Thirteen years ago, my life embarked on a path I could never have predicted. As I stood at the altar, exchanging vows with my husband, I never imagined that we were not just committing to each other, but also to a journey that would redefine our understanding of love, life, and entrepreneurial spirit. This is the story of what we affectionately call the world’s longest honeymoon—a period that signified not just the beginning of our marital life but the prelude to our life’s greatest adventure.
An Unconventional Start
I was 42 when I married Greg after picking him up on Craigslist 18 months earlier (yes, really). Our honeymoon didn’t start with people throwing rice at our grand departure or a flight to an exotic destination. Instead, it began with a practical decision rooted in our financial reality. One month after our wedding, we found ourselves bartering our skills in exchange for the basic necessities required to qualify as a honeymoon – namely shacking up at a beach. My husband, a professional photographer, and I, then the assistant director of admissions at a therapeutic boarding school, found ourselves at a beachside vacation condo for a whole two nights. We were there not for leisure, but to work—photographing a virtual tour of the condo in exchange for a place to stay.
It was a period of stark financial reality for us. We were both restarting our lives after losing everything…so strapped for cash that I had pawned a watch to buy my wedding ring and found my dress (and my husband) on Craigslist. But it was also a period of ingenuity and resilience. We took this opportunity at the beach to visit a child in a rehab facility, considering attending the school where I worked. During this visit, we shared with the facility about the virtual tour we had created for the boarding school—a project that had significantly changed how I interacted with parents and prospective students.
The $250 Turnaround
Our offer to create a virtual tour for the rehab facility for $250 was modest, but it was a turning point. The tour turned out exceptionally well, a project we would charge ten times more for today. But back then, that $250 was a lifeline—it paid for a dinner out, a discounted massage at Massage Envy, and our gas to get home. In other words, it became an opportunity fund that bought us experiences we wouldn’t have had otherwise AND without affecting our ability to buy groceries when we got home.
A couple of weeks later, an unexpected call came from the rehab facility’s corporate office. They were the largest behavioral health company in the country and were interested in our services for their other locations. Before we knew it, we were contracted to photograph 11 or 12 facilities across a 10,000-mile road trip, with a $15,000 upfront payment. This opportunity was more than financial breathing space; it was a chance to live a dream we hadn’t dared to imagine.
The Road Trip of a Lifetime
The soundtrack of our courtship was Zach Brown Bands first album and “our song” was Free. Especially the lyrics that repeatedly reiterated, no we don’t have a lot of money, no we don’t have a lot of money, no we don’t have a lot of money. All we need is love.
The lyrics of the song became a mantra for us. We had pipe dreamed of traveling around the country in an RV after we retired from some nebulous careers we had yet to begin. At the time we got that call, Greg was unemployed and my school announced it couldn’t make payroll two days before Christmas.
Armed with $15,000 of found money, we faced a choice: return to ‘normal’ life or seize this moment to create memories that would last a lifetime. We chose the latter, planning a two month 10,000-mile road trip across the country. We budgeted $50 a day for food, bought a national park pass, and set out to live the honeymoon we would have dreamed of, if circumstances had been different enough for us to imagine it.
But, as shrewd businesspeople, we didn’t let go of our entrepreneurial spirit. We bartered with bed-and-breakfasts, small inns and vacation rentals, charging modest fees or exchanging services for meals and stays. We were determined to stretch our funds as far as they could go before we had to go back to the real world and start our normal life.
Discovering Ourselves on the Road
In our Nissan Pathfinder with over 200,000 miles, we set out on a journey that would define us in ways we never expected. As we traveled, we realized something profound about ourselves—we loved the thrill of running a business together, of living frugally not out of necessity, but as a game. We reveled in the joy of closing deals, thrilled as much for the $50 that would fuel our car as for the $15,000 that had ignited our vision and set us on this path.
Throughout the journey, I contacted other behavioral health programs, offering our virtual tour services for a slight discount from what the giant company had paid. I pitched, negotiated, and sold, turning our honeymoon into a game and a business expedition. In 53 days, we completed 54 virtual tours, stretching our $15,000 into an experience that money couldn’t buy. A Partnership Forged in Adventure
Our journey taught us more than just how to run a business—it showed us how our strengths and weaknesses complemented each other perfectly. My husband’s calm, practical and more pessimistic mindset balanced my full-picture visionary thinking and contextual awareness. We learned to rely on each other’s strengths, embracing the quirks and idiosyncrasies that made us unique.
We discovered that home wasn’t a place, but wherever we were together. And as we navigated through the challenges and joys of our journey, we realized we were no longer just a married couple; we were partners in every sense of the word. Home from the Honeymoon
That first journey eventually came to an end, but not our honeymoon of traveling all over getting paid to take pictures. We had returned from the first leg of the journey with a portfolio spanning behavioral health companies, hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, and small businesses. We had transformed a trip into a business opportunity, proving to ourselves that even from the ashes of financial hardship, we could win by simply doing most what we do best and seeing where it took us.
The mission statement for our business is profound in its simplicity.
We were ready to embrace what we thought would be a return to ‘normal life’, but something had shifted irreversibly within us when we realized that what made our experience so great was that we uncensored our minds and began to imagine what might be possible. Our dreams had been so far exceeded that everything else was bonus.
As we settled back, the idea of taking traditional jobs seemed almost alien. The freedom, the thrill of the road, the joy of creating and capturing moments – we couldn’t let go of that. So, we made a decision. Instead of fitting ourselves into predetermined roles, we would create our own path. The $15,000, which had seemed like a fortune at the start, was now just the golden ticket that started our journey. Our real wealth was in the experiences we had gathered, the skills we had honed, and the realization that we could make a living out of our passion.
Building a Business, Building a Life
We officially launched our business the first week we met but we both assumed Greg would specialize in residential real estate virtual tours on his own and I would find another job in behavioral health.
Our portfolio from the work we did before and on our honeymoon trip became our springboard. We reached out to my contacts in the behavioral health field, pitched our services to vacation rental companies in the North Georgia mountains where we lived, and slowly but steadily, our client base grew through referrals and repeat business. Initially we focused on healthcare, primarily behavioral health and senior living facilities, but we found that we were best at hospitality and it was much easier to take photos of an empty hotel room than an overflowing psychiatric hospital.
Since our bartered honeymoon, we have photographed over 2500 vacation rentals, 1000 hotels, and 3500 real estate jobs. We travel 40 – 60,000 miles a year now in our fourth Subaru across all the lower 48 states, each job taking us to a new adventure, a new story.
The Neurosparkle of Our Business
What we learned on that first trip wasn’t just about how to photograph behavioral health virtual tours; it was about understanding and showcasing each place’s unique character and each facility’s therapeutic milieu. I often think of this as our ‘Neurosparkle’ – the ability to see and present the world in a way that resonates with others. My neurodivergent thinking allowed me to see the minutiae and the totality of a place, while my husband’s perspective brought balance and practicality to the story I wanted to tell. Together, we created narratives that were more than just visual tours; they were stories that invited people into new experiences and allowed me to keep one foot in the social work world I love.
We were doing something that made a difference in the lives of the people who were at their lowest. Whether that was families placing a parent into an assisted living or placing a child in a therapeutic treatment or an addict seeking help to change their lives. Embracing Our Uniqueness
Throughout our journey, from the days of bartering for a place to stay to running a successful business, we learned to embrace our quirks and differences. We realized that the best partnerships, in business and in life, are not about similarity, but about complementing and enhancing each other’s strengths. My full-picture thinking meshed seamlessly with my husband’s detailed approach, creating a synergy that was our business’s unique signature.
The Rhythm of the Road
That first phase of the worlds longest honeymoon taught us crucial life lessons:
– Embrace the unexpected; it often leads to the best opportunities. – Strength lies in differences, not in similarities. – Passion, when pursued with resilience and creativity, can become a livelihood. – Home is not a location, but a state of being together.
Today, as we enter the next phase of our journey, both personal and professional, we do so with the knowledge that the worlds longest honeymoon has finally ended. That 10,000 mile roadtrip evolved into a lifestyle, a way of being, where every challenge was an opportunity, every destination a new chapter, and every moment a chance to grow and create the life of our dreams.
Our story is a testament to the fact that sometimes, the best things in life come from the most unexpected places. It’s about finding joy in the journey, not just the destination. It’s about redefining what it means to live, love, and work together.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
As I reflect on the past thirteen years, I realize that our honeymoon was never about the places we went or the things we saw. It was about discovering who we are, both as individuals, as a couple and as business partners. It was about learning that life’s greatest adventures don’t just happen; we create them with every choice, every challenge, and every day we choose to live fully and love deeply in each moment.
This honeymoon of ours is finally over.
We have come home.
It was an amazing honeymoon, not in the sense of perpetual vacation for 13 years, but as an enduring journey of discovery, resilience, and unconditional love. And as we continue to document our story, we invite you to join us, to find your own path, and to discover the endless possibilities that life offers when you dare to dream and have the courage to pursue those dreams.