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Abundant Inspiration . . . Up North

Taking Intention . . . On Vacation

Before Tom and I left for Alaska, I told him my one intention for the trip:  
Less screen.  More experiences.

First night on the ship, somewhere outside Vancouver.

I know that sounds kind of weird. . . less screen.  What I meant, really, was I wanted to take fewer photos.  I wanted to free myself from feeling like I needed to document every moment of our trip.  There is nothing wrong with vacation pics -- and I certainly did want to take photos.  I just . . . didn't want to experience Alaska behind the screen of my iPhone.  I wanted to experience everything around me directly.  I wanted to live in the moment of the trip.  I wanted to create my own mental memories.

And, of course, I would take photos!  Here I was . . . in one of the most incredibly beautiful places I've ever visited . . .  and I wanted to capture it.  (For later.  To inspire my art.  To document our trip.)   On the other hand, I really didn't want to miss anything . . . by trying to get the perfect photograph.

So that was my intention.  Less screen.  More experiences.

And I'm happy to say . . . it worked for me.  I took far fewer photos than I normally do on a trip.  I kept my phone in my pocket much of the time.  I looked and experienced first -- then took my camera out after that.

And you know what?  Doing that . . . experiencing first . . . actually made the photos I did take BETTER.  And I know my memories about the experience are richer -- because I didn't live them from behind a screen.  

A perfect example.

In Juneau (on the evening after our Mendenhall Glacier trek), we went on an evening whale watching cruise (which also featured an amazing "Alaskan culinary experience") (so awesome) (my first taste of reindeer!).  The setting was gorgeous -- water, mountains rising straight up, sunset, eagles soaring.  Really . . . just amazing.  The small boat had comfortable seats, HUGE windows for viewing, an on-board naturalist to explain everything we would see, and binoculars.  (Also wine.)  

It didn't take long . . . and we saw whales!  Humpback whales -- spouting in the distance.  The ship's captain steered us toward the whales, while the naturalist told us all about the humpbacks and explained what we were seeing.

I kept my phone in my pocket . . . and grabbed the binoculars instead.

We followed the whales (always at a distance of at least 100 yards for the respect and safety of the whales) for about an hour and a half.  It was amazing!  We ended up seeing something that is rather exceptional on whale-watching excursions -- something called "bubble netting", which is a cooperative feeding practice of the humpback whales.  We ended up watching a group of 8 humpbacks working together the entire time!

Now here's where I'm going to be a bit judge-y.  There were about 25 people on the boat with us.  Most of them . . . watched this entire spectacle behind the screens of their phones or cameras.  Trying to get a good shot . . . of unpredictable wildlife . . . in the water . . . from a moving boat . . . at a distance of at least 100 yards.  

As Tom and I watched, we learned to (kind of) anticipate where they might surface next.  We learned to watch for the signals -- first the spout, then the surface rise, then the ALL of them coming up to the surface at the same time, then the fluke (the tail).  The folks with their screens?  They were always behind the movement because they were limited to what they could see on their phone screen.  

Eventually, the boat made this spectacular turn . . . and the lighting was amazing and the backdrop was perfect.  Whales or not, it was time for me to get my phone out and take a few photos of an incredibly beautiful landscape.  

And then I noticed it . . . 



Surfacing.  (With bonus soaring eagle!)





IMG_4684 2

Yep.  I ended up getting some pretty great whale photos that evening.  But I'd like to think that I was able to capture these moments . . . because I had experienced them first.  I knew what I was looking for.  And . . . even if I hadn't gotten ANY decent photos of the whales, I'd still have the glorious memory of our magical whale watching evening.  

(We also saw harbor porpoises on that excursion.)  (I didn't get any photos.)  (Didn't even try, actually.)

I'm really glad I decided to take intention with me . . . on vacation!




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So good, Kym. So good! (And nice photos too). I have found that I am taking less and less photos when Fletch and I go away. We take a few, but like you, I don't want my camera (or my phone) in front of my face the entire time.

I want to know about reindeer! How did it taste? How was it prepared? So interesting.


I LOVE how taking fewer photos enabled you to really experience what you were seeing and take better photos! I spent some time with my nephew's wife a few weeks ago and she documents almost every single minute with a photo, to the point where her interactions with other people become just an endless stream of composing photos. To be fair, they do have a two-year-old son, but she rarely seems to see him without her iphone between them. I found it kind of irritating and like your approach better!


Applause for enjoying the scenery and enjoying photos with a little circumspection.

kim in oregon

We saw bubble netting as well--it was incredibly! That was before cell phones were ubiquitous--and I agree it was a very different experience.


All you really need is ONE spectacular photo to remember a moment. Sometimes it takes loads and loads of photos to get that one and sometimes you get the perfect shot on the first try - like you did. I think you're right that you enjoyed the whales more because you just watched in awe and didn't try to document the entire experience. I also think sometimes it's better to just be in the moment and buy a postcard or print of a beautiful vacation spot. The image is likely to be better than what you could capture yourself (hello professional equipment) and you don't have to fuss with a phone or camera to get it.


Oh my. This is so excellent! Vacationing with your word is wonderful... but when your word is intention, well - you have taken it to a whole new level Kym!

And, those photos! Divine!


You knew what to look for and, when ready, you were able to document it. Great photos, mostly because you know when to shoot. I find I enjoy the experience (whatever it is) so much I end up not taking pictures, but I've never regretted the lack of them, either. I love the way you always put your word into practice and relate the experience to us. We learn so much from you!


This is a great reminder and I'm so glad that it worked for you! I think it's a general phenomenon these days that people experience the world through their screens, and I think they're missing out. We were at a wedding over the weekend where I wasn't tempted to take any photos (the bride was the daughter of one of my husband's coworkers), and I couldn't help but notice how many people had their phones out throughout the ceremony. I, on the other hand, was seeing the full picture, and I think I got the better view.

I'm going to keep your mantra in mind the next time I'm on vacation or somewhere scenic -- experience, then screen!


Love the whales. Such an awe-inspiring sight. Even when my cruise ship was three times farther away than yours was, and it seemed like we were gazing at It from the wrong side of the telescope. Three cheers for observing first. It can take discipline.


I love everything about this post (and you). Thank-you so much for all you bring to us. xo

kathy b

Great lesson for us all. For me, I only took the GOOD camera along on our Zion National park hikes ONE day. I wanted to hike and look and not keep stopping to snap photos. When it was all said and done, i took a lot less photos than normal. A lot! I kind of wish I had taken more.....
but I succeeded and we have enough to pick a special one that we will enlarge . So that was the point!


Possibly your only taste of reindeer?? Haha!! (Maddy recently had her "first taste" of kangaroo! She liked it, but it's very expensive... even in the native kangaroo place... so it may very well be her "only.")

Amazing photos, and what an incredible experience!! I love love love the light!

I've been trying very hard recently to "do less screen" and I think that 1SecondEveryday has helped... that's the whole mindset behind it, and I think about that all the time.

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