Packaged Experience

Do you create your own photo experiences and adventures or do you rely on packaged experiences? I hope to encourage you to have the confidence to create your own most of the time.

Packaged experience

What is a packaged experience? It is any situation where you purchase a ready made happening from a vendor. Someone who offers you a ready to go vacation or adventure you can just step into and passively enjoy.

A classic example of a packaged experience is a Disney World vacation. Space Mountain and Epcot may be fun and maybe somewhat magical seeming for the kids, but not much for an artist. Another example is a typical vacation cruise. New scenery, good food, but it seldom qualifies as an adventure or a unique experience.

In both cases, everything is wrapped up in a neat package, all the sharp edges are protected, and a manufactured packaged experience is provided to you. These are exactly the reasons I recommend you avoid them.

It’s not really an adventure

An adventure is “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity”. Packaged experiences are seldom unusual, since you are buying the same product sold to a million other people before and after you. A simulated rocket ride or a roller coaster may seem exciting for a few minutes, because they shake you around and it seems dangerous. But the reality is they are carefully controlled and not at all dangerous, unless you have a serious heart condition. They are a simulation of adventure. Once you reach an age where you realize the Pirates of the Caribbean are not going to stab you, no matter what you do, it should cease to hold much excitement. Unless you step into a Westworld situation, but that is unlikely.

The packaged experience is in no way unique or dangerous. It’s effects are short lived. There is no long term benefit or learning from it. And even worse from an artistic point of view, it gives you little chance for creativity or exploration of new ideas.

Maybe the worst part, from my point of view, is that in a packaged experience you did not have to put any of yourself in it. You are a passive spectator.

Roll your own

I guess it can seem intimidating if you’re not used to being responsible for your own adventures. And if you are taking the family maybe you want to be extra careful for the kids. But even for them – especially for them – wouldn’t it be wonderful to give them a legacy of being able to amuse and entertain themselves in strange places?

What does it take? Just a good attitude and the willingness to try it. No special training is required. You have to be open to accepting things as they come and learning to like them. It is almost all your attitude that determines what benefits you will receive.

Let me give an example of a pattern of things that formed some of my belief in this. Way back, when timeshares were a good thing and not yet ruined by greedy developers, we bought one. Kind of on the spur of the moment. No real planning or investigation. Well, the real utility for us was that we always traded for other locations in some part of the world. So we had a week tied to some location we had never been to. Initially we would get somewhere, explore the area a day or 2, then ask ourselves what we are going to do now? But we were stuck there. Sometimes these places were way out in the middle of nowhere.

We were forced to amuse ourselves. We would start to explore the vicinity more slowly and carefully. It amazed us what kind of interesting (and photogenic) things we discovered. Looking back on it, I can see what should have been obvious then. Almost every place has interesting things to find, quirky and interesting people, local things they pride themselves on, unique history, local food specialties to try, and just things you have never seen.

Trust your ability

We’re just not used to slowing down and looking at what is right in front of us. Instead, we’re looking for the tourist attractions with bright neon signs. The places listed on the tour brochures as welcoming busses of tourists (and having a big gift shop).

The time share experience taught me to settle in and look around to see what I can find. I can’t remember how many time share trades we did, I would guess at least 20. In all of those, even when we were initially disappointed with an area, there was not one where we went away at the end of a week saying we will never come back there. I remember the very first one we went to was in Palm Desert CA – in August – it was 120F every day. And we loved it. I found fascinating places and sights I had never imagined. We would definitely like to go back, but maybe at a somewhat cooler time.

I labeled this section trust your ability, but really, little ability is required. The biggest factor is attitude. Keep open and receptive to what is there. This is a learned skill more than any innate ability. I always had a bent toward traveling this way, but the time share experience taught me to recognize and develop it. Now I trust that this is the best way for me to travel.

Don’t go overboard

To keep it balanced, let me tell you about a friend I have who is a wilderness photographer. He goes on solo treks in the Rockies all the time, all seasons and weather. He has probably climbed all the peaks around here over 10,000 ft. Many in the winter. Wildlife encounters are not too rare. He builds and stays in snow caves. Blizzards and storms do not dissuade him. I think he is a little crazy. But that is his thing. He gets unique pictures of places and times few other people have seen.

However, this is not what I am suggesting. It is not at all necessary to go to that kind of extreme to create unique adventures. Just go somewhere new and be open to what is there.

Try it

I encourage you to give it a try. It may take several outings before it becomes comfortable. That’s OK. Being uncomfortable is not a bad thing. Sometimes that just means you are learning something new and exercising a new skill.

To get started, take some short trip, maybe one night. Head out someplace you haven’t been before, but not more than a few hours drive. Stay overnight – I recommend a nice local motel, not a big chain. It will be a little more adventurous and without the sterile industrial feel. Besides, small communities need your money. Then home. During the entire outing, give yourself a mission to stop and see and take pictures of anything even remotely interesting. An overlook, some nice trees, a classic old rusty car, a silly local tourist trap – whatever piques your interest. Let yourself go. Tell yourself you’re not in a hurry and you have permission to stop whenever you like. One of the purposes is to learn to find interests on your own.

Photo Tours

Many people I know host photo tours, so I want to address those. Different tours have a variety of goals. For this, let me divide them into 2 groups: tours that take you to famous sites and promise you to make the same well known pictures, vs tours that provide stimulation, discussion, and training while also taking you to interesting locations you have never been. I would call the first kind a packaged experience and advise you to avoid it. The second type, however, would be an enjoyable growth and learning experience. The sights and actual images you get are secondary to the adventure and new experiences. That is the kind of experience I would appreciate.

Do it

I know this isn’t for everbody. Some of you are such hard core Type A personalities that you can’t go to the hardware store with out written goals and a definite plan. So the idea of heading off anywhere without a well researched plan would be horrifying.

But for the majority of us, I encourage you to give it a try. And persist long enough to get over the discomfort and have a fair test to see if you like it. When you learn to see like this, every outing becomes an adventure. Walks in your town become new and filled with sights you never noticed. Trips where you actually get away are more exciting, because you are constantly discovering new things that are not on the tourist brochures. Things that are special to you, that become “yours”. It can revolutionize your life.

Today’s image

An interesting road sign found on a tiny back road in Devon, England. We were staying at a time share miles out in the middle of nothing. Wandering around, we found many terrific discoveries. It was a lovely area that is a special place for us still. No tourist map or guide book would have taken you here.

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