Mary Frances of Float Away Studios is a passionate, lovely photographer and friend of mine who I met on my own little trip to Southern California. I was with Sabrina (see our crazy stop-motion video we made that night) when we stopped in Santa Monica to share some eats with Mary on our way from Oceanside to Santa Barbara. I feel lucky that she took her time to meet with us and share some amazing insight into her love for wedding photography as well as her passion for freedom and the open road. She has one of the openest hearts of anyone I know, so I was thrilled when she shared that she’d be heading with her wonderful friend Amanda Rae on a soul-searching road trip from Southern California up through the Pacific Northwest to Seattle. Here’s more about their inspiring winter’s journey.
Hello, kindred spirit. How are you feeling after your soul-seeking adventure?
Hello!! I feel quite refreshed, alive and itching for more adventures…it really is an addiction!
Where did you go? When?
On Christmas Day we set out on a road trip up the Pacific coast. Amanda and I both needed to get away, explore and experience things we have never felt before.
What were your pit stops along the way?
Our first stop was San Francisco, then the Redwoods then Portland, then Seattle. We had plans to celebrate the new year in Vancouver but finished our trip a bit earlier than we planned. So I’m saving that adventure for another time. ;)
Three things that took your breath away:
1. Redwoods. It really put life in perspective for me…we are so small. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with our problems as they take over our lives but when you are in the midst of these GIGANTIC beautiful creations that sit in solitude and thrive, our problems don’t seem so small anymore.
2. Sea Lions basking in the San Francisco sun. I am a huge fan of sea lions. I am not sure why, I have always been drawn to these amazing creatures. Listening to their barks and watching them play with one
another can instantly bring tears of joy to my cheeks. It’s an emotion I can’t explain or control but I love being around them. Amanda surprised me and brought me to this spot at the San Francisco pier and it really was a highlight of the trip.
3. The variations of the sea. I have always been drawn to the ocean. So taking route 101 up the coast was a must. While we saw the Pacific in so many settings there was this one stop where our jaws dropped to the ground. We were winding in and out of the Redwoods and making our way to Oregon when we rounded a corner and came upon this beauty. The waves were hitting the shore in a fashion that reminded us of the beginning of Across the Universe. It was a mutual understanding and we saw art within Gods movement in nature.
Tell me about the order of your planning for this trip (steps, maps,
The holiday season was going to be a very different one for me this year, and I wanted to celebrate and embrace it. All I wanted was to get away and experience the open road, new surroundings and people. I planned on doing this solo with my sidekick Rilo, my mini poodle. I told my adventures to my friend Amanda and she instantly asked if she could come along! All of a sudden it seemed so silly I wanted to go on this kind of adventure by myself…I LOVE making memories with people and this new plan was way better! Amanda is a planner and I am not. So she sat down and routed our journey on a map knowing we had a limited amount of days. We both enjoy checking out hotels, so we planned to stay at our favorites, as well as some we have been wanting to check out for some time.
How many miles did you cover?
We started in Studio City, California and went all the way to Seattle, Washington. It ended up being alittle less than 3,000 miles. Still have to get a new oil change. ;)
Name one off-the-beaten-path stop you took.
We were driving up the coast on Christmas day and Amanda suggested going through Solvang, CA to grab dinner. It was rainy and I felt like we were in a different country with the dutch influenced buildings through out the city as well as the rolling hills underneath the gray clouds. I was sitting with Amanda next to the window of the restaurant and remember thinking “this is just day 1″. There was so much curiosity, excitement and adventure in the future, even by the minute, and we just couldn’t wait to experience it all.
A few things we had not planned entirely was stopping to see some friends and family. We stopped in Tacoma to visit some of Amanda’s family that she hasn’t seen in over 10 years and we also got the chance to meet up with 2 of my favorite people. Kristy Behrs in Grants Pass, Oregon and Sarah Rhoads in Seattle, Washington. Kristy and Sarah are two of the most beautiful and inspiring women I know and when God orchestrates it in your life that your paths could possibly cross, you make it happen. Even though our time together was brief, it made the trip even more amazing.
Preference: windows up or windows down?
We had our windows up for this trip…alot of rain or snow.
Driver or passenger? Why?
Amanda and I took turns and I feel like the turns ended up working quite well. I am not a fan of driving in rainy, snowy, dark, or windy conditions…so Amanda took the wheel for this and when it was sunny and clear…I drove.
Many laughs are had on vacations like these, so tell me about two of them.
Something I found so funny was the view from our hotel rooms. Herewe are setting out on this “epic adventure”…we would get to our roomsreally late at night after driving and would go right to sleep. I would wake up and open the blinds to be face to face with the complete opposite of a “beautiful view”. The first time in San Francisco it was a brick wall, then in Eureka it was a construction site, then in Portland…another brick wall and lastly in Seattle it was a huge building…but if looked to your right it was a slightly perfect view of the Seattle waterfront.
I have just began reading Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller. Just in the authors note his words have resonated with my soul, like they most often do, and I find him writing my thoughts in the most beautiful manner. I have always been okay with getting up and going…moving
forward and experiencing life. While I dream of settling one day, I find the events in my life have been plotted in a certain manner so I can gain growth through adventure. While I would love to quote everything this man says, here is a part that I find perfect..
“I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently. Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning.”
I truly came home with a new understanding of me. Yes, I really wanted to have a soul searching adventure..I wanted to learn things about myself I had not known..but I have learned to not expect these things to happen when you are looking for them. So I was kind of shocked when I realized I knew more about myself on January 1st of 2011 than I did on December 25th of 2010. On the way home, from our trip that ended earlier than planned, we were driving through the Oregon mountains on New Years eve and it was snowing. The snow was falling in the most beautiful manner and Amanda was watching the road carefully to take care of the three beating hearts that sat within the car. I thought about the year that had just happened..I thought about my expectations and goals that I had going into it and how completely opposite my year had actually been! They say if you want to make God laugh tell him your plans, and oh goodness…we laughed together a lot in 2010.
I realized that I love hearing Gods laugh. I love when things don’t go the way I planned. I love the unexpected and the in between. In those turns, the ones you had no idea were coming up, is where life really is…just like that ocean just outside the redwoods. I learned that you and I can be stronger than we thought. I learned you and I have a lot of love to give. I learned that you and I need to laugh a lot more. I learned that life is not about making lists, saving money, going according to “plan”…you just need to put one food in front of the other, say yes to adventure and LIVE!
Los Angeles, California