Collaboration

Rise + Wander in a Subaru Ascent by Aftyn Shah

The Start of a Subaru Family

We are a Subaru family.

Five years ago, a semi-truck and another car collided, spinning the car into my lane, where I had less than a second to brake and we collided full-speed on a major DC area highway. It was fast, it was painful, it was traumatizing. I had always been the person who cherished the freedom of four wheels, who used to take off spontaneously for roadtrips or to clear my head, and suddenly I was terrified to get back behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, with endless neurology and concussion clinic appointments, as well as prenatal appointments (oh, yes, I was 13-weeks pregnant, too), I needed to get places. My husband and his cousin were amazingly patient, driving me to-and-from while I cried through every lane change and held onto the door with a vice-like grip. But the reality is I needed to get back into a car on my own—which was tough, given I cried and shook at the thought.

Until Subaru.

My husband, bless him, did all the legwork and narrowed down our search before even involving me. We went to a couple dealers, but it wasn’t until I sat with a gentleman at Subaru that I actually became open to the conversation. He answered every single one of my concerns (and there were/are many). He listened to my impossible “What-if!?” scenarios with empathy, rather than assuming I was crazy. He talked me through everything. He showed me videos. He showed me specs. We covered it all.

And then came the test drive. By the end of it, I was completely and utterly in love. Fast forward five years later, and we now have two Foresters in our driveway. I cannot imagine ever driving any other car.

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A Trip to Colorado

I’ve been planning to head out to Colorado since earlier this summer. We have a good friend who lives in Vail, and have been discussing it for ages, yet never actually booking tickets. Finally, I declared I was going—with or without the family! And, honestly, I’m kind of glad my first time out into the Colorado mountains was by myself. It was incredibly inspirational and refreshing, and I took about 60 million reference photos (only a slight exaggeration).

We woke up, had coffee, went for hikes, strolled mountain towns, had leisure lunches, waded in creeks, canoed, and just generally enjoyed busy, soul-filling days. When my head hit the pillow, I was completely out. It was glorious to feel that hint of soreness in my muscles, and be totally content and at ease.

The only snag in planning this trip was the rental car. I dreaded it. I put it off. The idea of selecting some random vehicle, based on a company’s current and ever-changing inventory, was kind of awful to me, especially knowing I would be driving into and around the mountains.

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Enter the 2019 Subaru Ascent

As I was carrying that dread around, you can imagine my excitement in partnering with Subaru. Not only would I get to drive a Subaru during my trip, but I would get an extended test drive in the Ascent, a car my husband has been researching for our family.

I’m not a techy car person, so I won’t wow you with all the data points (this is the internet, folks, you can read those here), but what interests us is the third row. I think this is probably what interests most families. You’re getting the flexible seating for more people and storage, but you still have a solid, safe vehicle that’s made for getting outdoors and having adventures.

In all honesty, I’m a little sad my family of four wasn’t together to really experience the Ascent, but I think I made the most of it without them. I got to experience it as an adventure-mobile! And my husband was certainly jealous. :)

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Taking the Ascent into the Mountains

On one hand, I felt confident in what to expect—it was a Subaru. It would be well-made and safe. No big deal.

But, on the other, it was different from my usual, and there’s always that adjustment period in driving a new car.

When I first got in the Ascent, I could definitely tell that it was bigger. I had read the specific measurements (it’s only 16” longer than my Forester), and it was less the length and more the width and height that I noticed. Thankfully, the first roads I drove on were the massively wide airport lanes, and my adjustment period was extremely brief. By the time I pulled onto the highway to head up into the mountains, I felt totally confident.

The entire trip, this car took to each road surface with ease. Driving up through the winding mountain passes, heading down the steep roads, taking narrow, twisty off-road paths and navigating the rockier ones, cruising through Vail’s town center… all of it. If you’ve driven up in that area, you know the S-turns alone can be a little daunting, especially to an out-of-towner, but the Ascent really made me feel secure.

The Fun Stuff in the Ascent

Again, I’m not someone who can rattle off car facts, but I want to share the highlights I enjoyed beyond just feeling comfortable…

The Console Computer System

We have a 2018 Forester, which has a great console system, but I was so pleasantly surprised by the ease with which the Ascent worked with my iPhone for music, navigation, and even calls and texts (Please read: Do NOT text while driving. Ever. There is no message worth risking someone’s life.). It was just something I wasn’t necessarily expecting, because I feel my Forester’s features are great, but now I miss this incredible console system, ha.

The Moon Roof

The moon roof was amazing. Massive and fun to have open, especially for the cool, dry morning air you get at higher altitudes.

19 Beverage Holders

You read that right. Why would I ever need 19 beverage holders? Well, I don’t know, but I like to be hydrated, and this feature thrills me. I can put my beloved water bottle all sorts of places!

But, seriously, it’s just convenient. I’m thinking about my family, and how each one of us has our own water bottle, and there’s of course my reusable coffee mug. Those things add up.

And, again, I like to be hydrated.

The Flexible Seating

We adjusted the Ascent into numerous configurations during the week, so that we could stow our gear, recline in the back for sunrise, and also just to try them out! I was curious, what can I say? This car really is wonderfully flexible, which is particularly useful for a family having to consider carseats.

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Rise + Wander Final Verdict

I’ve been very transparent that this was in partnership with Subaru, which means they allowed me to drive this vehicle for free. I want to be open about that, so that no one thinks I’m trying to sneak one by them. I don’t typically do sponsorships or partnerships, and so I hope you understand my excitement on this one. It’s genuine.

I really, really loved this car.

My family is still considering it as our next vehicle. In fact, while I was in Colorado, my husband went for a test drive (I wasn’t lying when I said he was jealous!). This trip was just a small adventure for me without my family, so I unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to try it as a family car.

But, that said, I really do think it would work beautifully for a family. For us, we have our two boys (both still in carseats), but we need a little more seating (for our au pair, visiting family, or friends), as well as the storage options. We need the versatility, but we also want to continue driving a Subaru. All in all, this is a great addition to the Subaru line-up.

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Fine Print

Again, Subaru provided me the Ascent to experience and drive for this trip (hence the #ad on social media), with the understanding I would take photos and share my experience. Every opinion above and every mention or post on social media was my own. I loved the opportunity and am very thankful.











Print Collaboration with Rachel Roams by Aftyn Shah

I’m extremely excited to share that I’ll be collaborating with super explorer Rachel Rudwall (@rachelroams) on a series of prints. If you’ve seen the Cheena Vala print, you’ve already seen the first one!

 Rachel is a life-long explorer, from her childhood exploring Ohio’s beautiful open spaces and forests, to her worldwide adventures today. I met her as a fellow student in an International Studies class at Miami University and we bonded over a love of travel and exploring. She has gone on to an amazing career of professional wandering (everyone’s dream!).

 As described on her website (RachelRoams.com), “she has traveled six continents, lived in three countries, and journeyed through nearly 60 nations. As TV Host, Producer, EMMY-Nominated Camera Operator, and Social Media Influencer, Rachel regularly drops herself into faraway lands to relate their stories to outsiders.” Her passion for travel and particularly her enthusiasm in sharing the world with everyone is what made me want to collaborate.

 I will be using a total of four of her photos as inspiration for prints. Ten percent of the sales from these prints will go to a charity near and dear to her heart called Girls Not Brides. This awesome organization works to end child marriage and enable girls to live out their potential with a worldwide reach. An excerpt from their website details their efforts:

“Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 600 civil society organizations from over 80 countries committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential.

“Members are based throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. We share the conviction that every girl has the right to lead the life that she chooses and that, by ending child marriage, we can achieve a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for all.

“Stronger together, Girls Not Brides members bring child marriage to global attention, build an understanding of what it will take to end child marriage and call for the laws, policies and programmes that will make a difference in the life of millions of girls.”

As I said, I’m thrilled to collaborate with Rachel and to share her passion for the world with you through my prints. On a personal note, I believe she’s an incredible role model for anyone, but especially women who want to explore and travel on their terms. In her own words, “We live in an age in which women are permitted more and more freedoms to explore their bliss, their talents, and their world, and I'm grateful to be a part of that collective journey.”

Wonderfully said.