Have you ever been on vacation, met someone incredible, and thought, if only we had met back home? And you dismiss the idea, because, nahhhhh. It could never happen. It would never work. Besides, it’s just vacation. It’ll be back to reality when this is all over.
This is why Mike and Maria are my heroes. Their story should be filmed, because it sounds like something straight out of a movie. Keep reading, it gets good. Mike and Maria - don't laugh at me! You know how sappy I am!
When I saw Mike and Maria were wanting to elope to Joshua Tree, in less than 3 weeks, I was in Ohio at the time and not really booking anything out West until Spring, so we could plan our move and transition to tiny life. A spontaneous trip out West just didn't make sense at the time. But it was one of those moments, I felt so compelled to do something crazy, like fly last minute to Joshua Tree, because I knew their story, eloping so quickly...I just knew there was something deeper and bigger there. Something more than just their text on the screen, needing a photographer to capture their elopement. And I was right. Next thing you know, I'm on a plane to Vegas to meet up with them in Joshua Tree. (PS Vegas is only a 3.5 hr drive to Joshua Tree and takes you through the amazing Mojave Desert, where you'll also experience a lot of Joshua Trees, before you get to the park! The Mojave also has a huge sand dune thats incredibly hard to climb. Can you tell I love the Mojave desert hahaha)
groom w/a Polaroid watch out!
Back to their story!! They met in an oasis called Jupiter Island, close to West Palm Beach . Maria was on vacation, with girlfriends from NYC. They met in a bar, not far from where Mike actually lived. He is a laid-back surfer, adventurer, always with a gopro or camera AND fireman. And Maria traveled from the big apple, working for a premier retailer on Wallstreet, living the hustle and bustle day in and out. I mean... talk about contrast. But here she was, sipping cocktails in a beach bar, relaxed and living life a little slower, where she stumbled into Mike. They hit it off. What could have easily been a "vacation fling" wasn't how they let that story end.
When the vacation ended, they continued to talk, Mike went to visit her in NY... late night face-timing... and traveling to see each other for the next year. Even taking trips out of the country together. Mike would come visit in NYC, ditching the surf board for a winter coat, and Maria would use up all of her vacation time to get down there to see him. Can you imagine? The dedication? Especially in NYC... surrounded by 1,000,000 other things to do, how easy it would be to get distracted... but they stayed dedicated. They made it work. They have upmost respect for this.
A year later it all changed...no more back and forth. No more draining of vacation time. Maria decided to move to Jupiter Island to permanently be with Mike! YES. Leaving behind her job, friends, family, LIFE she built for 10+ years. She traded the hustle and bustle city life for the man she met when on vacation, joining him in his paradise. HOW CRAZY, AMAZING and BRAVE!! In a world where a lot of us our driven by our career and easily become comfortable in one place-- this is such a huge move! I remember tearing up at the dinner table, after they eloped, like a big baby, because it was just so astonishing, and so personal, to hear it from them directly, right after they just had the most powerful moment of their life. I remember her telling me the outrageous rent she paid for her small (but beautiful) apartment in New York, the craze of her day to day; and how drastically different and relaxing it has been, since being with Mike in Jupiter. How much she will always love home, but this life she's transitioned to with Mike, just fuels her heart and soul. It's so incredibly inspiring to me that two people can have such incredibly different lifestyles, still fall in love and find a way to make their connection work. Love is powerful.
These two are by far two of the happiest and charismatic people I've ever met. Just fun and super adventurous. They get cooler. I know... how is that even possible. Instead of a typical honeymoon, after they eloped in Joshua Tree, they rented a VW Westfalia camper van, to adventure and travel up and the west coast for a few weeks. MY HEROS!! But that's Mike and how he rolls! He lived in a camper van for a few months in Australia. Or New Zealand? Can't remember. He's been everywhere and is just filled with life. And how he just makes Maria come to alive.... AHHH! You'll see. These two are clearly a perfect mach.
We sat for 2 hours after their elopement, in a restaurant near Joshua Tree, to just talk about life and shoot the shit. I love this couple so damn much. It felt like I had just captured a good friend's elopement, and after sponteanously traveling on a whim to do so, it was the most rewarding experience.
I met them before their elopement at their motel, Mojave Sands. I knew we were friends when I walked in to hugs, 70's disco blasted, polaroid gear ready to snap, and they offered me a drink. Oh my god, souls connected. ((P.S. Mojave Sands is a beautiful boutique motel right outside of the main park entrance. SO gorgeous, intimate and felt super exclusive. Your room backs up to a shared courtyard; which is the epitome of cozy Joshua Tree backyard. String lights. Chic desert deco, with a heated pool. Gah. its amazing. Go stay there!!))
But as this was happening, a HUGE wind storm decided to come through the Yucca Valley as well. I remember scouting around and the winds were picking up, and all of a sudden i couldn't see 20 feet in front of me. It was super intense and borderline unsafe for us to be out in. At one point we even talked about a sunrise ceremony, but decided to head to the park and see how it was there.
To this day I'll still tell them that was their energy they brought that day. I don't believe in coincidence. The moment we started walking to their ceremony location, the winds slowly died down and the desert dust began to settle near us. The sun was coming through the dust in the far distance, creating this beautifully epic effect right behind them. Right before their ceremony. It was insanely perfect timing. Maybe I live in fairy tale land and sound utterly ridiculous, but I don't care, this was magical.
Mike quickly became filled with emotions, it was such a powerful ceremony to witness. It was beyond hard for me to hold back tears of emotion.
I wish I could re-live this day over 10 times. The energy of these two, their gorgeous Joshua Tree desert ceremony, how ALIVE they both were. Congratulations Mike & Maria Leahy!