Desktop Travel

A few weeks ago, I wrote that my computer had died and needed to be replaced. Although I wasn’t happy about the inconvenience or expense, I have discovered a silver lining (and, don’t we all need a few extra silver linings these days).

Sometime early last year, I took on the challenge of culling and organizing my digital photos. It took me several weeks to go through them all, delete duplicates and disappointments, and finally create eight distinct topic folders under which my images could be filed. Full disclosure that one of the eight folders was titled “Miscellaneous” but… whatever. I was awfully proud of myself when I finished and have been careful to keep everything mostly organized since then.


When setting up my new computer, old files were transferred from my two back-up hard drives to my desktop. Although this was done by a “professional,” the way the transfer was made pretty much set me back to square one. Suddenly, my new computer was full of all the duplicates and disappointments I had previously gotten rid of and there were multiples of everything, including several copies of the eight organized folders.

Someone less anal and terrified of losing anything probably would have just kept one complete set of the eight folders and deleted everything else. Not me. I had to go through everything once again to be sure what I was keeping and deleting was what I wanted to keep and delete.

I have finally finished the job and the images in my Pictures folder are all organized in their correct folders. No duplicates and very few disappointments (not every photo is a winner but some of the less-than-perfect ones can still be quite loveable).

I knew the task would be time-consuming; what I didn’t expect was how uplifting it would be. I got to travel again to Cuba, Canada, and Mexico, enjoy a cross-country road trip with my girlfriend, visit the Pacific Northwest and Atlantic Northeast, tour San Francisco and Key West, and get my kicks on Route 66.  

I also was able to travel back in time and enjoy dinner parties with friends and family, summer gatherings on our deck, and celebrations – large and small – with absolutely no social distancing, masks, or BYOEverything.

It was glorious.

If you are like me and have a lot of pictures filed away on your computer, I encourage you to do some time travel of your own. Just because flights have been canceled, travel delayed, and planned get-togethers put on hold, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a trip down memory lane.

It might be a good time to organize your photos and make sure everything is backed up, too.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

141 thoughts on “Desktop Travel”

  1. Aren’t our old photos (and new) inspirational, Janis? That was quite a job going through everything. I do have an external hard drive, two cloud accounts (google photos and a premium dropbox) and I must have thousands of images. I try to cull ASAP, but you know how that works! Going through them is a wonderful trip down memory lane, just like you were there again! Great post! And I like your featured image 😉

    1. Even though transferring everything from my hard drive in the way the tech guy did created a lot of work for me, I was so happy that I had back-up drives. My computer’s hard drive was completely dead so nothing could have been retrieved from there. It sounds like you are well backed-up.

  2. I know what you are talking about, Janis. Last year I went through thousands of photos, not just mine, but all the contributions from family and friends from 1900 to 2019. I provided each and every photo with tags. It was a very time-consuming task. But it was worth it, now when I type in a search for sunflower, I get all photos with sunflowers from my archive. The idea of creating four categories is a good one, Janis. Best wishes! Peter

  3. What a great idea. I just went through my WordPress blogs and got it up to snuff so pictures on my computer would be another great step. Thanks!

  4. Nice job, Janis. When my laptop crashed after a Microsoft update that took hours and completely wiped away everything on my computer, try to be diligent about backing up everything, in particular photographs.

  5. Hi Janis!

    While time consuming, this sure sounds like a wonderful way to spend hours and hours at the computer, traveling in time and around the world. I am curious as to how you archived the photos. Per country? Chronologically?

    Whenever I move the photos from my camera onto my laptop, I delete duplicates and lesser versions, often deleting about a third of all the photos I take. When creating blog posts, I go through the relevant folders. When posting the blog about “one year with Maya”, I spent hours just browsing through one year of photos, looking for the ones I took of her in order to select my favorites – thousands of photos.

    So, unlike most people, I’d rather pass on going through my archives and will do this once more when I’m bored one day, as I’m sure more can be deleted. I have way too many folders, files, and photos. And memories… 🙂

    1. Having a camera always with me on my phone (actually, it’s more of a camera than a phone), makes it so easy to acquire tons and tons of photos. I still have bunches on my camera that haven’t been transferred to my computer (another week’s work). On my desktop, I created eight general folders (Travel, Local Fun, Friends and Family, etc.) for my photos, then added sub-folders under those, often by date and location (2017 Oaxaca, for example). I guess everyone needs to figure out a system that works for them. My system would probably make someone else nuts.

  6. I agree. I’ve started going through my files and writing about past trips that I didn’t have time to address when they were current. It’s a fun walk down memory lane.
    I So get your fear of deleting something crucial. Consequently I end up with unnecessary multiples of things.

  7. It’s a great idea, Janis! Thanks. I’m like you – I’d have to go through every duplicate folder to make sure they were truly dupes and I wasn’t deleting something of importance!


  8. Janis, photo sorting is a very time-consuming activity, especially when you spend time looking at them and having conversations. Love the photo of the teepee and old car, very arty! What I find fascinating is how different Les’s photos are to mine, in that he has captured something I never saw or looked at a building at a differing perspective than me.
    I am trying and I emphasis the word “trying” to organise my photographs, then I get distracted!

  9. I’m one of those who just save all travel photos in folders by destination and year and never look through them unless I need to post something somewhere. It just takes too much time. And I don’t want to be looking for a certain photo only to realize that I deleted it because I didn’t like it at the time. 😋

    1. Just do a little at a time. The hardest part (although not the most time-consuming) was to determine categories for the master folders so all my photos could fit in one or the other. Now, I need to make a few of those photo books that I’ve been meaning to put together for a while.

  10. Ha! I too understand the need to go through the duplicate folders … just in case. I have 2 old laptops, one of which is about a dozen years old, which I’m unwilling to part with … just in case. Yes, they’ve been backed up, but you never know what hidden treasure might be still on it. Anal thinking, for sure.

    But now that all the inconvenience of setting up a new computer is behind you – and your photos are all neatly organized again, give or take a large Miscellaneous folder – you can be off and running. Online courses have been my salvation through these past difficult months. I would have been lost without them!

    1. I thought of you (and your experience of losing all those photos when your camera was stolen) when I wasn’t sure all my files were backed up. When we found them safe-and-sound, I breathed a big sigh of relief.

      I just signed up for a creative writing course… very excited. What courses have you taken?

      1. I was lucky that I eventually did find a backup with most of my photos. I lost ‘only’ 6 months of memories … unfortunately that included the time Deb & I went to Newfoundland 😦
        Now, I just can’t seem to get excited about taking photos again, nor have I replaced my mirrorless.

        Hope you enjoy your writing course. It sounds like you have a talent there ready to be mined!!

        So far since March I’ve completed 2 art courses, am about halfway through a tarot course, and just signed up for an iPhone photography course. Trying to get my mojo back 😉
        … not to mention endless YouTube videos on art and gardening. So much to explore!

  11. Good for you! As for myself, somehow I haven’t been able to squeeze in this task among all the other things I haven’t been able to do with all my extra time. Maybe you’ll inspire me!

  12. Good for you! You must have the patient of a saint! I often SAY I’m going to organize those photos, but then find other things that somehow need doing more. (The task doesn’t need to be very urgent….) As Tom says, maybe you’ll inspire me! (I doubt it.)

  13. Good idea, Janis, and beautiful photos. “Getting your kicks on Route 66” made me smile. I’m also at the point where I have too many photos on my cell. It’s ridiculous how something so trivial can cause minor anxiety. 🙂 So, when I “make” the time, I need to confirm that most of the photos are on my laptop, then begin deleting. Again, when I make the time…I haven’t reached that point yet, but hopefully soon. Thanks for the silver lining and enjoy your travel when masks and social distancing weren’t in the rule book. Who would’ve thought! Take care, Lauren

    1. The pictures on my cell are the next thing for me to tackle. Most have been transferred to my computer but, for some crazy reason, I still have them on my phone. I think now that I am more comfortable with backing things up, I’ll be able to delete many of the photos on my phone.

  14. Janis, I had similar experience early on in isolation when I started my photo-digitization project. I loved the memory lane and even went back and reread my travel journals from a few of the trips! I just last week got back the digitized photos and ack…they are all in ONE folder. All 1000 pictures. I guess I’ll be spending time in the next few weeks sorting and labeling. I’m also planning to create a coffee table book from our Utah trip. At least starting with that trip (one of my all time favorites) and see how it goes. I might then do a few other favorite trips (Africa, Glacier, YellowStone/Tetons). A friend did a book from her recent Iceland trip with Costco Photo and said it was easy and inexpensive. Projects for isolation!

    1. Photo books are on my list too. I have started them in the past but found it so difficult to decide which photos best represented the trip. Did you have a service digitize your photos? I have the photo album of my brothers and my childhood… maybe I should also get these digitized and made into books so we can all enjoy the pictures. Oh, boy, another project!

      1. Janis, I used LegacyBox to get everything digitized. Its not cheap, so wait for coupons on them… they have gone to 60% off twice already this year. You have months to actually send the stuff in, so don’t worry if you’re not quite ready when you see the good coupon! Also, pay for the higher level of shipping. The Post Office lost our box of returns (photos and thumb drive) and for 48 hours I was in agony. They eventually did find it, but I really thought everything was lost and was heartbroken.

        It took me hours to go through all our photos to decide even what to digitize (we had thousands of photos)… so I do know getting to a photo book on the trip will not be easy!

  15. I am delighted to hear of your silver lining in all of this. I have been doing some picture travel too and it has been incredibly uplifting. Is that the church from San Miguel de Allende? I wanted to let you know that our house in La Paz is around the corner from Piedras y Pájaros Park where you took those cool statue photos you sent me. Sadly, the Park is locked due to COVID, but I can still look through the gates to see the statues …and I also have your lovely image to enjoy it at home.

    1. Yes, that is the Parroquia in San Miguel. It is so beautiful. I’m sorry that Piedras y Pájaros Park is closed but at least you can see the statues through the gate. Fortunately a lot of the art in La Paz is visible from the street (murals, etc.) so I hope you are able to get out a bit and see it. Hope all is well!

  16. Reliving some of our favorite trips is a great idea, Janis! I take lots of photos on our vacations too, and they trigger wonderful memories. Thanks for this suggestion!

  17. Your quote in the beginning is so wise…and so true. Sorry about needing a new computer (I dread that day will come for me). Most of my photos are now on my phone. I think I need to put them in the cloud. But what if it’s a sunny day? 🙂 My daughter is my role model. As soon as she and her family return from a trip, she makes an album straight from her phone photos (I forget the name of that site, but I’ve used it too, and it’s great). Happy Memory Traveling!

  18. Anything that gives you an excuse to go back and revisit old images, and the wonderful memories that come with them, is fine by me. I find myself going down that rabbit hole from time to time…usually when I have something more important to do and don’t really have time for it 😀

  19. Janis – I congratulate your wild enthusiasm for re-re-organizing 😉 I also just (yesterday) got a new computer, and already discovered one thing about photos – mine are mostly blurry, something that my new computer’s screen resolution made clear. Ignorance is no longer bliss, and I will have to go back over my photos and cull. This time, though, I will remind myself that it is wonderful fun, and I can thank you for that :)))) -Susan

  20. You are right, Janis, how going through photos can be time-consuming and uplifting. I was pretty up to date until our New Zealand trip last year. I have photos saved on two external hard drives in a safe (at a friend’s place.). On my laptop and our desktop and likely some have made it into a Cloud (lol). I have even saved the camera cards used on our Iceland and New Zealand trip as a form of external hard drive. A tip from a photo expert. Yet, I am told even the hard drives do not last forever and should be moved again to a newer external hard drive. I love playing with my photos, yet, I also like my Daughter’s and Husband’s saying, where they will take a “mental pic” at times. Great point on going down “memory lane.” You have found many gems on your recent travels. 🙂

    1. I think all the back-ups can be a bit crazy-making. I keep the camera memory cards from a few once-in-a-lifetime trips too. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to keep track of where everything is saved (computer hard drive, external hard drives, camera memory cards, cloud services, etc.). All this technology was supposed to simplify our lives, but sometimes I wonder.

  21. That’s why I love photography you can relive sort of those wonderful trips, family visits, and miscellaneous stuff! 😀

    Good for you on the newly organized system! I hope it serves you well for a very long time.

  22. You are so right Janis – to relive those memories again is wonderful. I took Thanksgiving weekend 2017 and scanned in all of my photo albums of family, friends and trips. The albums were in a place I could not access without making a big mess (storage is at a premium in this house). I put them on a flash drive and into the safety deposit box but also put them onto Shutterfly photo storage site so I can meander there and look any time at them. Or use them in blog posts as well. Like you, it was a massive job, but you’re glad you did it in the end despite your computer issues.

      1. No, I didn’t make a book Janis as they are not all “final” images. I put over 1,000 images onto Shutterfly (and the flash drive) that weekend. Some photos I had to scan each picture on an album page and some of the albums pages were oversized. The best scanned photos were from my mom’s family album and there were photos of my grandparents holding my mom as a baby in 1926 – the photos are crisp and clear. And they used photo corners so I simply lifted the photo out. So I scanned all the images in, but each time I want a photo I have to take a screenshot, then enlarge it from a small image. So, this will be a retirement project to get the entire collection of photos looking good. What I’ve been doing now is using some photos in blog posts so I fix them size-wise then and have them in an album in my computer. It was and is a massive undertaking and I had to do it as the albums were starting to deteriorate. They were nice albums, but the side bindings just lifted off the pages and the pages fell out of the album! The pictures were not sticking to the adhesive and the pictures were falling down from where I stuck them. I was pretty upset about it. Shutterfly has some great deals on photo books – I got a free Shutterfly book with my compact digital and DSLR cameras and I made photo books for my neighbor of her family and one just her grandchildren, which photos I lifted off her Facebook profile. She was surprised!!

          1. Yes, and when I put the images in a more final state, it will be a little at a time – just the scanning alone took forever. I was disappointed to pick up albums that fell apart. I had them all in an underbed box in the bottom of a closet – I don’t know why that happened. I hear the commercials for Legacy Box – what a great idea, but I’d worry about my photos getting lost in the mail. I wouldn’t do it but it’s a great concept. I one time took many rolls of film from a Panama Canal Cruise to a one-hour photo and they lost one roll of film (the day I went on the actual passage through the cana) They said “sorry, but if you read the fine print when you take film in, you are only entitled to a fresh roll of film back if something happens!”

  23. Hi, Janis – I recently cleaned up all photos on my computer. While I sadly did not receive any kicks on Route 66…I did relive wonderful memories. Like you, I highly recommend using photos to revisit a moment long gone. Unlike you, I would never have gone through all of my photos a second time! 😀

  24. I’ve been working on a similar photo reorganization project, and like you, it as been a fun ride down memory lane. I’m a lot more diligent with back-ups now too. My current computer had a hard drive failure after only a year of use…

  25. I used to be very organized with photos but with the introduction of digital, I am no longer that gal!🥴. Although I have certainly gone back a deleted some, I have yet to fully organize my digital pics. I probably should tackle that one day!😂

    1. Just like clutter on my desk, I found that clutter on my computer became a source of stress for me. Although it took a while, getting all those photos in their appropriate files and folders (and deleting many along the way) makes my life easier… and I’m all about making my life easy 🙂

  26. Such beautiful photos and a great lesson to be learned, too. Not all drudge work turns out to be drudgery. Happy Weekend, Janis.

    [Your post just showed up in my feed today, 2 days after you wrote it. Glad I saw it, but it’s weird that it look so long. Or maybe that’s another example of a new normal. 🙄]

  27. That’s part of one my worried about the back-up device I have: that when I someday have to use it for a new computer, it’ll also transfer over the things I really don’t want from the old one — and not just files but also problems!

    I’m sure I’d probably also go through the same repeat process you did with all of those pictures and folders. Fellow anal-retentives understand one another. I’m glad that you sorted it and are now re-organized. I remember that Route 66 trip. 🙂 – Marty

    1. I guess if I had to choose, I’d choose too much stuff over no back-up at all. I am going to try very hard not to let things get out of control on my new computer so (hopefully) that won’t be a problem when/if my computer dies again.

      I think I enjoyed looking at the pictures from our various road trips the most. I sure hope that kind of travel will be available – and safe – in the not-too-distant future.

  28. This is long overdue on my to-do list…and the box of memory cards gets deeper each year lol. I keep some of my favourites in Google images and a few other online storage areas, but I don’t keep them on my laptop anymore because they eat up way too much memory space, I have a lot of video footage as well as photos …..I really need to get on top it and buy a decent external hard drive – and delete the pictures/clips I don’t want to keep. 💫 👌

    1. Not only is it a challenge to organize all of your photos (and, in your case, videos) but keeping track – and organizing – all the various back-up services can be overwhelming too. But, just like organizing an over-stuffed closet, sometimes you just have to start. I find that taking on smaller bits at a time helps. Thank you for your comment and good luck with your project!

  29. Oh no…. I can’t believe you had to do all that all over again. Wow. I am the same way about my photos… especially those of years gone by or trips that are but a distant memory without the accompanying photos. I love looking at old photos and having being doing quite a lot of that these days seeing as I actually have the time. We have had so many years of such rich travel, having the time to see the photos over again as well as some videos has been very enriching. I like the way my phone and my icloud, or both I have no idea, have my photos already organized by place and by date, so no sorting needed. Miraculous.



    1. I know that I have some existing cloud storage (iCloud and Amazon Prime)… but do I have any idea how they work? Nope. I wonder if my images are in cloud folder too? Much more fun to take pictures and play with them then to actually organize and categorize 🙂

  30. I try and do it fairly regularly – just to free up space. I’m trying to get photos and words into albums now – for our major trips – and that’s been more of a headache but at the same time a reminder and a virtual travel opportunity.

  31. WOW – just a one-time sorting of photos that well would be a major accomplishment, and you did it TWICE! I’m envious. Excellent advice – I love how you found such joy in looking back through the places you’ve been and the smiling faces you’ve enjoyed seeing in the past – or should I say will see in the future of when we can do those things again. 🙂

  32. Now that travel and gatherings are restricted, going back in time through our photos is a pleasant experience. In your case you became organized out of necessity. You are an inspiration to those of us who happen to be unorganized just because we are not as motivated. 😊

    1. I had so many pictures all over the place that it was making me crazy. My first big organization effort (on my old computer before it died) was just so I could find photos easily. The second time was to recapture that sense of order… the bonus was my trip down memory lane 🙂

  33. This would be a great time to revisit all of your travels to exotic locales since we don’t appear to be going anywhere for a while. I need to do a better job of culling my photos. right now, they all are automatically all saved to GooglePhoto.

  34. First – I love the title of your blog! And, this post is very timely as I am switching computers and have been thinking about how to organize my photos. My current computer is fine, just old and slow and since I don’t have a zippy work supplied laptop anymore, it’s time to upgrade. I look forward to exploring your blog.

    1. Thank you… and thank you for visiting! It seems that the best way to organize your photos is whatever works best for you. I’ve watched a few videos and read several articles but not everyone’s system made sense to me. Good luck with your new computer and getting everything in the perfect place for you!

  35. Oh my gosh. What a big job. And to have to do it twice! But I know what you mean about getting a little buzz when you come across images you’d mostly forgotten about. Every now and then I go on a tear looking for a specific photo. It’s easy to get waylaid by these little excursions through memory land. I’m impressed at your filing system. I tend to file by year then by event (or category). I have LOTS of stuff that could be culled.

  36. I applaud you for taking a positive attitude amidst your technology challenges, Janis. Like you, I have been going through thousands of photos these past few months. Hidden in a box in my garage, I found about 500 color slides that my parents took during my early childhood. I bought a special scanner so I can share them with my four siblings. It is a real treasure trove of memories.

    1. I remember slides! My parents would come home from their travels and bore us… I mean enthrall us kids with tons of slides (my father didn’t understand the concept of culling) of their trip. I bet you and your sibs enjoy the walk down memory lane looking at those pictures!

      1. Yes! Culling is the key to a successful slide show. Haha! My box of slides included an old projector, that to my amazement, still worked. Projecting onto the wall made the images even more nostalgic. I’m sure Esther was enthralled.

  37. Hi Janis, What a great post. I have tried to organize several times, and my husband even got me a special stick drive to organize to. I have a couple of hard drives and a couple of cloud drives – one Apple and one Microsoft. I’m still afraid to delete anything. I definitely need help!!! BTW, I’m a friend of Terri W. Schrandt so she recommended that I stop by and visit.

    1. Thank you for the visit (and thanks to Terri) and your comment. You sound just like me with all your back-ups and still having a great sense of doom that something could get deleted by mistake. Although I’m sorry you suffer from the same affliction (I wonder if there is a medical term? 🙂 ), I’m relieved to know that I’m not alone.

  38. Great post! I was looking for some pictures to include in a blog post and I spent hours going through all of my old travel pics. My mom does the same thing… old photos not only serve as a reminder of good memories, but (at least for me) for motivation for what’s to come as well.

  39. I love this idea. I have over 12,000 pictures on my computer and like you said so many duplicates. I never thought of sorting them into files o deleting. Fun to travel back in time. I recently sent s bunch of old videotapes of my kids off to imemories and was thrilled to see and hear all those fun memories too.

    1. On my first trip to Europe when I was in my 20s, I don’t think I even had a camera. Now, I can’t imagine traveling without one. Even in my day-to-day life around my area, I often take pictures. All of that adds up to TONS of photos. Once I got everything organized, I find it so much easier to find what I want… and no duplicates. Hopefully I can keep it up because I don’t want to go through it again 🙂 Good luck getting your photos organized too! Thanks for your comment!

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