Jeff Salvage hadn’t even heard of some of the extreme hiking destinations he saw listed on his future wife’s online dating profile. That’s when he knew he’d ask her out.
“I figured that at the very least, there will be someone that I’d want to be friends with,” said Salvage, a teaching professor of computer science at Drexel.
His hunch was quite correct, and it’s taken the couple a long way: to Iceland, New Zealand, Greece and even “Good Morning America,” all thanks to their wedding photos. Well, they’re not technically “wedding” photos. They’re still taking them, more than five years after they married — outside of Russian cathedrals, aboard an airplane simulating zero gravity, on the Philadelphia Flyers’ ice and in some 150 other places around the world.
It’s a unique love story that’s drawn interest across the globe, thanks to the shared sense of adventure that brought Jeff and his wife, Jennifer, together in the first place. And it’s been propelled in part by Salvage’s passions for photography, travel, computer science and race walking (yes, race walking).
“I’m someone with varied interests outside of academics,” Salvage said in a bit of an understatement.
The story starts, in a way, back when Salvage was a student at Drexel in the late 1980s. That was when he set five Drexel track and field records that still stand, as a race walker with aspirations of reaching the Olympics.
In race walking, competitors race over long distances while keeping at least one foot on the ground at all times (among other restrictions). In college, Salvage could walk a mile in six minutes.
But his race walking dreams ended when he injured his knee near the end of his senior year, and he instead became a coach, promoter and chronicler of the sport, sparking passions for travel and photography. After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Drexel, he taught as an adjunct instructor while working as a consultant. After a few years, he came back to Drexel to teach full-time.
He also took up extreme hiking and trekking in place of race walking, and when he found a woman who shared that interest, they hit it off. He and Jennifer were engaged in about nine months and married six months after that.
Their ceremony was on Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean, the most remote inhabited area in the world. Other contenders were the Great Wall of China and Mount Everest.
“I wanted iconic wedding photos,” Salvage said. He would get his wish, and more.
Because they planned to be wed atop a volcano, after a bit of a hike, they knew Jennifer couldn’t wear just any wedding dress. “She went into the first wedding dress shop and said, ‘I need a dress I can stuff in a backpack,’” Salvage said. “The owner literally came out of the back with a needle and thread still in her mouth, going, ‘What?’” But luckily enough for Jennifer, the store did have a Maggie Sottero dress that was built for traveling. And it made it up the volcano just fine.
“It couldn’t have been more low-key,” Salvage said, “and it couldn’t have been more perfect.”
The day after the ceremony, Jennifer put the dress back on so Jeff could get some sunrise shots. After that, they saw no reason the fun couldn’t continue.
The dress and camera came along when they took a trekking trip through the Alps a few months later. And when they traveled to China later that summer to catch the race walking events at the 2008 Summer Olympics, they got that Great Wall shot after all.
Many more shots followed, as the Salvages continued the fun on trips around the United States and the globe, many related to hiking and race walking. In Arizona’s Antelope Canyon, upside-down hanging from a zipline and in Jeff’s favorite New York bagel shop, Jennifer posed in her dress.
They’ve shot photos in 19 countries, including Egypt, Iceland and New Zealand, making friends along the way. They’ve traveled about 150,000 miles. And one recent shoot took them miles above the earth, aboard the ZERO-G Experience, an airplane flight that simulates weightlessness.
They published a book of their photos in 2010: “One Dress, One Woman, One World: Experience the World Through the Eyes of a Bride.” Jeff built a website: onedressonewoman.com.
And in fall of 2013, more than five years after their wedding, they went viral on an international scale, thanks in part to Jeff’s persistence in spreading the word. After they were featured on the front page of Yahoo! in September, Jennifer and Jeff were booked to appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” After that, their story was syndicated in newspapers across Europe. Their story has popped up at a number of other media outlets, too, since they were featured in their hometown Burlington County Times in 2011.
Some of the coverage took their family and friends by surprise. “Jennifer’s father gets up Saturday morning and calls us frantically, having almost fallen out of his chair,” Salvage said. “He turned on the computer and Jennifer was on his homepage.”
Appearing on screens and in print around the world has been a rush, Salvage said. But the reason there’s no end in sight for the project, he said, is that it’s the kind of adventure both he and Jennifer love. And it doesn’t get better than that.
“They always say that if your wife’s your best friend, that’s bliss,” Salvage said. “We don’t compromise much, because we don’t have to.”