I hit the road photographing in 2010. When I began considering an extended period of travel, it was, in part, because I needed a change. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted and needed to lay new tracks toward respite, renewal, and relief.
Like Gustave Flaubert, I was eager to be “transplanted by the winds.” Like Charles Baudelaire, I was eager to be in the places of departure and arrival, eager to be aboard machines of motion. Like Edward Hopper, I was seeking the poetry in a train car, the sanctuary in a coffee shop, the message in a neon sign. Like Alexander von Humboldt, I was seeking knowledge, an expansion of my understanding of the world and its workings. Like William Wordsworth, I craved the restorative power of nature.
BUT, ultimately, foundationally—through and through—what I needed most was the ministry of the sublime. I needed to hear from God. I wanted to connect with His artistry in nature and be awed by His power breathed in and through the created order. My spirit craved healing and I was eager to paint what I learned and saw and felt and heard and smelled – all that I experienced with every sense and every fiber of my being — with words and photographs and sketches.
Alain de Botton, author of The Art of Travel (a book from which I have drawn much inspiration), has lamented that: “There are some who have crossed deserts, floated on ice caps and cut their way through jungles but whose souls we would search in vain for evidence of what they have witnessed.” I didn’t want that to be true of myself; I wanted to BE wherever I was.
But I shouldn’t lead you to believe that this "hoboing" that I was to embrace was to be only a serious, studious search for re-ignition. I was also up for some light-hearted, boisterous, frolic-laden, delight-filled fun.
I was ready to answer, what John Steinbeck referred to as, the call of “bumdom.”
As I made plans with my husband Gene to set off for parts unknown, I was filled with excitement and ready to embrace the unrefined realities of wayfaring and rubber hoboing. Like Mr. Toad and his friends from The Wind in the Willows, I delighted in considering what the open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows and the rolling downs might hold in the way of adventure.
And so, as 2010 was drawing to a close, Gene and I sold our home in Pennsylvania and set out to gather experiences–outside of our experiences–on a road trip across the United States.
As I write this, we've now wayfared our way through 49 states. I also took one “side trip” (minus Gene) to the island of O’ahu. Along the way, we've met fascinating people, from goldpanners and a family of wild mushroom pickers in Oregon to a moonshiner in Louisiana, from a mariachi band in Texas to Gullah-Geechee sweetgrass basket weavers in South Carolina. We've work-camped on a ranch, on a vineyard, and in a swamp. For a glorious year we lived within steps of the Grand Canyon's south rim while I served as a guide and instructor with the Grand Canyon Field Institute and worked in Kolb Studio, the home and workplace of two pioneering photographers. Gene worked as well at the Verkamp’s Visitor Center. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring, hiking, backpacking and learning about the area's flora and fauna. I still miss the night skies, the sunrises, the bugling of the elks and the howling of the coyotes. From Arizona, we moved on to explore--for a season--the lush and soul-stirring Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park. After sojourning for a time along the North Carolina and Maine coasts and the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, we are now in Central Florida.
We've risked much to embrace this life of wandering but we've also gained much. As J.R.R. Tolkien aptly noted, "Not all who wander are lost."