At first glance, the title Collect Moments, Not Things: Ideas and Inspiration for Creating a Life to Remember by Tamsin King made me think it would be just a bunch of boring lectures on not being materialistic, spending quality time with family and doing good. However, the description on the back cover caught my attention: “Walk a llama. Fly a kite. Go star gazing. Ride a steam train. Row a boat. Watch a waterfall. Wonder at life and all its beautiful moments because you only get one chance at it.”
Hence, going by the catchy description, the book was bought and — as it turns out — it is not at all boring. Instead of long sermons, it shows newer ways of broadening one’s horizon and engaging in cheerful and uplifting experiences. King is a knowledgeable adviser: a diehard festival-goer, camper, backpacking traveller and author of several how-to books, she writes from first-hand experience.
In our quest for material possessions and to surpass others in acquiring luxury items as well as dependence on all things digital, we seem to have drifted away from what really matters. Our lives revolve around work and gaining material things and, whatever free time we have, we spend it glued to our screens. We are surrounded by social media, yet we have grown less social. Filial bonds have grown looser. Even when sitting with our family members/friends, there is hardly any communication. We don’t talk; we tap.
We have forgotten to look around us and take pleasure in the small things, at the amazing and exciting world of nature and the opportunities it offers to those who want to explore and discover. We’re losing touch with nature and have become less perceptive to small, beautiful things happening around us, such as the chirping of birds, the smell of the earth while it’s raining or the whisper of waves at the shore.
King reminds us that it’s time we changed our habits and — instead of wasting money on commodities such as clothes that will just lie in our wardrobes, or on the latest model of smartphone and laptop — put our resources towards new experiences rather than new things. This does not necessarily mean planning an extended holiday; quality experiences can be had even from some spontaneous and on-the-spot diversions from routine life.
While giving the benefits of “collecting moments”, King rightly says that the novelty of material things soon fades. With each passing day, newer versions of these things are introduced and we keep on buying. Moments, on the other hand, are precious and priceless and stay with us always. At the same time, one way or the other, moments teach us some lessons and bring us closer to our loved ones. In the process of escaping from the fake reality of our gadgets and beginning to discover the world, we can often begin to realise that there is more to life than screens. And that, one can say, is the biggest reason to collect moments.
The beautifully designed book is packed with ideas and inspires one to do just as the title suggests — spark one’s imagination and excite one’s adventurous side. Fully realising that not everyone can afford to spend a lot on activities to collect memories, the ideas King puts forth are divided in three parts according to the depths of one’s pockets: ‘Collecting Moments on a Low Budget’, ‘Collecting Moments on a Medium Budget’ and ‘Collecting Moments on a Bigger Budget’. But whatever your spending power may be, the ideas seem to be endless.
The ideas themselves are nothing extraordinary. For example, King suggests that if you don’t have the resources or time to go camping in the wilderness, you can pitch a tent on your front lawn and spend a night staring up at the stars as well as paying attention to the sounds of nature around you. You can opt for bird-watching, or butterfly watching, and you don’t have to go farther than your neighbourhood park when colourful flowers are abloom, especially in spring.
If you have some extra cash you can indulge more, of course. Ride a bicycle through the countryside, or try your hand at some old-school boating and observe the wildlife and calmness of water. You can also take up photography and capture snapshots of things as ordinary as seashells on a beach, grass covered in dew, and anything that sparks your creativity.
If you have even more money, hold off on buying the new phone just yet and instead, dive into the depths of the ocean by opting for scuba diving and observe the fascinating inhabitants of the marine world. On the flip side, fly high in the sky in a hot air balloon, or go paragliding to view scenery from a totally different perspective.
It’s actually how King writes that inspires: simple and reader-friendly, as though she were talking to you. The images included in the book are beautiful and eye-catching, and she thoughtfully provides space for us to record our own experiences of the moments that we — hopefully — will eventually get around to collecting. This comes in the form of a sort of calendar/diary where one can keep a record of activities undertaken according to the month and time of the year.
The book is sure to make one want to go out and live the best of their lives. However, one soon realises that although King’s ideas are what we would like to do, they are not very practical, especially in our part of the world. Even basic activities such as flying a kite, camping on the lawn or riding a bicycle are not possible without hassle, let alone scuba diving or hot air ballooning.
Perhaps the appeal lies in the fact that we all want to live in a fantasy world and dream of undertaking exotic adventures. But there’s a difference between fantasy and reality. And perhaps books such as these are meant to touch upon our natural desire to have these experiences, because very few of us manage to actually do so. But there’s no harm in reading and thinking of the day when at least some of these activities are within our reach.
The reviewer is a freelance journalist
Collect Moments, Not Things: Ideas and Inspiration for Creating a Life to Remember
By Tamsin King
Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, July 5th, 2020