An Unexpected Adventure, Part 2

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An Unexpected Adventure, Part 2

Today is International Women's Day. A day to celebrate and uplift the women in our lives and around the world. To recognize the struggles they face. To call for equality, for rights that are overlooked, dismissed, ignored. In some places, to call for an admission of humanity, to be seen as persons rather than property. To insist on value and worth.  

When deciding to do the Mongol Rally, I was most excited by the prospect of doing it all for charity. I'm really passionate about humanitarian issues. Social justice. I have a strong desire to make a positive impact on the world, even if it's something small. So the charity aspect of the rally appealed to me. And then we took it a step further. 

Team #WeLive is comprised of five incredibly strong, funny, amazing, independent women (yes I'm including myself in that). We're all passionate about seeing the world become a better place and wanted to go beyond the required charity aspect of the rally, even beyond the adventure itself. How could we use this journey to make a positive impact? 

It didn't take us long to make the decision to focus on women's rights in the different regions we'll visit. We've researched women's organizations along the way, from anti-trafficking groups to those working with women and children in refugee camps, to those seeking to empower women who are often belittled and restricted in their cultures. Even if we don't physically make it to each one (because chaos is the bread and butter of the rally and who knows what'll happen), we plan on highlighting them along the way. And we also hope to speak with women in each country and catch a glimpse of what life is like for them. How different it is from what we experience here in the States. What similarities we might have. At the end, we plan on compiling all of that into a book. Filled with photos and stories of what we encounter. We've got several writers and a professional photographer (yours truly of course) on board, so you can bet the quality will be excellent. 

This is our tentative route as of right now:

Starting from Scotland, where we'll prep for the rally, to England for the official launch, and then: France, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, and then Russia again. 

As you can see, that's a lot of countries. A lot of miles. A lot of stories. We'll encounter so many different cultures, and I'm pretty sure we'll find that life for women varies quite a bit in each one. I can't wait to document this! We're a team of all women FOR women. I'm so proud of that, and I feel so privileged to be a part of it.

But we need your help! We can't do this alone. We need visas and cars and safe passage through Iran and gear and lots of other things in order to make this journey a reality. Will you join with us in helping women across the world? Will you help us tell their stories? No amount is too small, and we would be forever grateful! Also, we have lots of fun perks to choose from. Head to our Fundrazr and check them out! 

Also, I lied. This is definitely going to be a 3-part blog series. Tomorrow I PROMISE I'll tell you all about my team. I sat down to write about that, and then this came out: the why. That felt more important on International Women's Day. So, stay tuned. 

-m.

 

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An Unexpected Adventure, Part 1

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An Unexpected Adventure, Part 1

July 31, 2015

There I was, minding my own business, when I received an email from a dear friend, whose wedding I shot in California back in May. You may remember the one.

Tabitha Bigbee is one of my most favorite humans. She watched me grow up in the wilds of northern Maine. My older cousins were her age, and I have vague memories of riding in cars with them, all speaking in British accents and driving on the wrong side of the road (it's northern Maine, there isn't that much traffic to worry about). She was this cool older sister (I was good friends with her younger brother, Josh) that I identified with, because she didn't quite seem to fit in the great North. And I didn't feel like I did, either. So that was cool. 

Fast forward many years. Tabitha and I have an actual friendship beyond "you're my little brother's friend who I find amusing," though I still see her as a big sister. Like I said, she's one of my most favorite humans. So of course I flew out to California to shoot her and Brandon's intimate wedding. 

That was probably unnecessary backstory, but back to July 31, 2015. Tabitha emailed me with some questions about her online gallery, needing tech help. She also asked how I was doing in a way that implied she actually wanted to know. I had been dealing with some difficult mental health struggles, and she'd been thinking of me because she's great and also she loves me. And then she asked if going on an epic journey with some other awesome ladies might help. 

The Mongol Rally. A charity drive from London to Russia in the smallest, crappiest car you can find with no set route and no safety net. Guys, I'd never heard of this thing before in my life, and if I had, I might've thought, "That's awesome, but that's something crazy people do." She sold it really well, but after following the link and actually looking at what it entailed, my initial reaction was "there is NO WAY I could do this!" Followed immediately by, "Wait, could I do this?" I was gripped by an inexplicable, fierce desire to actually do this thing. Filled with a healthy amount of doubt, and some unhealthy self-variety (mental health struggles, remember?), I asked questions. So many questions. What would this actually look like? Their team, Team #WeLive, was complete. Paula, Brianna, and Tabitha, all amazing ladies, were looking for a second car to fill with documenters, and I would act as the team photographer. 

Months went by. I still wasn't completely sure about the whole thing, which was okay because we had yet to secure any other teammates. Potential candidates came and went. I got to the point where the idea solidified in my mind, where I felt like I had to do this thing, and I just wanted to commit. Wedding inquiries for the summer season were coming in, and I didn't know if I was going to be in the country or not. I said no to a lot of people on the sheer hope that we would find a 5th teammate. 

That seems crazy right? Why would I say no to so much potential business? Why would I go on an insane adventure in the middle of my busiest time of year? July-September = prime wedding season. I felt insane. But you know that place inside of you that just knows things? Your gut, your intuition, your soul, whatever you want to call it? Deep inside that place, the Mongol Rally - specifically this year and this team - beckoned. I'd been feeling, for a couple of years, a call to get outside of my comfort zone. To take my ability and love of photography and telling stories and use it in the wide world. I believe the Mongol Rally is the perfect place to start. I had plans to gently dip my toes in the water and ease my way out of my comfort zone, but God has decided to toss me in the lake. As per usual. 

So I'm going. And we're not just doing this thing for the sake of adventure. It's not a vacation. A big part of the rally is raising money for charity, which we are (Cool Earth and Mountain2Mountain). But we're also planning on using this opportunity to be a catalyst for women's equality and reveal the truth of everyday life for women from the refugee camps of Calais to the steppe of Mongolia. We're hoping to meet with different women's organizations along the way to highlight the work they do and shine a light on places and issues that people in the States may know nothing about. And at the end, we're planning to produce a book with the stories we collect along the way. 

If you've made it this far in my tale, thank you so much for reading! Stay tuned for part 2, where I'll tell you more about my team, what this thing actually entails, and what we hope to accomplish. I just realized I hadn't fully explained how this all happened to anyone yet; this is for the curious friends and family I've neglected to adequately fill in. 

In the meantime, check out our site: www.welivemongolrally.com  or head over to our Fundrazr to help us with the costs of visas, cars, gear, etc. Every little bit helps! 

- m. 

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The Todds | Lititz Family Session | A Glimpse

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The Todds | Lititz Family Session | A Glimpse

If I could post gifs to my Facebook business page, I would. But I cannot, so I bring this gif to the blog as a quick late-night glimpse into my family session with some of my favorites: The Todds.

Stills to follow (we did some normal shots, I promise). You're not gonna want to miss these hobbits and their cool parents! 

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Middle Creek | PA Family Photographer | The Unruhs

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Middle Creek | PA Family Photographer | The Unruhs

This isn't the first time I've shot the Unruhs. Ross, Emily, Cooper, Parker, and Maddie are such a cool little family that attend my church, and Ross's mom is actually my boss in my position of graphic designer there. So I've gotten to see these kids grow over the past few years, and it was a joy to spend some time with them last weekend and take these photos. 

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