Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dreams | Travels: The Carolinas

It has always been a dream of mine to travel. When I was working a normal job, full time, I felt I didn't have the time, the travel buddies, etc. There was always some reason. When I became unemployed, I had the time but lacked the funds. More reasons. Eventually I realized, there is and always will be some sort of excuse, as valid as they may seem. So I started trying to live my life-and my dreams-differently than I ever had before...without excuses.

I had a couple opportunities to do a little traveling once I hit my twenties-I dated a guy out of state, I had a friend who took me along on a couple work trips, I was lucky to experience travel in these ways... with people I got along with. I quickly became addicted to flying and travel in general. But I was spoiled, as I didn't have to do any work with the planning/booking.

A few years later, after I lost my job and got into the modeling/photography world, an opportunity came up to model out of state... to meet photographers I may never have had the chance to meet- a lot of people in a short period of time. It was a large workshop. While I was financially responsible for the whole trip, it seemed like a good opportunity and a good step in pursuing what I love.

And lucky for me, photographer Andrew Kufahl had interest in attending as a student for a while now. So we decided to go for it.

This was the first time I would have to do the planning. I quickly realized just how difficult it can be when you're working with a tight budget and a time frame. This would require some creativity and patience...

The main purpose of this trip was for the workshop, in Charlotte, NC. I had a large amount of prep to do simply for that. But I couldn't help but research what else would be in the area... I had never been to North Carolina. Or South Carolina...hmmmmmm....

I felt a strong desire to soak in as much as I possibly could... to use this opportunity thoroughly...because who knows if I'll have the chance again...

My planning process is puzzle-like and involves a large
amount of post-it notes and scrap paper

When I was researching flights, I was frustrated at fluctuating prices for the most convenient routes. I started trying to get creative... to see how I could combo my main goals: see/experience as much as possible, for as cheap as possible, with the amount of time we were given.

The approximate ridiculous route, not including the accidental detour to
Tennessee that Andrew surprised me with after a brief nap

So we flew into Asheville, NC... immediately went waterfall exploring in Transylvania County...I can't remember how many we made it to, but there were a TON in the area, and each was unique. We even were able to fit in a hike-in search of a big one that was known for its rainbows... The hike ended up being much longer than expected... sweating, huffing and puffing, we finally heard what was undoubtedly rushing water... and then water started misting our faces... how refreshing! A few steps further, and we saw it... it was breathtaking! We watched people cliff jump and took a moment to take it all in... We ended up running most of the way back due to time constraints and a hungry bug that decided Andrew would make an excellent  lunch... that was all we needed to get our butts moving!

Waterfall hopping!
TIP: It is incredibly handy to 
travel with someone taller 
and stronger than you...
for moments like this...
when a ladder would not
fit one into your suitcase.

View out our door, river 
running in the background.
From there, we followed winding roads into the mountains, deep out of cell range... We were going to be spending the night in a cabin, on the riverfront, in Hot Springs, NC. After relaxing in the hot spring hot tubs while listening to the river, we  struggled with soggy campfire wood to make some sort of dinner. Our campground neighbors offered up their hot coals-as they were about to turn in for the night, and had issues getting their  fire going as well. We were not sure what to expect with the weather for this trip... especially with the range of area we planned to cover. The majority of my bags were filled with modeling necessities for the workshop. This cabin required campers to bring their own bedding-we learned the hard way, it can get quite chilly here! Life lessons. ;)

Between time simply moving far too fast and the uncomfortably chilly night, we barely slept... But we pulled ourselves out of bed for our next  adventure: Grandfather Mountain... the mile high swing bridge caught my interest when I had been researching the area.

Every turn up the mountain made us gasp at the view... we were in awe... Couldn't get enough of it! When we finally arrived to the bridge location, we were filled with excitement. The swing bridge was sadly not very swingy, but the view was incredible!

We sat down-I dangled my feet over the edge... Andrew nervously looked on from a few feet back. The shadows of clouds moved over the landscape--oh how small we are! I remember days when a cloud would move in, and it seemed to cover my whole world... sometimes it was beautiful and welcomed, other times it was frustrating... Observing it from up here, even the clouds looked small! And they were creating these small moments that seemed to be so big before... Up here, it was unbelievably quiet... you could feel the wind in a different way than you do when you're in a city... on the ground... my little world was blown wide open, and I was reminded that there is so much more out there... so much more than I can know or see. This moment in itself changed me... I could have spent the whole day in that spot!

Pouting, we had to carry on to our next stop, but admittedly we were quite excited it at the same time... We were hoping to check out a mine, and pan for some gold! We had checked several times about the hours of operation and availability. We were sure to leave the mountain with plenty of time to get there... only to arrive and find out they close the panning portion early! We drove all this way and only had this moment to do this... we still were able to tour the mine, and made the most of it... and then we were on our way once again... we were bummed, but now we were headed to the beach!

Exploring the gold mine

Somewhere in between 
mountains and the beach, 
there was a toilet that
required a little extra effort.
Myrtle Beach... sand... water... palm trees... warmth... mmm... This was my very first time seeing the ocean! We arrived at night, but made our way to the water, first thing!

Happy screams as waves snuck up in the dark

I got drenched nearly to my waist, Andrew to his thighs...we watched the lit up ferris wheel, accidentally stumbled across a couple hiding on a sandy grassy pathway who were um enjoying each others company, and I'm pretty sure something in the water hit my leg causing me to run screaming. ;)

While in Myrtle Beach, we had a sunny day and a rainy day. We played mini golf when the rain took a brief moment to rest. And explored a thrift store. We chilled in the hotel's lazy river, walked the beach and walked it some more.
And by mini-golf, I mean goofed around
the whole time...

We also took the opportunity to shoot... we didn't arrive with an idea in mind, but soon enough, we had a seed of inspiration and went to work. We were really just playing around on the beach with a camera. But we ended up getting something pretty neat and totally new as a result! Check it out...

"Do you still remember that night... 
down by the ocean... 

when we just... danced? I do..."                        Photographer: Andrew Kufahl

And then it was time for the workshop... it was difficult to leave the beach, but this trip had an interesting way of making us ache for more time where we were, yet had us thrilled to move on to what was next.

Making friends

There were going to be photographers who I've been fans of for years... Bigger named people than I ever thought I'd have the chance to work with or even meet!

The hotel the hosted the workshop was pretty gosh darn nice. My favorite part was all of the ponds/fountains... where beautiful birds hung out and would say hello if you stopped for a moment...

To be honest, I ran into quite a few bumps during the next few days... I struggled... it was tough to be a "newbie" when it seemed so many people already knew each other and were quite close. It was tough to find a place, to get the necessary info, to fit in, etc. I did not get much shoot time, I did not get to meet or work with many of the mentors...or even the students...And I had no clue to how go about changing that at the time.

I was starting to feel like I was wasting time and money here... and I felt so limited with what I could control. I started feeling down about myself- I was bigger or older than the other models, I'm a no name, I'm too quiet, blah blah blah... a million reasons to feel like I wasn't good enough. We put so much time and money into this trip, that extended far beyond the few days of the actual workshop. Even though Andrew had his own frustrations and struggles, he was supportive and helpful and I learned just how lucky I was--it finally clicked that I was fortunate to have been here with someone who I do fulfilling work with--why not USE this new location for what WE love to do during these down times when I had felt my time and talent was being wasted? Why not control what we can and make sure we get something out of this experience? We both knew we were capable of so much more, and to think otherwise was silly... So we started doing our thing... In between the few classes I modeled for, and the ones Andrew attended as a student, we'd meet up to play. I started doing my own hair and makeup, and let go of feeling like I needed modeling assignments to be doing anything productive... I knew Andrew and I could make good use of the looks I'd create and the 15 outfits I was told to bring that had yet to see daylight. It felt freeing, to create, to do what I came here for, to do what I love... And we got some really really great images! Such as these three:

Photographer: Andrew Kufahl
Photographer: Andrew Kufahl

Photographer: Andrew Kufahl

I did meet/work with two or three mentors who were absolutely wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed working with them and their students. One night, during the down time, I met a few other attendees who went out of their way to make sure I got some shoot time (receiving images was the only way the models were "paid"... so when I was not getting much shoot time, it really did not seem worth the flight/hotel...and they wanted to help change that!). They were fun, kind, and ended up catching the attention of other students--which resulted in more shoot time! :)  Thank you Ray and Ryan!

Photographer: Amy Parrish
Photographer: Kari Witthuhn-Henning

Andrew and I had also run into some familiar faces... photographers we were friends with from back home. One night, we were all in one place... one of the photogs had a fun photo idea-it had to do with a   water fight. She positioned us, one at a time, threw some water, took her shots. There were lots of laughs and it turned out great!

Thanks to the help of Andrew and the hometown friends, I was also able to briefly meet the one photographers I have been a fan of for years... I also watched a couple of her classes, which was a nice way to enjoy the workshop in other ways outside of modeling.

Amazing how things turned around once I let go of my expectations. Just like the other parts of the trip that didn't work out ideally, there is always something to learn and always a way to get something out of an experience.

Before we flew out, we had one more non photography random pit stop: a giant moving silver head sculpture, Metalmorphosis. We waited, as there were only certain times it would actually move... we waited and waited... eventually, we looked it up online and it was out of order that day. Darn it. It was quite the impressive piece, even when not moving. We admired it, checked ourselves out on the web cam, and enjoyed the beautiful weather...and maybe joked around a bit. ;)

Watching ourselves live via webcam

I am so thankful that we turned this trip into what it was... that we tried to see as much as we could, whether it worked out or not. I'm glad we explored... that we ventured into nature to see things we do not have in our home state. And I am glad that I have a great friend who I enjoy working with-and can work anywhere with... who I can laugh with... and I'm thankful for the reminder of how there are some really kind people out there who are willing to reach out to you. And the reminder that even in situations where you don't feel you have any control, there are ways to get creative to make the most of experience for yourself. I originally thought the point of the trip was the workshop and based its value (and my value) on that element, but there was so much more to it. THIS is the stuff that made the trip what it was... It was filled with life lessons and new experiences that opened my eyes, my mind, my heart. My passion to create was alive and well, and my passion to travel was lit on fire. And just like the feeling I got on Grandfather Mountain, everything was now limitless, and extends far beyond what I could possibly see, expect, or know...

Watch facebook for additional photos from this event, including more behind the scenes shots!