I packed up my shit and drove across the country. This seems to be some kind of ritual. Maybe we could even consider it a protocol. Uncertain as to way the idea always seems like a good one,  I’m sitting here debriefing the last few weeks and my uncertainty wanes. Things happen when you travel. Things that wouldn’t happen if you didn’t. Like how I ended with in a helicopter on Catalina Island with a mormon I met on Instagram. Standby, we will come back to this.

It is these things that keep me moving. Why I plant, with intentions to uproot. Why I sit, with intentions to run. Why I work hard, with intentions to play harder. Healthy? I don’t know. We all have bad habits.

Those cute little roots that I planted in Traverse City Michigan all year, are still connected to the soles of my feet even though I am 2243 miles away.  Don’t fret, I didn’t know that roots could stretch that far either. I just made sure that when I planted them they would have the elasticity of big league chew. After reaching my goal of staying in one place, for one year, I saw it only fair to reward myself.  Rewards come to me in people and in places. They are my prized possessions. They make up everything that I am.   I do feel differently about traveling this time around. I find myself equally excited to get back to Michigan and it’s people as I do to continue elsewhere. This is new to me. Typically there is no looking back after I have left. This time my head is constantly looking left to right, up and down, east to west. I look like a chicken. I even feel like a chicken because chickens are too scared to cross the road. I am not too scared, but I am questioning my moves. I really like those people back in Michigan and the problem with elasticity is that these damn roots constantly want to resume their original shape.

Let me ask you all something – what is with this re-occuring question about “Settling”? Why does everyone want to know about this? When people ask when and where I would like to “settle”,  I imagine a concrete truck appearing out of a cloud of dust and pouring a viscous layer over my feet and I am instantly immobile.  This image alone makes me want a Xanax. I respond to this question by kindly informing the curious creature that I do not yet understand what this word means, nor do I believe it should be graced in the english dictionary. But then again, someone recently told me that “twerk” has been added to the english dictionary. SO they go ahead and break-down the word “settle” for me by simply re-formating the question.  By this point my head is slightly cocked to the right and my eyebrows are pinched together and they realize that this question makes me uncomfortable. If you ask me, unsettling is the first thought that comes to mind when I hear the word settling. This could be the millennial in me speaking. But it wasn’t my fault I was born in 1989.

I’m sorry. Back to the unknown point.

Permanent, is also I word I don’t yet understand. Like most things in my life all of the movement this season is temporary.  I left on Sept 15 to road trip to California. I was hired to shoot a wedding in June Lake, CA where Katie has been living with her 4 dogs and 8 chickens. On Oct 6, we fly to Annapolis Maryland to work for Cruising Outpost at the Annapolis boat show. From there I hop on a big ole jet plane to Germany, where I will spend some time with my sister who I consider a rocket scientist even though her PHD has nothing to do with rockets. After that, I have an apartment in Budapest for the month of November where I will sit and stare at the wall and pull out one strand of hair at a time. This is also known as – writing. Thank the lord my genetics provided me thick hair. I have not bought my return ticket. Surely Budapest may be a questionable city as of late. But my camera really wants me to go there, and I listen to my camera more than I do most people.

The word on the street was that California is having a drought. The worst of our time. So I decided I would drive there instead of fly so I could bring my friends some water. I invited my friend Brad to road-trip with me whose heart was set on wine tasting in Napa. The drive began through northern Michigan’s upper peninsula by tallying how many pee-stops we made. We gave this up after day one due to my under-sized bladder. It wasn’t fun anymore.

By day two, one of those things happened that I speak about. While getting jet-fuel in Buffalo, South Dakota we saw a hitchhiker leaving the station. We offered her a ride. She was 20 years old. Her name Rachel Dunn. She was a great listener. She asked great questions. She could read people. She loved her hacky sack and could care-less about the coffee stains on her white sweater. She may have been the most fascinating thing I had come across in years. At 20 years old she had stories of one who had lived a century. Everything about her reiterated why I appreciate all things untraditional.  She never stopped smiling and we never stopping talking and all of the sudden two nights and three days passed and we had given her a ride all the way to Reno. Brad, nor I wanted to leave her on the side of the road. She was our friend now. A truly cared for friend.  I thought I knew what the word fearless meant until I met Rachel Dunn. Don’t worry mother and father, I am not getting any ideas. Just taking notes.


And then there was this other interesting situation that was more or less a result of social media. Like how I ended with in a helicopter on Catalina Island with a mormon I met on Instagram.

Last winter Katie texted me, “You should follow this guy on Instagram, @iflyheli”

So I did. After keeping up with his posts for no more than a week, I sent him a ridiculously far-fetched email. It said something exactly like this :

Hello York!

A few years back I got my Heli license at Orbic Helicopters in Camarillo, CA. I finished my instrument and commercial at Heli-Tahoe in South Lake Tahoe, CA.
Shortly after completing my license’s I took off on a 27 foot sailboat with a best friend and sailed from Michigan to the Bahamas, and for some reason… back to Michigan.
Documented here:
I am a passionate photographer and adventurer. I wish I could tell you my heli-license was current, but it’s not. Nothing now but a dreamer in love with the aviation and photography industry. 
Recently stumbled upon your Instagram, I couldn’t help but send you this far fetched email. Can I work for you???
-Jessie Zevalkink
And he actually responded. Nearly a year later he followed through with his offer to take me on a photo flight. I met York at the John Wayne airport and we flew down the coast to Dana Point, and over the ocean to Catalina island where we parked the majestic machine (Robinson 66) in a place only birds land. He let me take off and fly us back to the main land where we flew above pods of dolphins and vast amounts of salt water. I couldn’t help but be distracted by the possibility of an engine failure. Because of this very thought, I missed Louise. When her engine failed we still had sails. Then again, I had never been on the controls of an R66 before, and I literally-could-not-believe-what-was-happening. It was unreal. For a small moment I thought I was superwoman. I remembered why I started flying years ago. But couldn’t remember I stopped.
Oh yes, the possibility of engine failures. That could have had something to do with it.
How in the WORLD did I end up flying an R66, to Catalina Island, with a guy a met on Instagram, who happens to be the bishop in Laguna Beach. York was a wonderful and kind man, who raved about his 8 children and beautiful wife and greatly appreciated my untraditional choices in life. We talked about family, about flying, about photography, about growing up, about things we are scared of and why we do them anyways.
York was another prime example of one of those things I speak of. An additional stranger befriended. The exact reason I am encouraging you all to pick up hitch-hikers and send far-fetched emails to people who have cool pictures on Instagram.
Hahah. Ha.
Thank you’s to those who kept me still during the slowest winter of my life, and to those I caught a glimpse of during the fastest summer of my life. To my friends scattered around this country who always open your doors for me, share your couches, your beds, your precious time, a can of tuna fish and occasionally out of desperation – your undergarments.  And to the family I do share blood with, who at this point isn’t surprised about any decision I make. Ever.
Enjoy the photos to follow… here are some of  those people whom I consider my grand prize.
These people, these places, these situations, these things…are everything.

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8 thoughts on “Hitchhikers and Helicopters.

  1. ‘Roots’. ‘Settling’. Both those things conjure to mind immobility, which I don’t believe it has to be. I think roots can be whereever you can find peace, whether its a hometown, a boat, or an island.

  2. Hiya, I don’t normally comment on blogs but I just wanted to say how much I love your writing!! Great post, and amazing photos too. Just makes me want to pack my things and go… Keep doing what you’re doing, and please don’t ever stop. You rock, sister!


    Just wanted to say that it was great meeting you at the Annapolis Boat Show this past weekend. An absolute pleasure getting to talk to you and hear some more of your stories. I look forward to the book coming out.​ Take care.

    John Gagnon

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