience with a travel photo mascot many years back.
It was on a family trip to London when I was about 12 years old. For some reason, my older brother had been carrying around a small plastic figurine of Abu, from the Disney movie Alladin. (I have no idea where my brother got it, or why. He was 15 years old.) Early in the London trip, my brother made the decision that little plastic Abu would make an appearance in every photo we took.
Much to my mom’s dismay (sometimes bordering on anger), every time we posed for a photo, Abu was in there. Usually it was subtle (perched inconspicuously behind a shoulder, or head poking out from a pocket). One time it was not at all subtle (center frame, popping out from the open fly in my jeans). To my brother and me, the whole thing was hilarious. We couldn't get enough of it.
I love things like that. Photo games. As a grown-up all these years later, I do understand my mom’s vehement opposition to the Abu photo incursion. All she wanted was some lasting family memories, some nice family photos. At the same time, I have now come to a clearer understanding of exactly why my brother and I were in the right. The truth that I couldn’t articulate at the time, and one that my mom never grasped, was that for those few days in London, Abu was a part of the family.