I’ve been at a loss for words on how to start this post and I’ve been staring at this blank text box for a few days now unable to find the words to describe these last two months. I wish I could pull the memories out of me so you can see what I see and I can relive them over and over again. All 13,000 miles. 33 states. 15 major cities. 12 national parks. Nintendo, Warner Brothers, Flickr, and Coca-Cola. The trip of a lifetime. Rolled into two months of gypsy van life. I wish I could show you all the people we met. To tell you about all the kind strangers who housed us and fed us. I wish I could show you the way the sun sets in Monument Valley or how fog rolled over the beaches next to the Redwoods in California. But you will have to experience them yourself.
If I could give you any piece of advice it would be to travel. Just take the risk and do it. Save your money. Quit your job. Sell all your possessions. Grab your closest friends. Hell, go with strangers. Live out of a van and let the road become your home. Travel. It will change you. It taught me confidence. It taught me that if I could do this, I could do anything. I’m not afraid anymore. I’m calmer. I’ve learned to go with the flow and let the universe have what it may with me. I’ve learned what little possessions I do need to sustain myself. I’ve gone without showering, without a bed, even without wifi and I survived and you can too. My life became whatever I could fit in my Dodge Caravan and it was perfect.
I suppose I should start at the beginning. As most things with Joel Robison, Shane Black, and I begin, it started as a joke. A “haha we should take the summer off and go on a road trip” joke. Until we started planning it. We asked around our various social media outlets found where people wanted us, acquired the overwhelmingly generous help of Flickr and Coca – Cola, planned out the workshops, and off we went. Of course that sounds easier than it actually was. It took us about nine months of planning and work and of course the concerned friends and family’s questions of, “you’re doing WHAT?! With WHO? With BOYS you met on the INTERNET!” The biggest leap of faith was for each of us to quit our jobs of six years respectively. It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. To have the uncertainty of not knowing how I will survive when I get back home. But even if I go broke or have hardships, this trip is something I am never going to regret. Every minute was worth it.
When planning the workshops we knew we didn’t want to make money off of this adventure. We wanted to be able to host affordable classes to share our love for storytelling and passion for helping. This trip was not for profit and we go home with nothing but our memories and the joy of meeting so many people along the way. The money we received via workshop fees, sponsorships, and donations was used only to get us from place to place and spread as much joy as we could along the way. Our goal was to share happiness, passion, and give back to the community that has given us so much. We hoped we accomplished this whether it was donations to hungry strangers, giant tips at restaurants, free entry to our workshops, or even big things like surprising two deserving young photographers from Illinois with an all expense paid trip to spend four days in Dallas learning from us.
Our workshops were such a joy. We focused our teaching on building stories and creating conceptual photos giving each participant homework to create throughout the day. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time laughing and shooting and just enjoying the company of new faces. It was an unbelievably humbling experience to befriend people that have followed our work for so long. We all get into this bubble being at home. We never realize the effect we have one someone’s life through our work and journeys. Heck, I’m just a girl from a small town in New Hampshire posting photos on the internet, how big of an impact could that have? But it does have an impact. To meet people who have driven hours (and in come cases flown in) to learn from us and to hear the words, “you’ve changed my life.” Well, if we are being perfectly open, it makes me cry every single time. There were nights after teaching a workshop where I would sit up and cry thinking of all the beautiful new friends we have met and all the stories they shared realizing the magnitude of what we were doing. I am so excited to call each and every person we met a friend and Wild One.(we had opening and closing games of ninja to loosen up!)
We hosted eight workshops over the course of the two months in Portland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Tampa, Atlanta for two workshops at Coca-Cola Headquarters, Washington D.C., and NYC. Each carrying it’s own set of new faces and new stories. My favorite part of the day was always going around in a circle and having each participant introduce themselves and tell us where they came from, how they started, and where they want to go. Although we only spent five hours with I feel such a sense of goodness and community from each of them.
It’s a peculiar thing trying to adjust back to real life after two months on the road. To no longer feel the winds of adventure in your hair. To settle down and wake up in the same state for a week straight. To shower. To cook food again. To find another job. But mostly what has been the most difficult transtition is to no longer be able to hug my friends every day. After two months living in a van having to rely on each other they quickly became my best friends, my family, my brothers. Every day I miss seeing the look on Shane’s face when he is time lapsing or the look in Joel’s eyes when he is teaching and helping and the sense of pride I had in both of them for giving up everything to go on this adventure with me. We laughed our way through California, sweated our way through the south, and cried our way up the east coast growing closers and closer. I wake up every morning and have two Wild Ones shaped holes in my heart knowing they are so far. But I know that the future holds such bright beautiful things for the both of them. I will forever be thankful that our lives crossed paths in such a way that allowed us to share in this adventure together because I couldn’t imagine sharing it with anyone else.
I feel an overwhelming sense of pride and fulfillment in the community we have built and stories we have shared. We hoped to leave a little bit of ourselves with every person we met. And in that, hope that they shared that happiness with someone else. We were not here to make money, chase fame, or make names for ourselves. All we want is to give. And to teach that with a lot of hard work and a little bit of faith you can do whatever you set out to achieve.
I have faith in our community and their voices. I know that they will continue to share good. I hope that every person we met found of sense of home in all of us. I hope that the future holds many more Wild Ones Adventures and the people we met stay in our lives. I hope to meet them all again one day. But until then I hope each and every one of you who reads this finds your own voice and uses it for good. I hope you find the courage to take risks and travel. I hope that you all find a sense of self in whatever you do and know that the Wild One’s doors are always open if you need us.(photo by Marley Cumbee)