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!)
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!