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How can a digital camera from 1999 change your life?

I spent a few minutes tonight looking through my old Flickr account, which I’m in the process of finally closing. The earliest photos I posted there came from my first digital camera, a Kodak DC240, that I bought in 1999. It was an expensive purchase for me at the time, but an impactful one.

Looking back, the camera probably played a surprisingly outsized role in sharing my enjoyment of the outdoors. Prior to that, I had an entry-level SLR camera, which had started to get me interested in photography. I also had access to lots of free film rolls from my dad’s office. Unfortunately, they were all 12-exposure rolls, which meant I’d be paying a substantially higher per-shot processing fee than the standard 24 or 36 shot rolls. Given my meager finances during college, this was not ideal.

And because it was easy to shoot photos, but not to process them, I routinely took trips to exciting places…but couldn’t afford to process the resulting film for weeks or months later. Infamously, it once took us an entire year to finally process all the photos we took on a two-week national park road trip, given the high cost.

But this digital camera changed that.

Everything changed. But I just didn’t know it then.

Suddenly, I could take as many photos as I wanted because I could afford to “develop” them afterwards. Sure, I had to bring my laptop on our trips to download photos from the low-capacity compact flash cards, but we were running Microsoft Streets and Trips to plot out driving directions and gas station stops anyway. This was, after all, before the time of smartphones and data coverage.

And because downloading the day’s photos to make room for the next day’s adventures became an evening campsite routine, I developed a lifelong habit of reflecting on the day around the campfire. Perhaps that’s played a role in my ideas on reflection as a component of maximizing one’s Return on Adventure.

Planting the seeds for today.

Having digital photos also inspired another longstanding tradition: sharing my trips with others. 

Back then, since we only took 2-3 “big” trips a year, I’d hand code a new HTML website for each major trip we took. This was a time-consuming endeavor, especially for someone with only a passing knowledge of HTML and CSS. But also made the trips feel extra special.

We could show off the cool places we visited, both to our coworkers at Staples and to out-of-state family. It was pretty cool, and it absolutely inspired us to travel further and more regularly. By 2000, I was posting a few select trip photos on, and a couple years later, even tried my hand at launching a hiking website called (without a budget or social media, it didn’t go far). 

I started blogging about my trips on, and eventually launched to use a fancier php gallery script to showcase my hiking and travel photos.

After my (now) ex-wife and I got engaged in 2004, we launched where we started posting some of our bigger trips, along with regular travel blogs (side note: Jen and I have similar plans). By the time 2005 rolled around, I had started my Flickr account, using it to re-post photos of our weekend dayhikes and national park travels—and well, occasionally some political cartoons lambasting Dubya, too.

Getting social.

But Flickr wasn’t just a place to host your photos, it was a social media network for photographers. I graduated from posting photos to conversing with others—people I didn’t really know—about the photos and the places they depicted. It was great; I still have some friends today that I met through my first few months there. I started slacking on posting to, preferring the easier uploading interface and resulting social feedback of Flickr, so it became my default photo repository.

Within a few years, though, Facebook and Twitter had arrived, and they generally replaced my social time on Flickr. Around that same time, my then-wife and I divorced—and I suddenly spent a lot more time interacting with new friends I made in those early days of Twitter, tweetups, and Foursquare. Would I have put myself out there the way I did without those first few months on Flickr? Perhaps not.

Remembering where the first seeds dropped.

Somehow, over the years, I’ve gotten pretty bad at posting trip photos, especially now that I’ve generally abandoned Facebook. And I’m even worse about blogging about my trips.

But I’m social with many travelers via social media, nearly every single day. And like before, I’ve made some really cherished friendships out of it. And even though I often don’t post full albums of my travel photos, or write detailed blog posts, or even considerhand-coding an entire website to commemorate my last snorkeling adventure, I still regularly share my trip experiences with you all.

We post photos of places we’ve visited. We share a story about our recent travels. We daydream about our next adventures. We converse during twitter chats. We share a virtual happy hour. We make plans to join each other at a destination. We learn real names, not online handles; we meet wives and husbands, dogs and cats. We sleep in guest rooms and living room floors, and vote in binding polls on one-year anniversary trip destinations. We befriend, celebrate, support, tease, and treasure each other.

It’s not hard to walk backwards through the threads that connect these experiences, all the way back to a day when I opened the box of that Kodak digital camera—totally oblivious that it might start me down a path that connects directly to today, to me writing this very post to my adventuring friends on the internet.

And that, my dear friends, answers the question I posed in the title.