One artist's quest to capture her travels led to these stunning portraits of wild women.
True
Nature Valley

Amanda Sandlin is only 27, but she's lived in a van, on a ship, and on both ends of the world.

And not in a clichéd, "quit your job and pursue your dreams" sort of way. In fact, through hard work and determination, she's found a way to make adventuring her job. You could almost call adventuring her family's business.

Photo by Kris Holbrook, used with permission.


“I grew up on cruise ships,” she explains, where her mom taught arts and crafts and ballroom dancing. Beginning after first grade, she was homeschooled — or, rather, “shipschooled” half the year, and homeschooled on a farm in Pennsylvania for the remaining time.

“It’s pretty bizarre,” she laughs, looking back on how unusual her upbringing was.

Amanda's unconventional start in life led her to develop a courageous spirit — one that would take her to places that most only dream of.

"It’s so easy for me to be moving," she says. Though she returned to the mainland for high school and college, it took only a few months in the traditional work world for Amanda to realize that she belonged back out on an adventure.

This time, she turned to the outdoors, reading about and watching people who went climbing, biking, surfing. “I grew up traveling but I never really did much outdoors stuff,” she says. "I started thinking, 'I would love that kind of life.’”

Photo by Gianni S. Visciano, used with permission.

Finally, she decided to stop longing for it and start living it. "I packed up my car and my cat, and I drove to San Francisco."

Throwing caution to the wind, Amanda chased her desires wherever they led her — all the way around the world.

But not before getting a writing job at a company whose employees worked remotely, allowing her to travel and climb wherever she chose. When she tired of weekends in Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, she took off for New Zealand.

After a year, she returned to the States, but her adventures were far from over.

“That’s when I was like, you know, I’m single, I don’t feel like anywhere is home to me, so why don’t I just build out a van and travel until I find the place that feels good?”

Photo by Amanda Sandlin, used with permission.

In her van, affectionately named Penny, Amanda looped her way all over North America.

"I started in Florida and went up the east coast to Maine. Then I drove out to Colorado, up through Oregon and Washington to British Columbia, and I stayed there for a while," she remembers. "I drove down to southern California, up through New Mexico, and then made a loop back to Colorado."

She decided to settle in Denver, where she lives now with her rescue dog, Dewey.

Though she's no longer traveling full-time, Amanda is by no means back on the beaten path.

While out on the road, her work shifted gradually from writing into design and now, she's a full-time freelance artist.

Photo by Amanda Sandlin, used with permission.

"It happened pretty naturally," she says. As her work assignments became more and more visual, she started teaching herself graphic design and creating projects of her own on the side.

Image via Amanda Sandlin.

She began posting her projects online, and people started seeking her out for commissioned work. "That's how I got my freelance clients," she says. "They came to me."

Soon after, she left her remote job to live off her art alone.

In her art, Amanda strives to capture the spirit of adventurousness — her own, and that of women like her.

Image via Amanda Sandlin.

“I’m really inspired by the women who are willing to venture into the wilderness, whether that’s mountains and forests or weeding through the difficult stuff you’re doing on the inside,” she says. That exploration inspires the portraits she draws of wild women.

Image via Amanda Sandlin.

“I draw a lot of women with their hair blowing in the wind. I think I like that motion of the hair,” she says.

“You know when you’re walking outside, on a ferry or something, and your hair keeps blowing and you keep trying to put it back, bobby pin it, put it in a ponytail, but it keeps blowing in your face, and finally there’s that moment where you just let it go?" she asks.

"It’s like a complete release, and that, to me, is the type of feeling that I aim to capture in my artwork.”

Image via Amanda Sandlin

Perhaps most interesting about Amanda is the fact that she doesn't think of herself as brave.

In fact, she thinks that anyone, really, could do what she does. Adventuring, she says, is not necessarily packing up a van named Penny and heading out on the road. "The wilderness is the internal and the external and being OK with not being OK."

The satisfaction that she has gotten from being free to be outdoors, on adventures, to climb across the country and capturing art in nature, is well worth the struggle required to make her lifestyle work. And, she says, she hopes that others are inspired to find ways to pursue their own adventures, too.

"It's scary to make a change, or to chase after what you want," she says. "But it's never, it's rarely easy. It's never going to feel only good. But it's a challenge, and that's what makes you grow."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less