• Parlay Vacay

Level Up on Vacation: Cultural Adventure Travel Photography

by Chelsea La Near

Skill sharing vacations, a growing trend in educational travel, are experiences designed to help you develop a new or existing skill during your vacation - a dual purpose that may just be the motivation you need to start planning your next trip. Parlay Vacay is part of this growing travel trend featuring hands-on learning experiences for travelers.

We talked to Runa Lindberg, whose company Adventure in Focus Photo Expeditions provides photo-worthy but also authentic adventures off the beaten track. Included for all participants from beginners to advanced level photographers is both hands-on photography instruction and familiarization with Adobe CC to optimize their images and workflow.

Runa, what is your personal background, and how does it relate to your business?

I discovered my passion for photography at art school in my home country of Germany. I started doing semi-professional photography during my travels, like when I took pictures for a non-profit organization in Cambodia.

My photography took a backseat when I started an event business in Germany that took me to corporate destinations like Dubai and Florida. A life-changing event caused me to take that turn in my career. That business was lucrative but didn't satisfy my soul. I finally left my luxury lifestyle behind and traveled to India, a country that had always held a special place in my heart. There, I rediscovered my passion for photography as well as for traveling to places that are still deeply connected to their pasts. I decided to combine my entrepreneur background with these passions.

Can you describe a typical experience you offer your clients? 

One thing is for sure, the photographs that our participants take during our tours not only document what they see but tell a very personal story. Our guests come home with lifelong memories of very special moments, not just impressive photos. They are guaranteed to experience unique moments and make a lot of new and special friends. Maybe a special bond will develop with a nomad in the Thar desert, whom they will meet during our hike to the Camel Festival which takes place annually in the legendary desert village of Pushkar.  Perhaps they will make a special connection with a Buddhist monk in the lonely mountains of Kashmir, over a cup of butter-tea. Immersing themselves in new cultures, our guests will broaden their horizons off the beaten path.

What inspired you to create this experience for others?

Through my way of traveling (named for a movement called "slow travel"), I have been able to experience many unforgettable adventures and meet remarkable people. These are usually to be found in remote corners far away from mass tourism. To sit with a Sadhu (a Hindu saint) in a cave in the Himalayas and talk about his perspective on life is something very special.

As a photographer, I am interested in these lonely corners of the world from an artistic perspective. I created my travel agency with the aim of giving others the opportunity to have these perspective-changing experiences.

Planning such an authentic journey "off the beaten track" is for most people who are in regular jobs or pursuing careers is not possible. They lack the necessary time to research and plan. Of course, very good contacts with the locals are required.

With this target group in mind, I designed an agency for photo trips that focused on events in India, South America, Bosnia, Nepal, and Iran during which like-minded explorers could experience "real life, real moments and real culture" together with me! There's nothing better than to be there instead of reading about it, to be active instead of watching a video, and to capture it all with your own camera!

How have you expanded your offerings since you started your business?

Yes, the first country I offered travel to was India. There I concentrate mainly on integrating interesting festivals like the "Holi Festival," the "Pushkar Mela - a nomadic desert festival, or the "Theyyam Festival," a millenniums old jungle festival with a strong connection to nature spirits into my tours.

For 2021, I'm planning trips to Peru, Kashmir, Bosnia and Nepal, each offbeat and with a very special thematic focus. For 2022, more trips are planned, including a trip to Iran where we will hike through the mountains with the Iranian nomads experiencing unique moments and capturing them with our cameras.