#BourdainDay - Reflecting on the man who taught me to circle the globe swearing, laughing, and experiencing everything I can.

Today is Bourdain Day. I was lucky enough to wander the very tall, incredibly moody cliffs of Lima on this drizzly winter morning to reflect on the gifts I got from a man I never met - how very fitting, how very lucky I am.

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My wanderlust was sprouted from watching No Reservations as a young teen, my travel compass was forged years before I ever got my hands on my first passport. The hustle, the blood/sweat/tears/theft, the beartbreak, the moments darting across bustling thoroughfares, the hangovers, the language barriers, the gruelingly long layovers, the tiny golden connections of human interaction and the big breathtaking moments that're burned in to the back of my skull are all concepts I was as absolutely ready as I could possibly be for when I ran in to them at a breakneck speed. I can thank Uncle Tony for that.

Anthony Bourdain was delightfully and doggedly human. He battled with addiction and mental health. He died by suicide. He was constantly curious. He was about as sardonic as you can get, but he was always undeniably himself. He was real, he was raw, and he put a few toes past the point of brutal honesty sometimes, but through everything, he maintained a solid sense of humanity and humility. Anthony had the ability to reach through the television and shake the shit out of people drowning in the quintessential American Apathy And Desperate Need For Convenience™ that convinces you Epcot's version of countries is more than enough. He opened so many eyes to the United States' complicity in war and famine, and the spoils of colonialism, how to shoulder this knowledge and to do better for it while shaking hands and breaking bread with the people directly impacted by our gains. He invited, no -- he challenged everyone to reach across yards and communities and states and countries and religions and genders to just sit down and open up over a meal. We are never too rich, too poor, too smart, too stupid, too creative, too broken, too whatever to get out in to this world and really, truly experience it. Put down your preconceptions and your pretension, and get going. Unless you're eating your steak well done, then you deserve all our collective scorn.

Peru is the 25th country I've visited in just over four years. Majority of my travels have been by solo. I've been alone, but I've never been lonely - I've had folks back home cheering me along, new friendships forged along the way, and always, the wisdom and wisecracks of Anthony Bourdain constantly chirping at me in my head.

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I'll leave y'all with three things:

1.) Get out there and put yourself in an uncomfortable place to build a bridge to someone who is vastly different from you. Maybe it's a work colleague you've never said much to, a neighbor down the road who you've been meaning to officially welcome to the community, or a total stranger who looks like they could use a hand or a few kind words today.

2.) “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind." -Anthony Bourdain

3.) If you need it, please rally your strength to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 // En Español: 1-888-628-9454 // Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889 // or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741. You are deeply loved, incredibly important and capable of amazing things. However long you walk in darkness, whatever you do to lighten it, wherever you go to outrun it, you are not alone. 💛

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BABY ARCHER || KENT ISLAND, MARYLAND

File this under new experiences: I stuck around to get in on some speedy Jeopardy! action at the end of my shoot with this gang!

Getting to know Archer and his parents was so laid back and easy to do, and we took full advantage of all the beautiful light in all the nooks and crannies of their home and back yard on this gorgeous spring day.

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Congratulations on this beautiful, healthy, sweet little boy! - MEJ

NICOLE + BOBBY || DENTON, MARYLAND

Maybe it’s because I don’t get to do a heck of a lot of winter weddings, and maybe it’s because it’s such a fabulous break from the winter blues to have so much love and sparkly light condensed in to a day, but I just can’t get enough of the cold weather I-Do’s. Bobby and Nichole did the dang thing SO RIGHT, and I was beyond enchanted by every moment of their day for so many reasons.

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Firstly, the venue they picked was a place I’d driven past probably a hundred times and never suspected just how rad it was. Along the highway, the Old Sale Barn looks like a pretty sizable antiques store. Inside? Oh boy. There’s an auction floor with stadium style seating, high gabled ceilings and….is that an airplane?! Yes, yes it is. So, yeah, +1 point for this unique backdrop!

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Secondly, I know this was technically Nicole and Bobby’s big day, but they both made it very clear that Ava and Ella were basically going to steal the show because they’re little wild pixie rockstars in twirly dresses that’re fierce and funny and I almost melted in to a puddle when they saw their mama in her wedding dress. +1, tiny adorable humans.

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And then we’ve got eye contact. Y’all, my monitor has had sparks flying out of it while editing these photos - the way Nicole and Bobby talk to each other without saying a single word is truly an awesome thing to behold and to photography. The intensity of that gaze, the evident love and respect was something I picked up the first time I met them, but it was truly magnified on this day. Seriously, clock all these portraits of the two of them being completely grounded within each other. +1 for radiating that good love.

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Let’s do a +1 for familiarity, because I’ve photographed three weddings out of their six attendants. Travis is the amazing father to my goddaughter and the husband to one of my oldest and dearest friends Rachael, Bobby officiated Laura and Niki’s wedding, and I got to meet the whole Bach clan last year at Michelle and Michael’s wedding. Nicole and Bobby’s officiant Renee is also a rockstar vendor that I always recommend to couples on the look out, and Missy, who coordinated everything, is a KI local I’ve known for a hot second. To say that I love and was so excited to work with this group of people is a wild understatement.

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(I was so not joking about that eye contact. Seriously, whether they’re six inches or sixty feet apart - sizzle, sizzle.)

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Their ceremony was incredibly personal, and both Nicole and Bobby ended their vows with literally the same line with zero knowledge of the other’s intentions. +1 for serendipity.

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(I mean, deep eye contact AND high fives?! C’mon.)

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Quite possibly my most favorite wedding memory that I’ve ever captured was this one, where everyone is giddy and giggly in the first minute after they had been officially pronounced husband and wife. Ava, older sister to Ella, and generally a tough as nails babe, walked in to the room crying.

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Nicole noticed immediately, and leaned in to ask what was troubling her. But there was no trouble - Ava was crying tears of joy, and said that she was overwhelmed with happiness. Immediately, the room went teary-eyed. Honestly, I cry at just about every wedding - I feel things in big ways, and it never gets in the way of shooting. I was legitimately ugly crying with fogged up glasses and a snotty nose, and I’ve never been so glad that my ability to shoot while mostly blind is so on-point. +1 for the vulnerability and love of kiddos.

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And another +1 for their ability to literally jump in to Spinny Dress Mode Yay about 30 seconds later. Respect for that emotional flexibility, Ava.

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What else? +1 for the amazingly rich florals and golden lights and warm tones throughout the barn, and seriously THAT CAKE. We didn’t get snow on the big day, but this cake looked like a winter wonderland - so gorgeous!

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+1 point for incredible speeches that had the entire room laughing hysterically, crying again, and then cracking right back up, and another +1 for an amazing photobooth chock full of props that was in constant use all night.

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Nicole’s dad gets +1 for a little limited mobility but still being the best dancer on the floor while seated, and another +1 for his walker being a fabulous dance partner.

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And honestly, just +1000 for this wedding being everything that a wedding should be - completely focused on love and laughter. All the fun, none of the fuss. Thank you, thank you, thankkk youuu for having me document this incredible day. Congrats to N+B, wishing you all the happiness in the world! -MEJ

SEE BOBBY + NICOLE’S FULL GALLERY HERE

VENDORS: Venue - Old Sale Barn || Makeup + Hair - Makeup Couture by Jaclyn Lee || Coordinator - Pretty Little Wedding Co. || Officiant - XOXO Ceremonies || Florist - Keleidoscope Custom Florals || Caterer - Chesapeake Culinary Center || Cake + Dessers - Happy Chicken Bakery || Videography - Avail Visuals || Photobooth - Smith Landing Photobooths || Dress - Love and Lace Boutique