An Ode to the Journey

I am writing from a very new space in my heart tonight. Here we go, 2017. 

I'll begin by admitting how frequently I've overused the quote "Life is a journey, not a destination" without true discernment of the meaning. I've purchased various journals with these very words on the cover. I've offered this quote as advice to others in times they sought remembrance of what life's about. I almost even had it permanently tattooed onto my skin. Since I'm a naturally curious, experience-seeking gal, I was really enchanted by the words. But it was just today that I assuredly connected with the meaning. 

Today marks exactly 5 months until I marry my Everyday Sweetie, twice over... (yes, we're having two weddings). The first formality is a modern spin on the traditional Ghanaian Engagement ceremony & the second wedding, the very next day, is the vow exchange. Since we became engaged in 2015, I have been so uncomfortable with the wedding planning process. It's just unnatural to my spirit! I can organize a stupendously thoughtful & detailed trip to Egypt, complete with a flexible (yet comprehensive) itinerary in one long afternoon's sitting. Inter-country flights & all. Easy. And with pleasure. I can produce a month's worth of photographic marketing material for a multi-million dollar campaign in 4 business days. Done. No stress here. But I am at my wit's end trying to understand "envelope etiquette" & deciding which tent size to rent & prompting my bridesmaid to order their dresses. This is stupid! I have a real issue with the way wedding culture has me enveloped in this itchy, emotional, wool swaddle! I'm stifled in here! When my fiancé & I decided to do this wedding thing, I did not envision how much afflictive, focused work it would take to plan these two days of our lives. I thought I was just committing to a big dance party with my sweetie, surrounded by our people.  

So, today, here I am with yet another lesson in life reflected before me. The greatest epiphany began with a subtle message. After observing my defeatist demeanor before work, my fiancé wrote to me this morning " I got your back and you have mine. We will get through this and many more things together." (accompanied by a gif of Woody from Toy Story repeatedly saying: "You'll be fine, partner"). A light bulb did not go off. It was moreover a lightening bolt that struck me back to center. In the midst of feeling so uncomfortable towards all the awkward tasks that required my energy, I became only fixated on the end game. While "getting to the aisle" is incredibly important, we did not agree to marry one other just to wear a tux & a {fabulous} dress for a day, kiss in front of our folks & hit the honeymoon. Marriage is NOW. Marriage is the gif he sends to accompany his message because he knows I'm visual & I'm captivated by all things Pixar. Marriage is examining your partners' temperature & knowing when he or she needs some cheerleading. Consequent to being overwhelmed, he reminded me that we're in this together. Today, I realize that we're not getting married to have a wedding. We're having a wedding to prepare for marriage. The rest of our lives are being built today. With each moment we collaborate & problem solve together, we're gaining along this connected journey. 

To a lifetime more of journeying. And Beyond. 

 

Affording Adventure - part ll

   Firstly, I want to thank anyone & everyone who has been visiting my blog. I have been silent for the past two months, yet I see unanticipated traffic to my site. You are praiseworthy! I appreciate the forward-looking support as I've been in this creative cocoon, building what's next in my life. 

   As you know, I am planning a wedding, but equally significant, our honeymoon. I'm having a dreamy time arranging the details for that first grand adventure we embark upon as a married couple!  Having financial freedom & abundance is important in my everyday life, thusly guiding our budgetary decisions when it comes to the big day. It takes some sacrifice to pay for things I normally would not spend money on, like an elegant dress or a buffet table of food! Earlier this year, I wrote about ways to afford adventure (read here) by using a series of yard sales to fund extra costs. After two short half days of bartering from my front lawn, I profited $728.00 just from selling things that weren't valuable to me anymore. It was a very successful approach to accruing extra honeymoon money with minimal forfeit of my time. I also saved around $300 by photographing my own engagement session. Will I ever do anything like this again? NO. It was stressful being the photographer (and creative director, stylist, set builder, model, retoucher, etc) but completely worth it for this one time, especially since I had a specific vision. 

   So, there's my quick update on how I am planning a wedding, a honeymoon, a trip to Hawaii for my friend's wedding, a destination bachelorette party, all while paying rent on time & keeping the lights on. Travel, or any other extraordinary adventure in life, is so possible when approached with a game plan. 

Enjoy my absolute favorite photos from our shoot!  

 

 

 

 

The Five Directions

   In order to attract new experiences into your life, gain knowledge, have adventure, and grow,  one must wander. One must be willing to travel. Leave point A to arrive a point B. In my life, there are five directions that I seek out; North, South, East, West and Inward. 

   Traveling inward will be the deepest, sometimes darkest place you could ever visit. If you're  truly open for adventure, hiking a mountain in the North or observing new cultures in the East will ultimately summon you to explore yourself. It really doesn't matter where you go, an honest adventure will become a spiritual journey. Today, it is not a Caribbean Island nor a fantastic photo shoot that is forcing me to reflect inward, but rather the new territory I've discovered within my own home. Last night, my Everyday Sweetie (aka my fiancé) opened up to me about his feelings on the state of black people right now, thus echoing his own experiences. Please take a moment to read his brave declaration of despair, which he posted to Facebook:

    My heart is so full for him and everyone else feeling invisible. His black life matters to me.  His friends' black lives matter. His mother's & his sisters' black lives matter, all of my future family. For the black lives fighting in Charlotte, you matter. To the mom that cries at night about the future of her young black son, YOU MATTER.  It's so easy to be silent about a black issue when you're not black. But speaking up doesn't mean you have to start an argument with somebody. For me, speaking up means acknowledging someone's struggle & showing compassion even if I don't understand how they feel. Peaceful support. To grow & to truly experience limitless love, you have to care outside of your comfort zone. Trust me, it will strengthen you. I have very little idea what my fiancé deals with daily, some stuff I see, but most stuff he will never bring home with him. I am marrying a man who took me to Ghana, Africa for 3 weeks to meet his family & show me part of his culture. We spent a day walking around the slave castles on the coast, where we stood in the same windowless dungeon that held the captive African people. They were "stored" there for months until forced to board a ship to the Americas. This was NOT a comfortable experience. I felt sick in my stomach the whole time.  But he loves me so much, encouraging me to leave my comfort zone in order to better understand a struggle that continues to affect his people, my people and everyone.  

   Whoever is reading this, I ask the same of you now. Care for something outside of your comfort zone. Care for people who exist outside of your circle. Share compassion in a new territory. We are all Earth Brothers & Sisters here to care for each other & the planet we live on. Travel inward.  Expand the reach of your love. 

 

Photo taken by the extraordinary man in my life. Thank you for pushing me to grow. 

Photo taken by the extraordinary man in my life. Thank you for pushing me to grow. 

The Stepping Stone

     I am sitting in the Punta Cana airport right now, delayed six hours, perchance longer. I'm supposed to fly into JFK airport, but due to the recent activity in Chelsea, my flight is likely to reroute... again. A Dominican woman with coral lipstick on her teeth is shouting into a busted microphone. Each gate is overcrowded with pissed-off hungover honeymooners who are trying to return home. It's loud. It's chaotic. I'm spent. But despite the circumstance, this is exactly where I'm supposed to be. This is what I'm supposed to be doing. I am 765.8 miles south of Cuba, 883 miles north of Venezuela, just east of Haiti & a 14 hour ferry ride west of Puerto Rico. And I am writing my 4th journal entry about adventure. If only you all could feel my inner electricity right now! My spirit is humming.  

     Let's rewind to 14 days ago. I was packing 340 pounds of photographic gear to cover a conference-type gig in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Charging batteries, clearing memory cards, memorizing my shot list... taking the steps to have a successful work trip, yet I felt very withdrawn. I frequently write down my goals & whenever I feel lackluster about the moment I am in, I refer to my old journals & reflect on my past writings to see if I've strayed from them. I already knew why I wasn't 100% enthusiastic about this international assignment & it was the content I would be shooting. I really did not want to fly all the way to a Caribbean Island for event photography.  I wasn't photographing culture, the beautiful local people or a politically charged riot, so I had become bummed about the trip before I even arrived. In attempt to reignite my sense of purpose, I flipped through a notebook from 2012 to find two goals written in bold:

  1. Visit another country at least once a year for the rest of my life. 
  2. Be a traveling artist. 

 That was all I needed to see to shift my perspective on this travel blessing before me. Like, who gets bummed about going to the Dominican Republic? All because Nat Geo wasn't sending me & I wasn't shooting for a travel magazine, I had allowed myself to feel negatively about my progress. How dare I place a speed bump on my own destiny! I was being paid to leave the country with a camera (or three)... HELLO... that checks off both of my goals at the same time! 

     I am so very thankful for the timing of that humility check, for I had an amazing 10 days in paradise. I spent every second doing what I love. I had some really long days, but I rose with the sun, which energized me & prepared me to share my shine everyday. I experimented with new lighting scenarios & camera techniques, specifically cinemagraphs (flickering below). I pushed myself creatively & had some time to set new goals, which I hope to look back on in 2020 with a smile. It's important not to judge your own journey, for you may block a blessing that has come into your life. I may not specifically be a Nat Geo photographer, but I am a traveling artist and I know that where I am right now is a stepping stone to where I'm going. 

I send my love, wishing you fortune & favor. May you live the life you deserve & acknowledge your progress along the way. 

 


Goal-Setting by the Sea. September 2016. 

Essential Oils on the Road

Thanks again for the weigh-in on my snap chat! Based on your feedback the other night, I am sharing which essential oils I ALWAYS travel with & why. 

Long story short, I began using essential oils in 2014 to heal my asthma naturally. I was tired of using an inhaler & putting chemicals into my body. Today, I am asthma free & I no longer use a breathing machine or rely on a rescue inhaler! Eucalyptus Oil helped me reclaim my breath. Someday I'll share the good, the bad & the awesome journey I took to improve my health forever. 

So, here's a quick list of the oils I never leave home without:

  •  Peppermint Oil - I use peppermint oil weekly. Peppermint oil is anti-microbial, which makes it very useful for soothing an upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea and cramping. If you're traveling outside of the country or to places where you'll be trying new foods, pack peppermint oil. When my fiancé & traveled to Egypt in 2014, he decided to try pigeon at this little spot in Luxor and needless to say, it had his stomach in knots. I placed a drop of peppermint oil above his navel & behind his ears to alleviate the cramping & nausea. I also added a drop to our water bottles, which was effective in cooling us down in the desert heat. Since peppermint oil has anti-microbial properties, it freshens breath caused by bacteria. If you're traveling someplace hot, drop it in your water to combat the heat, spruce your breath and tend to the tummy. You can also place peppermint oil on the back of your neck & behind your ears for a cooling effect. This oil is a natural bug repellent, proven to be effective with mosquitos & spiders. I have never used peppermint oil on my skin to repel mosquitos, but if you try it, remember to apply often, for whatever you put on your skin becomes absorbed. This is  a good reason NOT to use toxic bug repellent, for it will be absorbed by your body just as anything else you put on it. However, when the seasons change, I diffuse peppermint oil throughout my home to eliminate spiders & other outside crawlers from entering. This is completely effective & I will be doing this here soon when fall arrives. Peppermint is a very powerful plant. Always wash your hands after using it & do not touch your eyes. For those that are sensitive, use a carrier oil when applying directly to your skin. I prefer coconut oil or rose hip oil (which I always travel with as well). 
  • Thieves Oil - I LOVE thieves oil. It is a blend of clove oil, lemon peel oil, cinnamon bark oil, eucalyptus oil and rosemary oil and it is POWERFUL. Thieves oil is anti-viral & anti-bacterial, which is supportive of immune health and an amazing travel companion. I spray down airport bathroom stalls, hotel rooms (doorknobs, toilet seats, remotes, chairs, things that don't get sanitized in the cleaning routine), the trays on planes, the bottom of my shoes before I enter my hotel room (and leave your shoes at the door!), the bottom of my carry-on since I always set it down and the list goes on. I use thieves oil as throat spray or drop oil into tea if I feel a sickness approaching. If I am desperate not to get sick, I fill the hotel sink (or the bath if the room is large) with steamy hot water and add thieves oil to diffuse & steam throughout the air. Relax & inhale. Since I travel so often, staying healthy is extremely important to me. I want to make the most out of my time on the road, so getting a cold or a fever is never an option. Thieves oil goes everywhere with me. 
  • Lavender Oil - I travel with lavender because I love the smell & find it calming. On long flights, I will inhale it straight from the bottle (and it improves the smell of my personal space if someone has violated it!). I also rub lavender oil on my temples to relax & alleviate a headache (paired with peppermint oil). Lavender oil has powerful antiseptic properties and can be used on wounds to accelerate healing and soothe minor burns, like sunburns. 

These are the three oils I bring with me everywhere. From weekend adventure in Ohio to 10 day work assignments in Mexico, I will always carry peppermint oil, thieves oil & lavender oil with me. When I first began researching essential oils, I purchased my oils from Whole Foods. They worked great and I still shop there from time to time. Through some research on purity, Young Living caught my attention & I now purchase my oils through them with a membership discount. I've also has great experiences with Plant Therapy. 

   Please remember that what I wrote works for me & may not necessarily work for you. If you have skin sensitivities, use a carrier oil when applying any essential oil and always wash your hands after use. If you're interested in learning more about essential oils, here are the books that have helped to educate me: 

 

-  The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

-  Emotions & Essential Oils

 

   I want to hear what oils you all travel with & how you use them! Comment below with any travel tips you have, including how you stay healthy on the road. When I was snap chatting with everyone about what to write on next, my friend & awesome lady fox  Rae Reed made mention that her oils spill when she travels. I keep mine in my carry-on, so I'm able to minimize the motion, but let her know of any resolution you may have! 

Thanks for reading. May your adventures arrive in abundance! 

    Affording Adventure

        I have just returned from the incredible island of Hilton Head in South Carolina. My suitcase is sitting in the living room & I still smell of the beach. I'm not so quick to unpack just yet. I usually welcome a seamless return home, with an immediate load of laundry tumbling & a freshening post-flight shower. But this evening, I was exceptionally excited to drop my bags at the door & write a new blog post before anything else! I have so much information for you all that I spent every airport second brainstorming a list of topics to write & share. And I even took it to snapchat & asked you all what type of advice you're seeking. Thanks for everyone's engagement!

     

       So, most of you were interested in knowing how to better fund the adventure you dream of. I'll start by saying that you must be aware of how you're spending your money. It's easiest to answer these questions based on a monthly income accrual (which then can be calculated to a yearly expense overview):

    • What percentage of your income is spent to cover living costs (shelter, water bill, electric/gas, etc)?
    • What percentage of your income is spent on food (groceries, dining out, coffee, happy hours, etc)? 
    • What percentage of your income goes to monthly bills (cell phone, credit card, car payment, insurance, student loan, etc)?
    • What percentage of your income is tied to an automatic monthly charge (like an online account or subscription, monthly memberships, etc)
    • What percentage of your income is allotted for savings? 
       ***If you aren't great at math or being organized, the CoinKeeper app is useful. My fiancé uses it for budgeting. It generates charts, graphs and highlights excess expenses.*** 
       The questions to consider do not end here, but the most important thing is understanding how & where you spend money. If your money is going towards things & activities that do not support your goals, then you may want to refocus your energy. The best way to shift a deeply embedded way of thinking (i.e. "I will always have debt") is to write down your goals, even if you don't believe them yet! I wrote about this in my post last week. Every single morning, I take 2 minutes and write down what's important to me. This exercise is as vital as eating breakfast or drinking water. At first, I was embarrassed to share my goals on paper with myself. They became real & I couldn't ignore my purpose anymore. I felt they were too colossal & I wasn't good enough to achieve them. But the more I saw them written down, the more comfortable I became with my own greatness & my actions began to align with what I wrote. I was able to shift my energy & focus on the life I wanted. Before, I was "living a script" & expecting to pay just the minimums on my never-ending monthly bills. I lived with a lot of fear and doubt in myself. This technique of repetition is so powerful, for it reminded me of my goals every single morning. I began my day super focused & sharp with intention. Your life is a sum total of your mindset & past decisions. Where you are today, is where your thoughts were yesterday, last week, last year. I encourage you to think beyond your current situation! What do you really want? Quit thinking about your obstacles, but moreover set goals beyond them. If you feed thoughts of fear & doubt & debt & struggle, then that's what your life will be. 
    Here's another question for you:
    • Does more money flow out of your account, then in? 

       The absolute best way to "make more money" is to spend less. I am a big fan of the saying "work smarter, not harder." I do not believe that humans are meant to work 40+ hour work weeks for systems that encourage more consumerism & more debt. We experience a tsunami of ads daily and our spending habits are tracked & used for data to provoke our next purchase. The odds seem stacked against us. But, instead of working harder to buy more, spend less & have more freedom with your time. My life changed when I came across this Ted Talk.

       Earlier this year, I was painting my bedroom & surfing Pinterest  for decoration inspiration. I fully intended to purchase new furniture and buy things to hang on the walls. That same day, I strangely navigated to this ted talk video. As I finished painting the bedroom, I replayed it over & over again. Then I went to my basement & found 3 boxes full of home decor that I was keeping for when we moved into a bigger home. Wait… WHAT? I was about to shop for art and picture frames and a rug and a lamp and candles… when I already had boxes full of these things stored in my basement, which I was saving for a bigger place when we were ready to move! My life was put into perspective on that day. I had to eliminate the clutter, which was slowing my life down & keeping me from freedom. I mapped out a series of yard sales I would have throughout this summer & fall, then I sifted through my things to decide what I am happy without. I found that I have no attachment to the things that aren't affiliated with my daily goal list. I had actually detached from those things years ago, but since they were stored in boxes, I had forgotten about them. It was money just sitting in a box, in a basement, taking up space in my home that was slowly filling up. I even tossed old photos that no longer reflected my happiness. The money I am receiving from my yard sale series is savings for the honeymoon next year and immediate cash to pay towards the wedding as we book the details. My goal is to marry my Everyday Sweetie without debt accrual. Totally achievable. 

    I plan to write a follow-up financial post soon. I want to share how successful my yard sales were & the other steps I took to affording all the adventure in my life. If you have any advice you'd like to share with this community, please comment below or write me on twitter.  I would so love to talk more about having the freedom to live without a script! 

    Now, go write down ridiculously huge goals on paper & watch magic happen. Oh, and quit buying shit. It won't make you any happier. 

       

    NYC, Detroit, Key West, Kauai, Vietnam

    Hello Good People! 

    First blog post alert. 

    Here's a quick introduction into my world:

    My name is Abby. I live in Columbus, Ohio & I am an in-house photographer for a large corporation based here. I travel for work a lot & when I'm not working, I travel around with my fiancé (aka "My Everyday Sweetie). My life is one great adventure. All by design! I love living with a smile & experiencing this awesome world.

     

    As you can tell by this blog title, I have a lot of adventure planned (and a few more destinations yet to be planned):

    • Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in August 2016
    • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic in September 2016
    • New York City in October 2016
    • Detroit, Michigan in November 2016
    • Key West, Florida in February 2017
    • Kauai, Hawaii in April 2017
    • A multi-city adventure around Vietnam in August 2017

    I can say that this lifestyle is perfect for me because the energetic charge of travel allows me to live in a strong state of inspiration. I love this state of consciousness because when I'm inspired, I am literally "In Spirit". In my spirit. It's a beautiful place of truth & raw creativity. So, traveling serves my work & builds the vision for my next great project. If you're an artist, step through the gate of your front yard & EXPLORE! Experiencing the world will do wonders for your work. 

    For my first entry, I have no epic photos to share (just yet). But you know where I'm headed & that's the most important step when living a life of adventure… Always have a grand list of goals. In order to achieve anything, one must first guide an idea from thought to paper & declare it. Here's a little process I crank all my best ideas through to ensure they will become goals & eventually a tangible success story:

    1. Declare it
    2. Write it Down
    3. Share it
    4. Believe it
    5. Live it
    6. Achieve it

    Simple & Effective. 

    And on July 27th, 2016 at 8:43pm, I have concluded my very first blog post. 

    History Made.