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Is the photo better than the vacation?

By Katia Hetter, CNN
July 23, 2012 -- Updated 1322 GMT (2122 HKT)
From lost reservations to bad service, <a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-814374'>iReporter Brent Larson's Antigua honeymoon</a> in 2008 with his wife, Ona, was far from paradise. Laughing about it now with family and friends, he says he doesn't believe it was a complete loss. Instead, he describes it as a "memorable" experience in ways the couple never expected and far too ridiculous to get upset about it. From lost reservations to bad service, iReporter Brent Larson's Antigua honeymoon in 2008 with his wife, Ona, was far from paradise. Laughing about it now with family and friends, he says he doesn't believe it was a complete loss. Instead, he describes it as a "memorable" experience in ways the couple never expected and far too ridiculous to get upset about it.
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Terrible vacation, great photos
Terrible vacation, great photos
Terrible vacation, great photos
Terrible vacation, great photos
Terrible vacation, great photos
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Any trip can be turned into a great tale with amazing pictures
  • Photos remind one iReporter of the good times she spent with family, not everyone's illnesses
  • Visiting a hospital for relief from itching was the highlight of one couple's honeymoon
  • Father can remember his now-grown children playing and bickering during camping trips

(CNN) -- Brent Larson and his bride, Ona, look like an ad for their Antigua resort, glowing, in love and sun-kissed in paradise.

The picture doesn't tell the whole story.

Larson, a CNN iReporter, said the resort had no record of the couple's reservation for the honeymoon suite, leaving them half-asleep in the lobby until the middle of the night. The private beach? Not so private, with wandering drug dealers who didn't take kindly to the U.S. Naval Academy graduate and his wife declining their products.

"The Antigua pics being quite different than the story was an accident," said Larson of Charlotte, North Carolina. "I wish I had pics of the (possibly human) bone fragment (I found on the beach), the cop giving me a hard time when I reported it, the massive storm that flooded St. John's and stranded me there for three hours while my wife thought I'd been kidnapped for ransom, and on and on."

It might have been the vacation from hell, but it seems that any trip can be turned into a great tale with amazing pictures. Inspired by the true stories behind picture-perfect photos, we asked CNN's iReporters to share their dream vacation photos and the real stories behind them. Almost everyone had amazing and sometimes horrifying stories that the camera didn't catch.

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They didn't let illness ruin their trip

Donna Henderson, another iReporter, had hoped for lovely times with her mother during a three-week vacation through Iceland, Scotland, France, the Netherlands and Italy. Her aunt joined them for part of the trip.

It didn't go as planned. Less than a week after they arrived, her mother got a cough that turned into a viral chest infection. A few days later, her aunt had a heart attack. Henderson started to feel sick the next day and visited a hospital emergency room just to make sure she was OK. The special night out she planned for her mother's birthday, including a dinner cruise down the Seine River? They didn't make it.

Despite their illnesses, Henderson doesn't dwell on the negative aspects of the trip when she looks through her pictures. "One of the best things for me was to spend about a week and a half with my aunt and get to know her from the perspective of an adult," wrote Henderson, an Ottawa, Canada resident, in an e-mail.

"The trip to the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon (in Iceland) was amazing and worth the entire 13.5 hours it took us, as we did it as a day trip," she wrote. "My mum, who was born in Scotland, had always wanted to see Fingal's Cave and was finally able to do so. That was good for her to see it and for me to be the one to take her."

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Attack of the killer sand flies

Adam Parker, an iReporter from Decatur, Georgia, loves to take pictures and was immediately drawn toward Barbuda, "a little jewel of an island where we could have some scenic solitude" for his honeymoon. The happy couple knew that they wouldn't have air conditioning, which wouldn't have been a problem if sand fly season hadn't started earlier than usual.

"My wife would like me to clarify that we didn't just itch a little from bugs," he added. "We actually spent most nights getting to sleep with her on the couch and me in the other room because we fell asleep whenever we became too exhausted to stay awake."

The highlight of the trip? Visiting the island's only hospital in search of relief from the itching. "The hospital was an old, barely staffed facility in which half of the equipment used was outdated and/or rusted," he wrote. "She chose to take antihistamine in pill form as opposed to getting a shot because we couldn't help but question the sterility of the environment."

He said, "Now almost exactly a year later the memory of the biting pests has faded for me, not so much for my wife, and we are left with pictures that would make it hard to believe that we were treated to anything less than paradise during our first week of marriage."

Time doesn't blur the memories

While photos usually gloss over the back story, they're great for calling up those cherished, if not picture-perfect, family memories.

Seattle iReporter Jim McClure and his wife recently scanned a collection of family camping trip photos from 20 years ago to create photo books for their grown children, now 24 and 28. Looking through pictures of the Canadian and Colorado Rockies, the Badlands, the Oregon and Washington coasts and the San Juan Islands sparked many memories not documented in the collection.

McClure can clearly remember his daughter, "at age 5 sitting, arms folded and crying because she was having difficulty setting up her tent, or the moose that wouldn't let me out of the campground shower building for several minutes."

"My son and daughter set up and slept in their own tents, starting at a very young age. Everyone pitched in, from gathering fire wood to preparing meals to cleaning up. We were lucky to see and experience many wonderful things. We all remember our meals, some of the best food (ever) cooked over the fire."

The photo books were a hit with his kids during a recent family celebration. "They were completely surprised," he wrote. "The day's celebrations basically stopped while they slowly flipped through the books."

McClure said he's also grateful that his 90-year-old father is dedicated to reviewing and scanning his collection of photos that date back to McClure's great-grandparents' days.

"Every image tells a story, some short -- some longer," he wrote. "It's not uncommon for an e-mail trail to go on for weeks, becoming pages long, containing the discussions these images conjure up from the recipients."

The pictures offer some perspective

iReporter Jim Heston was taking a day trip to Dala, across the Yangon River in Myanmar, when the skies decided to open up. As Heston ducked into a small shelter along the river to stay dry, children began to play in the rain, and an amazing photo opportunity presented itself.

"In the tropics, the people deal with the rain as a minor inconvenience, and don't let it hinder their mobility," he wrote. "From the vantage point of the shelter, I was able to snap off pictures of people coming and going through the intersection."

He added, "I made it to one more vantage point, an open restaurant near the ferry drop-off. This was a very vibrant spot as people arriving from the Yangon side, were on their way home. They weren't concerned about being drenched as they were getting close to home."

One man's washout is another's photo opp. And the rest of the world just goes about its business.

Do you obsessively document your travels or leave your cameras and phones behind to experience your vacation without any technology? How have smartphones, Facebook and other social media affected how you take pictures on vacation? Please share with us in the comments below.

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