Imagine you’re on vacation in Nicaragua. You leave all devices (phone, camera, selfie stick) in your room and spend the days surfing, shopping the craft markets, and feasting on shrimp tacos. Yet every morning, you wake up to photos from the day before. You catching a wave. You on the prow of a catamaran. The whirl of colors that is a Nicaraguan craft market. That’s the idea behind El Camino Travel, a new outfitter run by Katalina Mayorga and Marianna Jamadi that sends a photographer on its group trips so you can revel, unplugged, yet still post a dynamite #humblebrag to Instagram. Here’s how it works:
Their origin story: “The idea came about last spring while I was in Guatemala,” Katalina says. “It’s a beautiful country with huge lakes and these picturesque villages. I was in a water taxi and noticed that the boat was filled with tourists and we all had our iPhones out. We were all looking through these screens at volcanoes. Mobile technology is fantastic—I have no judgment—but it was just an ‘aha’ moment where I realized travel is different now.”
“We all live in an image-driven world,” Marianna adds. “When we were first talking about this, we liked the idea of remembering what pure experiences look like: that you can unplug, that you don’t need to see the world through your iPhone. But at the same time we all want to share our experience on social media.”
Yup, you really get photos every day: “There’s a photographer with you all day,” Katalina says. “Then every morning, we sit around the breakfast table and relive the past day—you get access to 20-30 images of yourself actually enjoying your vacation. At the end of the trip, we send you the rest of the images.”
Picky about what goes in your feed? “Some people are uncertain at first, but after seeing how well the first images come out, even they say, ‘Oh, I really don’t need to take my own photos.’ We’ve found that they really trust us to capture those moments and that they like the idea of being able to turn over that control.”
The big payoff (beyond a kick-ass Insta feed): “We built this whole company on the idea that people can unplug,” Katalina says. “But even still, it’s shocking to see that people don’t take out their phones at all on our trips. Recently, I went to El Salvador on a different company’s group trip and everyone had their phone out. We went to visit this cigar maker, and as the woman rolled these cigars, no one was talking to her; they were just taking videos. But on our trips, people engage with those we visit—they talk and ask questions because they’re not worried about capturing the moment. And that’s what travel is about. It’s not about capturing that perfect photo for Instagram, it’s about being in the moment.”
Photos courtesy of El Camino.