Yeah, sure, you take pictures of people, places, and things. But what else can you use a camera for?

When most of us travel, we bring a digital camera with us. Some even bring a phone that has a camera on it. These have uses past just photos.

When you are in a country with lettering different than your own, you can take photos of signs. For example, in Thailand, the lettering is, uh, cryptic. To many it looks upside down and backwards. Although a lot of the signs were either in English, or at least the phonetic spelling of town names and such. The problem is that they were not always that way. A sign says that such and such waterfall is 6 kilometers that way. You go 6 kilometers, and there are signs pointing every which way. None of them in English. If you took a photo of the sign 6 kilometers ago, you could pull out your camera and compare the Thai spelling to what is on the sign.

Now, you are looking for some town or another. You get lost. No matter how many people you ask, no one can understand your pronunciation of the town name. If you had a photo of a road sign, or a bit of your map, you can show it to people. Even when people can’t read, they often recognize the spelling of local towns and can point you in the right direction. Just remember that if a person can’t read, and does not recognize the symbols, they might still give you directions. They will be wrong, but their conviction might convince you they know what they are talking about.

You are in an internet cafe, the printer is not working. You make reservations to some hotel, or other place the next town. The best way to get to this place would be with a print out of the address, which may not be in your language, or even recognizable lettering. If you take a picture of the address on the computer screen you will have something to show the bus/taxi/tuk tuk driver.

This photo of the screen works on a lot of things. Reservation confirmation numbers, maps, bus schedules. Photographs can be taken of other things as well. Take a photo of a bus schedule at the bus stop. You can then zoom in as necessary to see the details you need.

Often times there are things you might want to have reference to sometime in the future but don’t want to carry. You see a brochure for some tourist site or festival for a town you will be in a few weeks from now. Take a picture.

Sometimes there are signs up for what looks like an event you might want to go to, but in a different language. Take a pic.

Frankly, you can use your camera as a substitute for a good memory or to help communicate something to someone that is of a different language. Take a photo and say “What’s this?” can be a lot easier than saying “you know that yellow fruit that looks like a deranged Easter Parade Balloon?” Want to remember the name of a street your hotel is on? Take a pic. Don’t forget to take a pic of the front of your hotel before you leave. It might help you find it later when you get lost and need to ask directions. If the hotel does not have business cards, you can take a pic of some letterhead or whatever.

Room numbers, lock combinations, whatever.

Of course, your camera can get lost or stolen, so you would not want to rely on it. But as a backup, it is great. There are a few things, such as your passport and the entry visa that might not be a bad thing to have. I keep a scan of my passport on my camera, as well as on-line. It may help a bit if your passport is lost.

If you are using your camera’s memory as a backup for scanned files, you will need to try it out first. As storage, it generally works fine, but you may not be able to retrieve it directly from the camera and you may not be able to look at it. Cameras tend to have a file naming structure that needs to be followed. If you put your memory card in a reader, and look at the files you will see a directory (Folder) structure and naming convention that is used. If you name your files similar, and put them in the same directories as the other pics, you should be able to look at them on your camera.

While you are at it, put some pics of your family, friends, pets, whatever on there so you can show people you meet.

Some of the other things to think about: Guide Books, translation pages, phone books, even hand written notes and journals. Backing up notes. Scraps of paper that people write their e-mail addy’s on.

Some say it is a good idea to keep a photo of your name and address in your camera to assist in it’s return. This is a good idea, but one must decide if you really want to give your addy to someone that just stole your camera. I think a picture of your first name, telephone #, maybe e-mail addy, and a note that you own the camera. Even if a thief took it, he might want to sell it back to you.