Have Experiences. Not Stuff.

One of the biggest highlights of our holiday last week was heading out to the Bremer Canyon to see killer whales (orcas). The Bremer Canyon, only discovered in 2013, is a place where more than a hundred orca come together to feed during February and March. It’s 65km offshore, and this is the first year that it’s been possible to go and see them as a tourist, and only for these two months.

It’s not your typical tourist adventure, heading out into international waters and rough, icy cold seas on a small boat for several hours, and even the small village where the boat departs from is in an isolated spot, a 2 hour drive from the nearest town and several hours drive from Perth.

When I heard about the tour last year something really grabbed my attention. Whether it was the idea of sailing to the edge of the earth, the rare opportunity to see killer whales in their natural environment, the fact that this spot is so newly discovered that very little is known about it…I’m not sure. I booked two tickets as a birthday present for my husband.

We’re not really into buying presents, and we no longer buy each other Christmas presents. For birthdays we often get tickets so we can experience something together – concerts, theatre, talks. We don’t have a budget or hard-and-fast rules about what we spend but we both agree: there’s no point shelling out money for the sake of it.

The tickets to the Bremer Canyon tour were expensive. Really expensive. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever spent that much money on tickets before. I ummed and ahhed about the cost. There was no guarantees we’d even see anything, and as the tour had never run before there were no reviews to check or compare.

But it was such a unique, exciting adventure, in the end I had to do it.

It made me think. I balked at the price, and yet a few years ago I wouldn’t have thought anything of spending the same price on a gift for my husband. When you consider how many people receive bigger (or smaller)  iPods, thinner iPads, upgraded mobile phones, better computer games consoles, expensive clothes and fancy cameras for Christmas and birthday presents, I wouldn’t be alone.

Now I’ve had a total rethink on stuff, and the idea of spending money upgrading something that already functions perfectly well makes me cringe. As does buying something new just because it’s the latest fad, or because there’s an obligation to purchase a gift. We have everything we need. Rather than spend money on newer, better versions of things we already own, we make do with what we have, and spend the money having new experiences and creating memories.

Back to the tour. Last Saturday we joined the boat, the other tourists and two marine scientists that were studying the orcas and headed two hours from land into international waters to see what was out there in the ocean. There’s no guarantee that the whales will be there. When we arrived at the co-ordinates, though, the whales came. And they were beautiful.

It was such an amazing experience. The orcas gather in groups, and they came up to the boat, swimming alongside and underneath it. We saw them surfing the waves. There was an enormous bull whale and some small calves, whose white patches were still yellow. They came so close it was incredible. The boat just sat there, bobbing in the ocean, whilst these amazing mammals swam around us. I had a couple of out-loud “wow” moments. It was worth every penny.

We only managed to take a couple of photos. Letting go of the rail long enough to use a camera was a tricky task!

Bremer Canyon orcas

Bremer Canyon orcas

Bremer Canyon orcas

Bremer Canyon orcas

These photos weren’t taken with an SLR camera. They were taken with my husband’s point-and-shoot camera, with no zoom to speak of. We don’t own an SLR. We were able to go on this tour because we don’t own things like fancy cameras. Turns out, when you’re this close to whales, you don’t need a fancy camera anyway.

Orcas on camera

You don’t need a fancy camera (or any camera) to create memories.

These pictures aren’t the thing that’s going to stay with us. What will stay with us is the experience we had. The memories we created. Photos can’t capture the smell of the ocean, the sounds, the movements as these beautiful creatures rode the waves or glided in synchronised groups alongside and underneath the boat. The feelings of total amazement and wonder.

Collect memories. Not stuff.

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Have Experiences. Not Stuff.
10 replies
  1. Lois
    Lois says:

    What a wonderful gift. I have to agree with you, I too would love that kind of experience although seeing the orca swim under my boat would have scared me thinking it could have capsized us.

    Until I started my blog I hadn’t taken a picture in years and I use the camera that is built into my phone rather than buying a camera I don’t need. I always felt the memories are in my head and I don’t need photos to remind me of where I’ve been and what I’ve done.

    I wish more people saw the ways of the world the way you do. We wouldn’t see so many drowning in debt because they had to upgrade to the latest gadget or newest item for their home. Yes, I want my home to be comfortable for me and my guests, but what I already have is good enough.

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      Haha, the thought of orcas swimming under the boat did terrify me, but it was a mother and baby orca, which kind of made it less scary! There was a huge bull orca whale swimming around a bit further out; if he’d have come close I’d have panicked!

      I’m a bit like you, although I had a camera I rarely used it before starting the blog. Things never quite look as good in the picture as they do in real life, and they just can’t capture the essence of the moment (maybe the super-duper expensive ones can, but you know what I mean…)

  2. Plastic-Free Tuesday - Annemieke
    Plastic-Free Tuesday - Annemieke says:

    Such an amazing and unique birthday gift! Wow! The orcas are beautiful and the whole experience must have been a real adventure. An experience to never forget.

    I was wondering why the tickets are so expensive. Is it costly to have the boat and fuel? Or is it to limit the amount of visitors? Does the money go back into conservation, research, and education?

    For our own birthdays, my husband and I alternate between stuff and experiences as gift, depending on whether there is any stuff we really need/want.

    A few years ago, my husband bought me a wonderful bike. I still love it very much! For our last birthdays we both picked something we wanted to do on our day: a luxurious massage and lunch at some special place.

    What about gifts for people other than your husband? Do you still buy the person stuff or do you buy an experience as a gift?

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      Thanks Annemieke! It was a real adventure : ) The sea was pretty rough for a small boat, and there was a lot of seasickness on the way out – I’m sure for some of the people on board it was an ordeal, and one they won’t do again! Some people were so sick they lay in the cabin and didn’t even see the whales : (

      I think fuel for the boat would have been very expensive. Plus I know they had to get a bigger engine for the boat (they usually use it for local tours in the Margaret River region) plus sail the boat to the bay. And they’d possibly have to accommodate the staff in the village too – there is nothing there except a couple of petrol stations…and a 2.5 hour drive to the nearest town/city. Saying it is isolated is an understatement! We had a lot of people on board because the previous day’s trip was cancelled, but some days there were only 11 or so people. They are the only operator and it is their first year, so I guess they can charge what they like…! They did have marine scientists on board so there might be some agreement with the universities, yes.

      Stuff for the sake of stuff is something we try to avoid, not stuff full stop. I guess we just don’t need much! Experiences are more fun : )

      For other people, we’re trying to move away from presents too. Because my family is overseas we don’t get each other presents, we just used the money to have nice lunches and spend time together when they visited. If we do get presents, we often get tickets, or vouchers for specific restaurants occasionally. This Christmas we bought one physical present for our niece/nephew – a board game! But they got tickets for their birthdays!

  3. earthzenmama
    earthzenmama says:

    I love this for so many reasons. I am on the same page as you about having experiences and not things. This was my argument for talking my husband into letting me quit my job to stay home with our baby- I told him a family’s wealth is cultivated from experiences and not money.” I hint of this every single day and have never been happier. Thanks for sharing!

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      Thank you for your comment! I’m glad you managed to talk your husband around – such a sensible thing to do and you are so right. What is the point in going out to work to get money to buy extra things, when all a baby really needs is food, shelter and love? Your baby will be very happy : )


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