Who said you had to pay to have somebody teach you photography? Neither does it have to be formal, book learning either.
My first photography teacher was my father. My first photography lesson was when I was ten years old where he handed me a loaded camera and said, "If you break this camera, I'll break you! Now get out of here and don't come back until number in this little window says '36.'"
Further, you're here. Aren't you? APUG counts for something. Doesn't it?
Last I heard, all sorts of traditionally trained photographers were teaching others about photography right here at this forum.
You, like me and many others here, are naturally autodidactic. We don't learn the same way others do and it doesn't make sense to compare the way we learn to the way others learn.
Bottom line: Just by being here and participating, you are becoming a traditionally trained photographer, taught by other traditionally trained photographers. That, by itself, probably puts you head and shoulders above the unwashed masses.
Just to make it clear, that "I can take pictures with a beer can" bet is always made with a wink and a smile. I don't ever mean it to be taken as a put-down.
Okay... So, I have a warped sense of humor. Sue me.
(Still, I just gotta' make a pinhole camera out of a beer can! )
You are right. Most people who learn that I am a traditional photographer are pleasantly surprised to hear it. When I talk about getting in peoples' faces about it, I refer to a rare minority of cases. When I do get uppity, it's always in the tone of a good natured banter. Even with an abundance of smilies ( ) it's hard to get that kind of tone across via the internet.
Even without training or informal study, you've still got one thing that sets you above 90% of the population, be they photographers or anything else: Work ethic.
To carry 45 lbs. of gear up a mountain shows that your interest in your subject of choice is more than just a pass time. You care about the work you produce and you have the foresight to think about your work and to be critical of yourself and your results.
You've got more ethic in your little finger than most people will ever have in their own lives. Digicam or film, that's what makes you a real photographer.