82 days. 11954 miles. 11 weddings. 25 states. 1 987 Airstream Excella trailer. 2 dogs. 0 flat tires. 3 oil changes. 2 new rear tires. 1 set of new trailer brakes. Too many gallons of gas. 13 state parks. 3 national parks. 1 national preserve. 1 national seashore. 3 mountain passes. 2 Walmart parking lots. 3 ghost towns. At least 15 new friends. A few wrong turns. 870 personal photos. Loads of Instagrams. Countless tacos. 13 Redbox stops. 1 15 hour book on tape. Numerous podcasts. More laughs than we can count. 2 still in love humans.
So, that's the road trip by the numbers. We finished our 2nd leg of the road trip last week Friday. We would have updated sooner, but truthfully I've been up to my eyeballs in work catch up and haven't felt I could do a personal post until at least some of the weddings and sessions from the road were finished and out to clients.
We have been enjoying the past few days of being in one spot, taking the dogs for walks on the beach, settling back into Grand Haven and making plans for the coming months. We have a rough idea of our next steps, but until they are a bit more solidified, we're not going to share them--I can say, though, that they don't involve another long road trip for quite some time. That's not saying we didn't have an absolutely wonderful time traveling this year, because we did. We saw more of the United States than we ever have before, learned a lot about the country and about the people who live here, developed a healthy love and respect for the state parks system and did a lot of thinking about what type of life we want to leave from here forward. I can safely say that this trip and this year has been one of the best experiences of my life and of our marriage. I am so grateful we were able to take this time not only to meet so many amazing folks on the road and work with them on their weddings, but also for us personally--we grew and learned a lot about who we are, what makes us tick, how we approach life and how we value creativity in our work. I feel that I grew immensely as a photographer during this time--I see weddings a little differently than I did before and I am proud of the work we did while out there in the country.
But it is also so, so, so nice to be back in one space. Towards the end of the trip we were both getting confused as to where we were, what state we were sleeping in, how many miles we had to cover, where we needed to be the next day--it was grueling. Most days we drove and some days we drove between 400-500 miles. When you're only going 55mph, those are long, long, long days of driving. We ended up spending the last 15 hours of the drive from Denver to Michigan listening to Stephen King's The Shining (which, let me just say, was absolutely fantastic and highly recommended...then watch the film...then watch the new documentary Room 237 and you'll have so much to discuss with your traveling companion for hours afterwards. I promise). If we were to do such a trip again, we definitely would space the work out a little more (New Orleans to Phoenix in 5 days was tough...again, at 55mph, things take longer) and perhaps just travel rather than trying to also make work out of it as well. I do think that I could easily live in a 31' Airstream indefinitely. I don't think either of us ever really felt cramped or like we didn't have enough space or needed anything extra--being in spots where it was warm enough to be outside most of the time definitely helped this. I think staying stationary in one place or one park in the trailer helped a lot and, towards the beginning of the trip, we were really able to do this. It was when we had to drive and travel every day that we both began to get a little burned out.
It was also really neat to meet up with so many in the traveling/Airstream/work from the road community, primarily through the power of social media, Instagram and blogs. As I've mentioned before, there are a lot of folks out there, both in our generation and younger, who are taking a break from the "real world", selling many of their possessions and traveling in their trailers, vans, cars or bicycles. We encountered on the route French touring bicyclists, pop up fashion shops, families of 6 in tiny trailers and everything in between--it seems there is something going on in the culture of our country right now where many young professionals are throwing in the towel and trying a totally different life. We're glad to have had the opportunity to experience that for this time.
At any rate, we're back in Michigan. We're gearing up for the "real" wedding season to begin in 2 weeks with so many weddings in May and June that it makes my head spin. We're totally booked for 2014 weddings and 2015 is filling right up. I constantly am amazed that this business has taken off in the way it has, but I am super glad of all the amazing experiences and opportunities we've been able to have in the past 12 months as a result of being destination wedding photographers. We plan to spend most of July and part of August starting to renovate the house in Empire and then we'll see where the wind takes us. Not having a set plan or knowing the answer to "What's next?" is both exciting, terrifying, freeing and stressful. Thank you, too, to all of you who faithfully followed along on our trip, to the couples who booked us to travel across thousands of miles in an Airstream to photograph their weddings, to the friends we met on the road and to everything in between. It's definitely been a trip in more ways than one. Happy Spring!