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.