The Amazon Trail



What started as a joke ended in one of the greatest traveling experiences I’ve had. Actually, it started as a dream, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Sometime in the year 2014 one of my best friends was sharing an idea she and her brother had of gifting their parents a trip to Machu Picchu, a place they had always wanted to visit. The trip would include a few days in the city of Cusco, a train ride for a day in Machu Picchu, and then a flight north to Iquitos where they would follow the Amazon River into a remote region of the Amazon Rainforest. They would spend over a week in the jungle before flying back to the states.

I jokingly offered to be their travel photographer and she immediately invited me to join. This part of the world had always felt like a mystical land to me – a place I dreamed of exploring as a child, a place I never thought I would visit, a place I always jokingly advertised as being “the place where everything can or wants to kill you and I’m never going there.” Of course, this was a joke after all, not everything there can or wants to kill you, but I did truly believe I would never go. Many people will remember the popular computer game “The Oregon Trail.” Any school with a computer lab had a copy of that game, and it was an easy(not really) and fun(not really) way to kill time during a free period in school. I found way more entertainment in the Amazon edition of the Trail series, and spent countless hours taking turns with a neighborhood friend identifying wildlife, collecting gifts for the Inca King, evading hazards on the river, and avoiding wildlife attacks.

Beyond the general gameplay of “The Amazon Trail,” I believe I connected with this game as much as I did in part from previous history and science lessons about the Amazon rainforest throughout grade school. My initial interest in this region started after reading “The Great Kapok Tree,” followed by just about any book I could find in the library that covered the Amazon. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would one day step foot on a boat in one of the most fascinating river systems in the world, zip line through the canopy of a Kapok tree, canoe up and down a tributary of the Amazon in search of anaconda, or follow the tracks of a jaguar in the wild. But there I was – September 2015 – smack dab in the middle of my childhood dream.

Amazonia Expeditions delivered a life changing experience for me and many others, I’m sure. The ecotourism company has two rustic lodging locations along the Tahuayo river basin, both offering different experiences for tourists, scientists, photographers, and filmmakers. I ate some of the best meals here, second only to moms home cooking. I met a lot of really awesome people here, staff members, other tourists from around the globe, and a few researchers living there for months on end while working on environmental projects in their fields. And while I didn’t see any of the wildlife I came here hoping to see, I saw instead an abundance of other animals just as beautiful and humbling.

There is a chance I will make a few more in depth blog posts about this entire journey, but as it’s already been over a year since this trip and no posts about it yet, I figured it was about time to share at least a glimpse of this inspiring adventure.

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Waking up early was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Apart from one of the staff and myself, everyone was sleeping and it felt like I had the entire place to myself for a little while. It felt like home.

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I have wanted to return to the jungle ever since I left Peru. Meeting all the staff members and researchers here really inspired me to do more meaningful work with the next journey. That inspiration took me to Sumatra in February 2017 where I joined Photographers Without Borders and international award winner Kristi Odom – one of my photographic idols. It was here I experienced and felt the story of deforestation in Sumatra, and visit the wildlife and people affected.

Part of this trip allowed me to help purchase 5 hectares (roughly 12.5 acres) of land to create the Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary, which borders the Gunung Leuser National Park in northern Sumatra. I look forward to sharing more stories in hopes raise awareness to issues around the globe, to help build a stronger appreciation for this planet we and many, many other beings call home, and to inspire others to do their part in caring for this home. It’s the only home we have.

Be sure to visit my print shop as well, as 50% of proceeds from sales help fund and purchase more land for the Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary. Normally 10% of proceeds are donated to one of the foundations listed in my Give Back section. Learn more about my trip to Sumatra, the stories I captured there, and Help Build Habitat in Sumatra