The Curse of Being a Millennial

Insights from DesertX on why Millennials need to break their stereotypes (expect millennial pink, that one can stay!)

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I love being a millennial.

Ask anybody and they’ll roll their eyes and agree.

#vanlife?

Millenial Pink?

Hipster coffee shops?

Twenty somethings making a living BLOGGING AND POSTING PICTURES ON SOCIAL MEDIA!?

When the whole millennial term really started popping up a few years ago, I finally found a stereotype of people I can identify with and, it feels pretty cool.

Like any young generation, millennials are re-defining the world. Our generation is eating healthier and consuming less and traveling more. We’re informed, we’re passionate and I really, truly believe that we have a shot at changing the world.

But, to every coin there are two sides.

Stereotypes don’t pop up from unicorn emojis and kombucha startups.

Continue reading “The Curse of Being a Millennial”

Hunting for Authentic Experiences

Several weeks ago, one of my favorite Instagrammers, Chris Burkard (@chrisburkard), wrote, “It’s only recently that I realized that one authentic experience during a trip is better than 50 tourist stops.”

This has probably been nagging at the back of my mind for several weeks, because I can definitely fall in to this trap. This spring, we went to New Orleans and ended up walking something crazy like 37 miles over the course of the long weekend, mostly at my behest. I tend to feel that if I am not doing, doing, doing I am not truly experiencing. This feeling is magnified like crazy when I’m in a new place. In NOLA, I wanted to have a truly authentic, meaningful experience and so I tried to cram as much into those few short days as possible. The results were hurried and stressful and although I got some great pictures, many of the tourist experiences I was hoping would feel truly meaningful, fell flat. My favorite experience of the whole trip was our first night when we had nothing planned and ended up experiencing a “true” New Orleans night on the town.

I’m not trying to say that tourist “traps” can’t be real or authentic and create amazing memories. On our trip this summer we ended up in a lot of really touristy places. Walking through Geyser Basin in Yellowstone and taking the ferry to Victoria, BC were some of my most cherished experiences of the trip and they were arguably some of the most touristy. However, when you walk into a trip with a list of items to check off, or you Google “Best Things to do in XXX” and try to accomplish them all in a short period of time, the chances of you truly feeling rewarded are not high.

As I mentioned, our road trip this summer was full of touristy places. Some were amazing, others were not. Sometimes tourist traps can really resonate. I think the key is to allow the space for things that work and to admit when things aren’t working and move on. I’m a planner and it can be really hard to get out of the mindset that every little moment needs to be planned. This summer was so good for me because 99% of our time was unplanned. I hadn’t spent hours pouring over Google for the best places to visit or planned our route based on tourist attractions. The most memorable moments of the trip were truly spontaneous and organic. Hammocking next to a river in the middle of Wyoming. Laying on a blanket under the stars in Oregon. Swimming in a mountain lake in Montana. Driving through the last light of the Eastern Washington countryside on a spur of the moment side trip.

And the worst moments? The moments when I most felt like I wanted to go home, the moments where I was frustrated that I wasn’t getting the most out of our crazy adventure? It was when I tried to over plan. It was when I Googled “Best Hikes on the Olympic Peninsula” and we ended up climbing a 13% grade with a million other people. It was when I planned a solid day around hanging out at a lake I’d seen pictures of on Instagram and it turned out to be a crowded, buggy swamp. It was when we started stopping places just to collect postcards rather than because we really wanted to.

That’s not to say that some of my high quality planning didn’t pan out. Taking the ferry to Victoria was magical. Seeing Glacier National Park was a highlight of the trip. We found the most amazing campsite by Googling “Best waterfall hikes near Bend”. I think the moral of what I’m trying to say here is what Burkard wrote. A truly authentic experience is worth so much more than checking off items on a list. Are those truly authentic experiences sometimes items off a list? Absolutely. One of my favorite memories ever is of the hanging bridges in Costa Rica which were absolutely a tourist destination and I’m sure my parents had planned based on some in-depth Googling. Is it wrong to plan those things? No. Not at all. But its also important not to plan every second and to let those authentic experiences happen. Because sometimes, you’re going to fly into New Orleans on St. Patrick’s Day and the torrential downpour is going to stop and there’s going to be a parade like nothing you’ve ever seen. Sometimes, you’re going to be waiting for your ferry in Victoria and have two hours to kill and walk a million miles to the neatest part of the city you never would have stumbled upon otherwise. Coming home from a trip with a camera roll full of pictures of the same iconic places that everybody who has ever been to there possess’ means far less than a truly wonderful memory. Does that mean a truly wonderful memory can’t include walking a hundred miles (are you noticing a theme here?) to the Golden Gate Bridge for some crazy great pictures? Not at all.

Make sure you’re present in the moment. Close Snapchat. Put down your camera for a minute. Take a deep breath and decide if what you’re doing in that moment is truly something you want to be doing. And if it is? Then enjoy the moment however you choose. If its not? Go find something that truly sparks your heart. Because that’s what travel is all about.

Creating Memories or Taking Selfies?

Is snapping a selfie the same as making a memory? Is our instant gratification culture is confusing the two?

With Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook documenting our every step, it can be really hard not to want to have “experiences” that make people scrolling through their news feeds jealous. I can’t tell you the number of hikes I’ve been on lately where teenagers show up with a hammock, stage three or four iPhone pictures and then pack up and leave. Last year I witnessed a couple get out of their car, take two steps down a trail, take a selfie, discuss the caption, and then get in their car and drive away. I think we can all agree there’s no way these people are actually making memories. But it can be so hard not to fall into the trap! Sometimes I’ll have an idea in mind for the best Instagram post. Topher makes fun of me all the time for taking pictures just for “the ‘gram”. Am I guilty of that? Absolutely. We can be having a piss-poor time, the weather can be crappy, we can be hot and hungry and tired and not enjoying ourselves in the slightest, but I stop the car, snap a picture and then doctor it up and make this fake memory for the sole purpose of likes online.

Especially when you’re a photographer, an artist, its a thin line. Sometimes, I want to shoot something because its beautiful, its inspiring. Sometimes I just want to shoot something because I want the photo for social media. Sometimes I set the shot up, take a million different angles, and try really hard. Other times, I snap one photo, just cropping out the hoards of other people doing the same thing, check to make sure its clear and am on my way. Because it looks good on everyone else’s feed. Because I have a witty caption in mind. Because I’ve been dreaming of the shot and I don’t want to admit its not the experience I’d hoped.

An Instagrammer I really admire, @minayounglee suggested truly experiencing a location, with no cameras, cellphones, etc, for 30 minutes before the first snap is ever taken. That way, you have time to really have an experience. To get a feel for the spot and find the perfect shot before you start blindly shooting and ruining a moment with your social aspirations. Its a humbling idea. Could I really sit still for thirty minutes without taking a picture?

The answer is yes. Absolutely. This summer I was gone for a month and a half in some of the most beautiful spots in the country and I only have 400 pictures to prove it. Do I wish I had taken photos some of the places we stopped? Absolutely. Do I regret not taking enough pictures? Honestly, no. The experiences are so much more valuable than a million photos of something I only saw through a lens. I am no Nat Geo photographer, and lucky for me, they have captured most of the world for me already (way better than I ever could hope to!) When time permits, I pull out my camera and try to create art. When it doesn’t, I’m learning to try to create an experience instead. I’m still guilty of pulling out my camera or my phone and taking several generic photos, but I also try to really be present in the moment. I want to be “Instafamous.” I think everyone does! But I also want a mind rich with memories and experiences. So, its a delicate balance. If you’re trying to create art, go for it. If you’re going for an experience, stop with the selfies. You don’t need to prove you were there, if you yourself are not going to remember it because your back was turned to it for a Snapchat.