Real-Time vs. Reflective Adventures

Candice Gaukel Andrews November 29, 2010 7

In 1968, Yvon Chouinard took a trip by van to Patagonia, South America. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

“Wish you were here.” It’s the archetypal message on a picture postcard, sent from a friend or family member in some far-off holiday or vacation spot. In fact, the expression has become so cliché that you can now find postcards with the sentiment already preprinted.

Despite the commonness of it, however, the feeling it conveys certainly rings true. Most of us would agree that there’s nothing better than having good companions along on our journeys and adventures. Sharing conversations about the new things we’re experiencing, having a shoulder to lean on when our adventures become somewhat prickly (as at some point, all adventures should!), and partaking in a hearty group laugh about the quirks of traveling these days is priceless.

Today, however, we have another option between the two extremes of having our loved ones with us on our adventures and only wishing they were: we can bring them along in our backpacks, so to speak, digitally. 

Digital diaries and webcam wildlife

There’s nothing better than having good companions along on our adventures. ©John T. Andrews

If you Google “adventure travel blogs” on the Internet today, you’ll get more than seven million results. What’s appealing to readers about these diaries is the immediacy of them. At any moment, for instance, you can read about someone’s day-to-day excursions in Kamchatka or see what’s going on this afternoon in the Galapagos. By tweeting, blogging, and uploading photos of our travels in real time, it’s like taking our friends and family along on our journeys. No longer do they have to wait until we get home to see our photographs and hear about what we did on our trips.

I do enjoy reading the exploits of real-time travelers. It’s fun to “follow” a blogger who’s in a place that I might have visited ten years ago to see how it’s changed, or to get familiar with a destination I’m considering traveling to with the photos and writings of one there now. And being able to watch webcams catching rare wildlife is a true treat of real-time adventures. But has this recent ability to share the immediate moment of our travels changed how we experience them? Is there now such a rush to photograph and quickly record what we’re doing (in 140 characters or less) that we are no longer able to take the time to appreciate and live in the moment of what’s right before us?

Rich in reflection and plenty of perspective

Mason Jennings, a singer-songwriter who joined the crew of the movie 180° South, a documentary about a band of surfer-mountaineers that sets out in 2007 to remake Yvon Chouinard’s 1968 van trip to Patagonia, recently said in a magazine interview, “We are never more alone than when we are on our computers or stuck in traffic, and we are never more connected than when we are present where we are.” I’d take it one step further: Not only is the blogger missing out on making human connections when creating real-time travel reports, the reader is, too.

Digital diaries allow us to see Scotland, right now. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

What’s missing in such adventure accounts — and always will be because of the timeliness inherent in the medium — is perspective and reflection. While it might be worthwhile to know that someone ate an excellent breakfast at a particular restaurant today or that the conditions for paddling in Scotland couldn’t be beat this afternoon, I’m probably not going to remember that article post a month from now. It’s not going to stick with me for the rest of my life, such as the adventure books — written and published years later — of Jon Krakauer or Barry Lopez. “Flash writing,” or writing on the go, doesn’t give us the time to connect the dots from our travels to our pasts, our prejudices, and our inner selves, which is what makes adventures meaningful and memorable.

Allowing our journeys to “marinate” is an especially valuable exercise these days, when we’re all so perpetually busy. Passing our adventures through the filter of time allows us the means to express what we feel and learned about them, forging a bond between writer and reader — far more so than reading a quick Facebook update or tweet.

Both real-time and reflective adventures are simulated, of course, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. The real-time, immediate ones tend to give us practical information; and the ones that have simmered a while, in the writer’s imagination, have the power to truly make us wish we were there.

Here’s to your adventures, in whatever corner of the world you find them,

Candy

7 Comments »

  1. Peach Everett December 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    I’m just learning to blog but our most recent two trips taught me that I enjoyed doing a handwritten diary at the end of each day, and coming home, spending time remembering and letting the photos be sorted before posting anything. This helped me edit, but admittedly less than I will learn to do. By writing at the end of the day, I kept track of some trail or conditions details I would have forgotten, and I sure didn’t miss anything by reviewing the gains that day. Pen and paper on the trail were good companions, now keepsakes.

  2. Nannette December 7, 2010 at 7:34 am - Reply

    I agree with Art Hardy, the comments should really be about off the beaten path places that people can enjoy when they go on their trip.

  3. Art Hardy December 6, 2010 at 8:21 am - Reply

    I generally hate having to sit through an extended conversation with friends or acquaintances about their travels, because it would invariably include an unedited slide show of every picture taken on that trip and every memory that went along with every picture. Yikes! Most blogs are like that; rattling on about every little thing that happened, might happen and could have or should have happened to that person on that trip. Editing and reflection are key. Most writer/bloggers should ask themselves, “Will all my readers find this as fascinating as I do?” That’s why I enjoy reading your blogs.

  4. John H Gaukel December 1, 2010 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Forget facebook, twitter and travel blogs because you will never express what you are truly feeling, seeing and experiencing on your nature-adventure trips to the fullest. You can upload photos of your travels in real-time, but it’s not the same as being there for your recipient. For me, the best way to share my nature-adventure trips is to go with someone who enjoys the things I do. Then you can truly share your adventure and your experience.

  5. Travis November 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    I sometimes have trouble documenting vacations, too. I do enjoy the wealth of images supplied by others vacations, particularly when I’m not traveling.

  6. Beverly B. November 30, 2010 at 11:25 am - Reply

    On most of my travels, I’m too busy experiencing adventures to worry about sharing in real time with folks back home or via the Internet. Dealing with technology is not how I chose to spend my time. Downloading images to my computer is about all the time I’m willing to spare–and I do like including reflection and researched background information in my stories.

  7. NineQuietLessons November 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    There’s probably something to be said for blogging on your vacation, but I can’t think of what it might be. I don’t always even like to take pictures on my vacations, since it makes me spend more time looking for a good shot than just enjoying being where I am.

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