It is difficult to put into words just how much travel means to me. It is an all-encompassing, roiling wave that directs my life. It is the core of all plans, direction and inspiration. But it doesn’t just begin and end with myself. There is a deep-seated conviction inside me that others should experience travel and participate in the world as well. I become emotionally invested in my friends’ travel plans and I well up with secret, uncontrollable tears of joy and excitement when plans (or even travel ideas) are discussed.

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Texas Hill Country fog

Where this conviction came from I have no idea. I am the only person from my family to have ever left the country. My mother travels only when I make all the arrangements and drag her from her daily life in Houston. My brother has only seen the mountains because I drove him there. My father has actually said aloud that he prefers NOT to travel. How then was I born with this affliction? When did that tendril first wrap around me? How am I now this thing who is never satisfied in just one place? Why does the open road fill me with hope and promise while others feel ambivalence or even dread?

It was never a lifestyle I grew up with. By the time I graduated high school, I had only ever visited Florida and Colorado to see extended family and precious little of the surrounding sights. But the seeds were already root in place, networking through my nooks and crannies. The curiosity was ever-present, but the circumstances did not permit throughout the subsequent years spent in college and mindless hourly jobs. It would be six long years later that I would take my first transatlantic flight. A girlfriend and I threw caution to the wind and set out for France and Spain, woefully unprepared for two weeks of mishaps and adventure.

But that was all I needed for my addiction to mature. I came back from that trip and vowed never to stop, much to my parents’ dismay. My primary job throughout the latter half of my 20’s allowed me 5 weeks of vacation each year which I rationed like the cruelest of wartimes, slicing and dicing however I could to cram as much as humanly possible into those precious 25 days each year. It was along these travels and highways that my love of photography was born and flourished. The two interests created such a perfect union that it was soon difficult for me to remember which entity had the prior claim on my affections. The two entities fueled each other into a raging inferno in which I blithefully burn.

I’ll never forget that first solo road trip I took. I flew into Seattle, rented a car and drove around the whole of Washington and Oregon. This was before I had a smartphone or discovered Google Maps (the light of my life!) so I stepped off that plane armed only with a few printed sheets from MapQuest, bound and determined to see the world or die trying. Around Crater Lake, as night was quickly falling and I had no place to stay and no phone signal, I remember the realization setting in that I would need to sleep in my tiny rental car on the side of the road. That woefully sheltered, 24-year-old girl who had seen precious little of the world, took a few deep breaths and committed herself there and then to vagabondage.

This was, by far, the most rudimentary of my excursions and they became far more sophisticated and the years progressed. I conquered and collected (for it felt like careful ticks on a methodical list) destinations from the east to the west coast and internationally.

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Acadian Autumn

I soon realized, however, that even traveling far more than the average American is conventionally allowed was not enough. I was a steward of travel and I meticulously regarded my duty as a sacred one. Therefore, was compelled to dedicate even more of myself to this cause, no matter the cost (financial or otherwise). Even now, I fancy myself as a champion of travel, an apostle spreading word of far off land and spots of great beauty in an effort to convert – or at least tempt – others to partake.

After many years of solo exploration, longing for the perfect travel companion to share it with, I found Russell. A quintessential army brat, Russell lived all over Europe before I even knew it existed. While he does not reach quite the fever pitch I do when scheming over maps, he definitely doesn’t stand in my way and is thrilled to be along for the ride. And it was his remote IT career that allowed me to fully realize mine as a full-time traveling photographer.

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Russ & Mel

I regard travel with the fondness of the closest confidante, faithfully investing and nurturing our relationship, pursuing and cultivating togetherness. In return, it has permeated all parts of my life and given meaning and direction where might otherwise be very little.

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