Photography Workshop in Jordan Changed My Life – Guest Post!

Kate MulliganFrom the Road, Guest Post, Jordan1 Comment

Travel Photography in Jordan Can Change Lives

Kathy Vick is proof! Kathy joined us in 2012 for our first trip to Jordan, alongside Ken Kamimesky and Colby Brown. It was, to say lightly, a life-changing experience for her. She took some time to write about her experience and share her favourite photos. You can see more of her images (and her other work) on her Smugmug website. Enjoy!

Our TGL Jordan 2014 trip is almost full, but we had two spaces open up last minute. If this post piques your interest, let us know!



My The Giving Lens: Jordan Story

 First, a little bit about me: I’m married, our kids are all grown (I’m a grandma!), I love to travel but my husband hates it. I have loved photography since I was in junior high school, but never thought I was good enough to do it for a living. I also work a pretty technical job, but have this creative side that just needs to be satisfied. In summer of 2012, I was very unhappy with my job and needed a big escape. I saw a tweet for the workshop on Twitter, and was immediately intrigued. Getting to meet a photographer I really admired AND traveling to a place I’d never go on my own AND working with women learning arts and crafts?? It was like someone planned this trip just for me! But I was really nervous – would I get along with everyone? Was I a good enough photographer? Was I too old for this sh*t?? 


And most important – was it dangerous to travel to Jordan? At the time I actually travelled, there was still bombing activity in Tel Aviv and the West Bank. My family thought I was nuts, but I decided to apply, and after an awesome conversation with Kate – I was in! 

You hear people talk about “life changing” experiences, and generally I think “yea right”, but in my case it is true. After my trip with The Giving Lens, I came home so inspired that I realized I needed some big changes in my life. I had just spent almost two weeks with the most awesome people having the most awesome experience, and I wanted more. When New Year’s rolled around, I had found three quotes that I loved, and I decided to use them to inspire my life in 2013. As a result of all of this, I changed jobs and am way happier with what I do for a living, and I worked hard on my photography skills as a way of feeding that creative monster inside of me. My life in 2013 was a bit scary, and full of change, but overall one of the best years I have ever had, and it all started with this trip to Jordan at the end of 2012.

Here are the three quotes (not resolutions!) I used for 2013 and how my Jordan trip inspired each of them.




“Life’s not the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away”

Probably my most favorite quote. I had so many breathless moments on that trip, it’s hard to know where to start. But I will share my most breathless moment. One of the coolest things we did was climb to the top of the monuments in Petra to the “Place of High Sacrifice”. This is a relatively easy climb for people not afraid of heights, but for me this was a huge scary thing. I’m not in the best shape physically for something like this, and adding an almost-panic-attack on top had my heart pounding every step. Technically, I’m not afraid of heights, but I’m terrified of anything I can fall off of. This climb was not that dangerous but it scared me a lot. I almost backed down every step of the way because of the heights, but the encouragement I got from my new friends was just amazing. I couldn’t believe I actually made it all the way to the top, but I know I never would have made it without all of the support from the team. They were with me every step, and went as slow as I needed to go. I will never forget that moment when I got to the top and realizing I had done something I never thought I could do. I was definitely breathless!!! But in the best way – it was a breathtaking site, and an incredible feeling of success for me. That’s when I realized I need to do more things that scared me, and that take my breath away. Oh and by the way – the other thing I learned was that going up was not even HALF as scary as going down!!!!!!!! But I survived that experience and learned I can do a lot more than I think I can with the right group of people around me.



“When trying to pick between two evils, I usually like the pick the one I haven’t tried before” – Mae West


Another favorite quote. To me, this doesn’t mean do bad things, but when I have a choice of risks, pick the risk I haven’t taken before. Try something new. Pick a path I haven’t travelled. Do something I haven’t done before. In so many ways, this described my entire Jordan experience. I went to the Middle East, somewhere I had never been before, where I didn’t know the language and couldn’t read the letters, with a bunch of people I had never met before. I went to places that required a lot of physical activity and climbing – something I’m definitely not good at. The entire trip was a big risk for me, but in the end I’m so happy I did it. Jordan is a very western (and female!) friendly area of the Middle East, and because we were treated so warmly by everyone, I’d actually like to go back and see more of it. When it comes time for vacation now, instead of just thinking of beach resorts, I’m seeing adventure travel and exploration as a part of how I plan my trips. I’m figuring out how to try something new instead of revisit different versions of the same trips I’ve done before. This trip to Jordan really opened my eyes to exciting travel opportunities, and convinced me that I need to try more new things.



“If you want to take better pictures, go stand in front of better things”


My first thought when I typed that was “It doesn’t get much better than Petra”, but then I realized it did. Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, made famous recently by “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” And it was spectacular – but so was the Wadi Rum Desert. The place where “Lawrence of Arabia” was filmed. The place where for thousands of years, civilization has travelled. But so was Wadi Feynan – a nature preserve, with animals and local Bedouins who have lived there for longer than my country has existed. And so was Mount Nebo – the place where Moses stood and first looked over to see the Promised Land (although I suspect his view was less smoggy than mine!!). And so was the Dead Sea – which could disappear in a few decades. All of these places were amazing to see, and I can’t imagine picking one as more important than another. I have been to Southwest United States, and have seen the Grand Canyon – but to see the sunset over Wadi Rum, how incredibly HUGE it is – it takes your breath away (hey, my first quote again!) and makes you feel very insignificant. Everywhere we went was an opportunity to stand in front of something amazing.  After returning from this trip, I have started looking for that “better thing” to stand in front of to take great images. I’ve started looking at my home state of Washington and finding beautiful things to see when I can’t travel. And I’ve started looking for the beauty – landscape, architecture or people – in everywhere I go. I am seeing the world with new eyes, and that is a direct result of my travel to Jordan with TGL.


I could probably write for days about how awesome the trip was, how much fun I had laughing and learning with everyone, but you kind of had to be there to


appreciate some of it. There are some things only the 16 of us will be able to share, like

Michael’s lost and found sunglasses… Ken’s donkey ride … who could forget Chicken Stripes(not a typo!) and hamburgers without cheese… and I still smile each time Hummus is on a menu. These are the moments you bring back from a trip like this that are hard to explain but impossible to forget. But they all inspired my new outlook on life, and I relive them all in my three guiding quotes for 2013.

I can’t thank Kate, Colby, Ken, Michael and Mohmmad for planning the trip and leading us all on such an awesome adventure. Thanks to everyone on the trip for sharing their experiences, their photography skills, and their friendship (Laura, Heidi, Kristal, Julie, Mike, Linda, Jenny, Andy, Mitch, Laila, and Saleh, you’re the best!!!). It’s over a year since our trip, but I still can relive almost every moment in my head as if it were last week. And thanks to the wonderful country of Jordan and their friendly people for making us all feel so welcome. I hope this inspires you to do something that takes your breath away, to take a risk you haven’t taken before, and to stand in front of better things.


If you want to see more of my images from Jordan, I have a SmugMug gallery here:

Oh and if you are still on the fence about visiting Jordan – ping me, I’ll push you off 😉

Travel Humanitarian and Documentary Photography Workshops Abroad, with a purpose!


  • sohana

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