Experiences are Still the Way to Go – the Pandemic Made this Obvious

Since this winter has been particularly slow for business due to all the crappy weather, I found myself re-reading some of my old blogs.  I wanted to see if my writing style changed much over the years and if any of those old think pieces were still relevant today. Well, my writing style has become far less formal, but I think I’m still generating some coherent work.  As far as maintaining relevance – I think many of them are more relevant now than when I wrote them.

The following essay generated a fair amount of engagement with those that read it almost 5 years ago.  Originally put out to the world on the first day of summer in 2017, we were all living under dramatically different conditions than we are now.  A pandemic wasn’t on anyone’s mind (except for a handful of strategic thinkers), the economy was in a very different place, and folks were relatively comfortable with their pattern of life.

Nowadays, after 2 years of enduring the numerous problems caused by the pandemic (and the way we reacted to it), many folks have had A LOT of time to reflect on their priorities and have made major life changes.  Did you?  Hopefully, this rewrite of my previous blog (it’s different from the original in many ways), gives you a nudge in a new direction.

What’s Your Thing?

If you scroll through all our blog posts and Observations from the Water, you’ll notice the idea of having a hobby keeps coming up. That’s not a sales gimmick to get you to go fishing with us, it’s a notion that comes from the heart. Fishing has been a passion of mine since I caught my first fish (a sunny) when I was four years old.

The overwhelming majority of my fondest memories involve fishing trips or just fishing in general. It’s what’s kept me centered through some of my toughest times and it keeps me looking forward to the future. Do you have something in your life that does the same?  If you have kids, do you think they are engaged in some sort of activity that’ll have the same effect?

If you’re employed in a space that gets you excited, or at minimum doesn’t generate anxiety, when you think about your work, that’s awesome.  So, maybe your work is your thing – this applies to me.  Well, most people don’t fall into this camp.  Most folks work to pay their bills and if they’re lucky, have a hobby/passion that keeps them looking forward to the times when they aren’t working.  If you don’t have a hobby or passion, if your drive disappeared during the pandemic, if huge slices of your life are spent staring at a rectangle – you’re not alone.  This essay is for you.

No Thing = High Risk of Depression

The idea that experiences enrich one’s life far more than the accumulation of things isn’t new/original. Google it- there are thousands of research papers written on the topic. However, googling it isn’t necessary. Take a couple seconds and scroll through your news feed on social media. The evidence is right in front of you.

Not sold on the notion? Take the time and do some reading. In my opinion the best, most readable book that addresses this topic of experiences vs. materialism is, Lost Connections, by Johann Hari.  That book contains numerous studies and personal anecdotes on the topic. The main idea being that if your means of personal enrichment is the accumulation of things, chances are, you’re also depressed, lonely, and unfortunately on some sort of antidepressant. Making personal connections, finding an activity you’re passionate about (or at minimum very interested in), and frequently breaking routine is the only effective “cure” for this plight.

Anecdotes from the Water

Perhaps more than most, I frequently evaluate my lifestyle by ensuring I create opportunities for personal enrichment. I schedule multiple personal and family vacations throughout the year. I read voraciously and listen to numerous, educational focused podcasts.  When on the water with clients, I cover as much ground as possible, giving everyone a solid dose of regional imagery. I also keep the conversation going with a little bit of teaching and a lot of sharing stories and life experiences. Fishing and catching fish is a given – we live in a bountiful ecosystem. Getting to know my clients is far more important to me.

I’m encouraged by what I see in the people that I’ve taken fishing over the past couple years.  Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve watched more and more people become passionate about the outdoors.  Business in the guiding community boomed in late 2020 and was awesome throughout 2021.  Stimulus checks were in hand and because pandemic restrictions prevented people from spending money, many folks were flush with cash.  A LOT of those people spent that money on outdoor experiences and the equipment that enables such activities (like camping, fishing, and hunting gear).

While watching all this passion for the outdoors unfold, I remained wary.  Don’t get me wrong, I was EXTREMELY thankful to my regular clients who booked numerous days and to those new clients to whom I helped introduce a new hobby.  However, some of this love for the outdoors seemed disingenuous or at best, the only thing to do other than stare at a screen.  In this blog (tap here), I highlighted this concern.

Hopes for the Future

Although wonderful, I question the sustainability of the boost to the outdoor industry caused by the pandemic.  I’m optimistic that a huge percentage of new outdoor enthusiasts have a steadily filling bank of incredible experiences and that they will do everything they can to preserve this way of life.  Lawyers, doctors, casino pit bosses, mechanics, engineers, landscapers, property managers, painters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, tourists, locals – all of them realized that they needed enriching experiences more than things.

It’s my hope that someone not on that path comes to the same realization.  If you’re reading this, chances are you’re on my email distribution list or you follow me on social media.  In other words, you’re already into fishing or maybe just considering it.  If you or someone you know falls into the latter category – GREAT! Start poking around online/researching fishing guides in the Buffalo Niagara Region – all my colleagues in the guide/charter business will echo these sentiments. Although we have different personalities and back stories, we share the same passion for giving people something that will prove more rewarding than buying any material item.

I think 2022 will be the year to test whether or not this newfound love for the outdoors is genuine.  There aren’t any stimulus checks going out.  Inflation is causing many of us to reprioritize how we spend our money.  Depending on where you live, pandemic restrictions are non-existent or just a minor inconvenience.  In other words, with increasingly limited resources and “unrestricted” places to spend them, it’ll be interesting to see how many folks remain passionate about accumulating outdoor experiences vs. spending money on material items.  Mother Nature is pretty damn captivating, I’m confident she’ll win the day.  See you on the water, my friends.