Mary Bartnikowski, from Silicon Valley Photographer to Retreat Leader
As a photographer in Palo Alto in the mid-1980s, Mary Bartnikowski saw her wedding photography business in the Silicon Valley area skyrocket. What had once been a mere hobby and passion of shooting candid wedding shots became a successful career.
“Steve Jobs lived down the street and one of the first investors of Google lived next door to me,” Bartnikowski say. “My son was growing up in the center of this genius culture. You stepped out your door and ran into highly intelligent people on a daily basis. It was exciting.”
But as thrilling as her neck of the woods was, Bartnikowski realized something was missing. “I had always dreamed I could travel the world some day,” she says. “But when my son started volunteering globally, I saw it could be possible for me, too.”
So she began with a three-month journey to visit her son in Nepal and to volunteer alongside him as part of the Nepal Youth Foundation in Kathmandu. “My role was teaching photography to their staff so that they could take better photographs of the children they raised and educated.”
The whirlwind of travel and volunteering that followed changed her life, she says. “It was amazing to work in humanitarian foundations and not think about money,” says Bartnikowski, who now leads retreats for people who want to recharge. “It made me see that I could make a difference and help people just by being myself. That was a huge epiphany.”