I have been trying for days to put what I'm about to say into a concise grouping of words that will make sense to those who didn't experience it. Alas, I've decided to sit here and just wing it while it's still pretty fresh in my mind. 

Early Monday morning, I hopped on an airplane and crossed the continent for a conference called Adventure Always. It only makes sense to start with what led me to go in the first place. Early in 2011, I heard of a man named Jesh de Rox, who was teaching other photographers a way of bringing out authentic emotion and creating true connections with clients, and calling it Beloved. He was about to launch a six week online seminar with instruction from himself and some other incredible artists. The tagline for this was "a business that feeds both your heart and your family." That was about all it took for me to use what little money was available in my business checking account at the time and register for the seminar. I have never once regretted that decision.

Fast forward more than two years. I've been using principals of Beloved in my work, with some beautiful results. It feels like such a natural way for me to interact with those I photograph. I heard that Jesh was coming to speak in West Palm Beach, and knew without a doubt that I had to be there. The evening was every bit as inspiring as I'd expected. At the end of the night he announced a conference that would be happening in Los Angeles in October, and offered advanced registration for those who'd attended that night. He challenged us to take the risk and sign up—promising that would be an unforgettable experience—and I felt such a pull to do so but felt that I simply couldn't. I'd never been away from my kids for four days, and I didn't think it would be possible financially either. On the drive home, I was already letting the idea go, telling myself that this is just another industry event that I would have to pass up for the sake of my family. And I was okay with it.

Before falling asleep that night, I recapped a bit of the seminar for my husband, and briefly mentioned the conference, saying something along the lines of "I know it would be incredible, but it just isn't possible for me right now." His reply caught me off guard: "Well why not?" He gave his full blessing and encouragement, assuring me that he and the boys would be just fine. The next day I emailed Jesh's team to find out if I could still do early registration, and the fact that I could only counted as additional confirmation. Something in me knew that I needed to be there.

The week before I was set to leave for California, I really struggled with anxiety and guilt over leaving my boys, who are 1 and 4 years old. I wondered every day if I'd been selfish and ridiculous to do this. But I boarded that plane, shed a few years, and chose to open myself completely to everything that the experience had to offer. 

It turns out that this was so much more than I ever could have anticipated. It was life-changing. This sounds crazy (as my husband asked, "it was a photography conference, wasn't it?!") , but it was really about life and truth, passion and authenticity, risk-taking and adventure, true connections and all that really matters. It deeply impacted my art and my business, as well as all other aspects of my life and even my parenting. The entire experience reached a long-dormant part of my soul and jolted it to life again. It's the part that is passionate about changing the world; the part that hears the voice inside and stops to heed it, grabbing the nearest pen or camera to allow the inspiration to flow; the part that is constantly amazed by this amazing life and the people in it—speechlessly grateful for it all; the part that dreams crazy big dreams and knows that they are the very reason I am on this planet.

I came to see that the resistance I felt in going was even more confirmation that it was exactly where I needed to be. Doing something I didn't think I could reminded me to break through my self-imposed limits. Setting aside time for my creative spirit to be fed in such a deep way reminded me how much I need that, and when I do I am a much better mother, wife and human. 

As far as my work is concerned, I feel a renewed focus and passion for creating work that truly matters—for using my art to communicate my heart and serve each and every person I photograph. I am so excited for future, looking forward to beautiful new connections and meaningful work. I am thrilled to be hearing my own inner voice again (the muse, or whatever you like to call it)—honing my listening skills each day and remembering to be quiet and be led by love and joy. 

If you've made it this far, thank you. I know this is getting long, and I'm not sure that it will even entirely make sense, but that's okay. I hope I've at least given you a feel for the spirit behind it all.
Being among this group of incredible creative people was such a gift. I met so many new friends who just "get it", and heard the most honest and sometimes gut-wrenching words straight from the hearts of artists I have admired for years (Brian Adreas, Ryan Muirhead, Jonas Peterson, Fer Juaristi, Ashley and Jeremy Parsons, Kristen Kalp, Liz Arcus, and of course Jesh de Rox), along with some who were unfamiliar to me until now (Josh Solar, Jeremy Bircher, Calvina Nguyen, Gabe McLintock, and Morgaine Owens—to name only a few). I am already looking forward to next year's Adventure Always, and I hope to make this event a annual priority going forward—a time to renew, be inspired and reconnect with all of these beautiful souls. If you are a photographer—or a writer, musician, artist, or any other type of creative—I strongly encourage you to do this next year. Your world will be rocked. It is more than worth it.

In order to be truly present and focus and what was being shared, I actually left my camera in my room pretty often during the event, but I captured just a bit to commemorate this awesome experience (which by the way was on a ship-turned-hotel called the Queen Mary—these photos will make a lot more sense with that piece of information!) 

These are some nuggets that I couldn't help but jot down while listening to some of the speakers (many paraphrased I'm sure):

To have a deep and profound relationship with our art, we must cultivate that relationship with ourselves. -Morgaine Owens

Never underestimate the power of reaching one person, well. -Jesh de Rox

Find out where the line is, and dare to go there anyway. -Jesh

The artist doesn't wait for someone else's permission to make choices that belong to her. ...Practice giving yourself permission. -Jesh

I grab the camera each day and surprise myself.  -Fer Juaristi

We are creating a visual heritage for families. -Fer

Joy is a choice. -Kristen Kalp

The best that could happen is you realize you're dying....There is a 1 in 8 million chance of you being you. -Ash and Jeremy Parsons

The artist's purpose is to live in a way that reminds others of life's shortness and preciousness. -The Parsons

I don't have time to waste not telling the truth. -Brian Andreas

Love is the heart center and driving force of all we do. -B. Andreas

The best parts of us come out when we're listening, not talking. -B. Andreas

Maybe our job is to be filled with joy and love, and then the work comes from there. -B. Andreas

Anything we touch with love comes alive and touches us back. -B. Andreas