“Welcome to India, Mr. Megan Vogel” scribbled on the back of a menu was the best way to be greeted at the arrival gate in New Delhi. After traveling for 30+ hours and having weeks of visa issues, it took everything in me not to hug the driver, who came to pick me up at 3:00 AM.
To be honest, three days before when I was sitting in the Indian consulate’s office in New York, I never thought I was going to make it to India. My passport had been lost during the visa processing, consequentially I missed my first flight that weekend. I flew to New York to move the process along and sat in the office for well over ten hours. Amid the tears, I thought it wasn’t going to be worth it.
Let’s just say it was completely worth it. And if I had to do it all over again, I would in heartbeat.
I worked for Rustic Pathways in India this past summer as a guide and photographer. I was surrounded by incredible people, delicious food and breathtaking landscapes. Every day surprised me.
This is what I saw my first three days in McLeod Ganj, where the exiled Tibetan government is headquartered.
Meet Shashi, my first friend. When my flight to McLeod Ganj was cancelled, this lovely man picked me up and drove me from Delhi to McLeod, which is approximately a 12 hour journey. He didn’t speak any English, but he loved American music. I sat in the back of his car and took in the new country passing before me, until we got a flat tire…twice.
We finally arrived a little after 2 AM.
My first morning in McLeod Ganj
Delicious Street Food
My first real meal, Tibetan Thali
The commute on a Sunday morning in the Main Square
Part of our service project was to complete building a toilet for this woman and her family. Over 400 million families in India do not have a toilet. This creates issues of safety and sanitation, especially for women. A family without a toilet is not eligible for a ration card, which provide sugar, rice and kerosene. I am happy to report that by the end of the summer we finished her toilet and two others for families in her neighborhood.
Norbulingka in Dharamsala is dedicated to perserving Tibetan culture.
Rana, the man who sold me my phone and offered to give me his Sim card because mine would not activate due to the high volume of cell phone users in India.
A meeting with the Tibetan host families to prepare them for what it will be like to live with American teenagers for the summer.
McLeod Ganj consumed by a cloud. Being in the Himalayas, this happened quite often and was always incredible.
Michelle Kappeler, 24, is my dear friend and an amazing fashion photographer. She is moving to NYC this month to pursue an internship at Kate Ryan photo agency. She enjoys puzzles, golden retrievers and drinking wine from boxes.
This is one of my favorites from Alyssa’s senior portrait session last weekend. I met this bubbly redhead, when I coached her 5th grade volleyball and basketball teams. It is hard to believe she is already graduating from Seton High School. I am so happy that she will be attending Ohio University in the fall. This girl has a bright future ahead of her, and I can’t wait to see where she will go!
On Sunday, I woke up at 4:45 AM to cover the Flying Pig Marathon. It was the giddiest I have ever felt before 6 AM. After being away in DC for the past four months, I was eager to take part in this wonderful Cincinnati tradition. It all started in 1999 with the first race, and now 15 years later it is a staple in the community. It has evolved into a weekend celebration, including races for kids, dogs and babies (Diaper Dash). In 2009, I walked the half with my dad. And two years later, I witnessed a blind runner win the women’s division, when I photographed it for the Enquirer.
Over 36,000 people ran the race this year. Droves of crowds lined the streets cheering, offering free hugs, water, food and high-fives. Witnessing the magic of the marathon gives me such pride in the city I call home. The morning was full of fun and challenges, like navigating miles of closed roads, transmitting from the field and talking a U-Haul manager into letting me on the roof (Thanks LaQueen!). A big thanks to The Enquirer for inviting me to be apart of it this year!
Thanks for looking!
While clearing off hundreds of photos on my phone this weekend, I was reminded that I needed to post an installment of iPhone photos. These photos were taken in Thailand from June to November of 2013. During this time, I carried my camera with me everywhere and rarely took pictures on my phone. So this is a slim selection, but highlights some of the great moments and people during my travels.