We locked eyes for the first time above a stack of fine literature at the university library. It was love at first sight and as we strolled hand and hand down a pristine, sun-drenched beach in Queensland we knew kismet had intertwined our weary souls and – HA, just kidding, we met at a nightclub on Two Dollar Tuesday. Let me take you back to 2006, before it all began.
I (Shawn – I do a lot of the writing around here) never liked staying in one place at a time. Raised in Virginia, I earned a journalism degree at the College of Charleston and wanted one big adventure before graduation. For many, that simply means traveling abroad to party and sometimes study and hopefully meet a guy with an accent. But me, I was… wait, I was one of those people. Australia was a place I’d always wanted to visit – I used to write short stories that featured exciting adventures abroad and the island country was always the focus of my ramblings.
In 2006 during my junior year at the College of Charleston I spent a semester abroad at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Over four months I travelled to beautiful places – Byron Bay, the Whitsundays, Sydney and Fraser Island. I made best friends with Tim Tams and learned kangaroos could be 6’ tall with legitimate biceps. I drank tourist tonic, also known as the “filtered water” coming from a white sand lake bed ground at Fraser Island that proceeded to give me two glorious months of bronchitis. Who knew, though, after seeing all these beautiful spots, weaving around so many towering kangaroos and surviving The Tonic, my heart would be captured at a friend’s birthday at a Sunshine Coast nightclub called Friday’s. There he was: the Aussie seated by the bar with his mates, luring my interest with promises of surf lessons and 4WD beach adventures. His name was Adam, and I met him two weeks before leaving Australia. We spent our two weeks together having beach picnics, camping and trying to teach me to surf. Little did he know that one surf lesson would morph into a decade-long commitment to surf instruction. So sorry my love, but I eventually caught on. Who knew this image my friend captured from the beach of my first lesson with him would one day hold so much meaning?
I left my study abroad adventure early to take an internship at Teen People Magazine in NYC – a job I’d dreamed of since I was a 10 year old girl flipping through the pages of magazines with stars in my eyes.
The prospect of working at my favorite magazine for the summer was THE coolest thing I could have asked for. Amazing. But of course, it meant leaving Adam. I remember sitting in the terminal at Brisbane international airport talking to him on the phone. He was at work and after mutual “I’m going to miss you’s” he said, “let’s leave it at maybe” – so we did.
Adam continued his business in Australia, hosting accommodation for backpackers in the Sunshine Coast and conducting surf tours while photographing empty waves from the water. I worked hard and lived off instant noodles in New York with dreams of moving back after graduation, until the magazine folded. Wah wah, dream shattered. At that point Adam and I had been keeping in touch via text message for nearly a year – I still remember the feeling of joy awaking at 1am to the sound of a message from Oz.
After the dream shatter and helping the office pack up, I moved back to Charleston to finish my degree and missed walking at graduation to board a plane back to Australia. After all, New York had rejected me and I was jobless. Adam met me at Melbourne airport on January 1st, 2008. We hadn’t missed a beat and spent the next week exploring Melbourne before heading back to the Sunshine Coast where we moved into his flat together on day one. Looking back, that’s intense. My mom would have been freaking out.
The next seven years saw us embarking on a series of adventures together, from traveling to New Zealand so I could gain residency in Australia (don’t ask) to showing Adam Chicago for the first time, where he met my parents and the first words my mom said to him as we stood in the bucketing snow at their front door were, “He looks like a young Bob Dylan! Come in!” So we came in… and the next day we played in the snow.
During that stay Adam robbed us, a.k.a. took back the ring my grandmother bought me many years ago and proposed to me on a walk through the Glass House Mountains. The proposal was supposed to be on a boat the previous day but the boat broke down in the middle of the ocean during a massive swell. Everyone on board was vomiting. We had to get towed in by the Coast Guard and surfed at Noosa instead of getting engaged.
In 2011 we were married in the rain (when I say rain, I mean horizontal sheeting, wind-littered, dress-is-now-transparent RAIN).
The following year we decided we wanted something more before settling down. We sold our house and what we had and travelled around Australia with our dog Marley in the back of our van for three months, witnessing some of the most desolate and beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. The secret is out, Australia is incredible.
Because we’re addicted, we kept a diary of every coffee we drank, its price, and a rating from 1 to 10. Our truck’s radio was broken so we talked non-stop. Literally. Every waking moment was consumed by conversation, and we decided to apply for a green card for Adam to try out living in the good old US of A. Look closely at the image below – wedged between the enthusiastic, scarfed driver and chocolate-eyed golden retriever is an envelope that contains Adam’s green card application. We drove several hundred kilometers with it in that very spot… who knew post offices would be so few and far between?
After crossing the Nullarbor and after being approved for a green card that took Adam over a year to obtain, we embarked on a great adventure that led us to Maui, an island we had never visited before though Adam had spent a few years competing in bodyboarding on the North Shore of Oahu. And a quiz told us Maui would be the best island for us (thanks for altering our life path, Google). We moved to the island with two suitcases and our golden retriever, whose ticket cost twice the amount of our own but we could never leave him behind. Uhhh we almost had to leave him behind, actually, when his crate wouldn’t fit into our rental car at the airport. And of course, security make you keep the dog in the crate until you’re off airport property. Lucky for us a kind man at Hawaiian Airlines cargo put Marley on a forklift, escorted our boy off the property for us and then gave us donuts. Seriously.
We’ve now been on Maui for a few years, allowing passion to fuel our business and making time for ourselves at the beach every day. We recently welcomed a non-furchild in to the group and are learning the ins and outs of raising a small family away from your own. True to his mum and dad, our boy wakes for sunrise every morning and demands saltwater sunsets on a regular basis with his excavator in hand. In June 2019 we’ll be returning to our home on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia and continue to photograph portraits + weddings from the land, sea + sky, based out of Noosa.
With cramped fingers I wrap up our ever-changing story – now it’s time to learn more about you. Tell us about your adventures, the places you want to go, and how we can help you remember them. Until then…
Tjhank you to Aislinn at Wilde Sparrow Photography for our welcome page image + last image on this post!