Leopards, Monkeys, Elephants, oh my!

I’ve spent the last month of my life exploring in a beautiful round-the-world trip with people I love deeply. The holiday revitalized my energy and filled me with inspiration. If you’d like to indulge this post, I’ll share some photos of my adventures.



Exploration delights and inspires me. Certainly I can appreciate the comforts of the constant, comfortable and known. But there is a certain type of pleasure and fulfillment that only unfamiliar experiences can provide me. I feel that in unfamiliar circumstances and environments I also learn more about myself and what drives me.

Exploration is a passion. When I gaze upon a new sight, I can feel my eyes devour it and store it away for inspiration. When I breath in a new scent, I can feel it mark the experience as it feels my lungs and intoxicates me. When I hear a new sound, I let it dance around and through me. I love to stimulate my senses into overload, and this can even be attained in a quiet moment.

Immediately following the big photo conference in NYC (PPE) I took an overnight flight through Taiwan and ending Cambodia where I met my best friend Brooke Shaden and her friends/colleagues Laura and Amy. I took nothing but a large back-pack and the desire to explore.


For the next week in Cambodia and Thailand it was non-stop joy, adventure and inspiration. In Cambodia we started by visiting the genocide museum in the city’s capital and began our trip with revelations about the history of this stunning country, its dark past and the untold stories unseen by the rest of the world. It was harrowing to say the least, and we learned that near 1/3 of the country’s entire population was executed in a 4-year timespan under Pol Pot. As a group we were shocked by our cumulative lack of knowledge of these horrors.

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After a night bus to Siem Reap, we then spent several incredible days at Angkor Wat. Each morning long before daybreak we’d venture to the temples to enjoy photographing sunrise or sit in quiet meditation.



The temples are so incredible, so magical, and of such a grand scale that they can’t really be described in words or photographs. Seeing the sunrise and slowly unmask ruins of temples devoured by trees and roots is incredible. It feel like nothing short of a movie set. Somedays we hiked around, others we road our bicycles, other times we took tuk tuks (seats pulled by motorcycles) around and into the countryside. We had no set agendas, but instead would just explore to climb a temple and be blessed, or to drink coconut water from a vendor down an old dirt path. I’ve wanted to visit Angkor Wat since I first saw photographs of the temples as a child, and they were much more grand than I ever even imagined. It is so beautiful when something incredible lives up to enormous expectations!

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Besides the temples, we even took a boat into a rural floating village (built upon stilts out into the water) and all made a impromptu plunge into a lake. Another day we took a microlight flight over the rice paddies, floating villages and temples at sunset for yet another incredible experience.

Next we visited Thailand and the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai, one of the only TRUE sanctuaries for rescued elephants. We spent a night in this jungle sanctuary and for two days we fed the elephants, learned about them, bathed them, listened to their trumpeting through the night, and even water tubed down the river.



It was a beautiful experience, and spending it with my best friend made it even more memorable. The way she loves and experiences life (and those around her) invigorates me and makes me want to be a better person. Yet another inspiration upon all the inspiration around me!

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We ended out trip in Thailand in Bangkok were we visited incredible temples (Watpho), took a vegan cooking class, and visited a floating market. And, of course, had SEVERAL massages along the way.



My mind was racing with the incredible flavors, rich scents, luscious colors and textures of the temples, the touch of elephants’ skin, and overall inspiration overload from that weeklong adventure. For me, however, the adventure had only started! Next, on to meet my family in South Africa for a safari!

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After leaving my friends, I headed from Bangkok to Doha then ending in Cape Town, South Africa. There I met my mother, father, aunt, uncle and little sister. Alicia, my sister, is currently in the Peace Corps in Madagascar where she specializing in educating and better preparing community health workers to deal with the biggest challenges facing their communities. I had not seen her in nearly a year, and it was going to be a wonderful 3 week exploration together as a family. I know not many people have the blessing to be able to (a) get along with their family (b) have their family alive and well (c) be able to travel together--- for all of these things I was acutely aware and thankful.



We began in Cape Town where we saw locations of historical value (Cape of Good Hope, many landmarks concerning Mandela) and natural sights (penguins, botanical gardens, Table Mountain), but also took some cultural tours.

Throughout our several week trip we visited several countries (South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe) and several game reserves including Chobe and Kruger National Park. What I found striking is that the animals were much closer than I expected and their sightings much more frequent. I saw hundreds and hundreds of elephants only feet from the car. I saw a leopard beside the road posing just 100 yards from a lioness and her young. I saw a lioness feasting on a water buffalo less than 20 feet from the safari vehicle with her entire pride looking on from nearby.


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Because everything I would be carrying had to be in a large backpack, I aimed to bring only gear I deemed essential:

  • Canon 5Dsr
  • Canon 5D III (backup body)
  • Canon 16-35mm 2.8
  • Canon 70-200mm 2.8 PLUS 2X teleconverter
  • Canon 24-70mm 2.8
  • Sandisk 128GB CF Cards
  • GoPro4
  • Surface Pro 3 and USB splitter
  • G-Technology G-DRIVE ev ATC With Thunderbolt 1TB Portable Hard Drive

While I know that there are better “safari” lenses out there, I wanted to use the gear I already have (70-200) and modify it to work for me. Plus, being all in a backpack I couldn’t possibly carry a huge lens!



Here you can get an idea of the beautiful animals we saw and experiences we had. Our hotels were stunning, often with a tree-house feel or looking out onto the reserves with elephants walking up to the hotel fences to feed. We did game drives, went to a cheetah/cat rehabilitation project, and even had one day filled with ‘death-defying adventure’.

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When we traveled to Victoria Falls, my sister and I began the day with a bungee jump off of the bridge in ‘no mans land’ between Zimbabwe and Zambia as we plummeted down the gorge toward the water below. In the evening we girls (mom, sister, aunt and myself) all went to the world famous “Devil’s Pool” in Zambia. Devils Pool is a small natural pool on the edge of Victoria Falls where you can literally sit/swim just inches from the crashing falls. Move too far to the right, and over the falls you go!



We had to take a boat, hike, and swim to get to this pool and you could feel the strength of the water pulling at you. It was a spectacular view, and we could even lean over the edge to see the water crashing below. The next day we took a helicopter ride over the falls and even got a beautiful view of our death-defying swim!

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This month long trip was filled (brimming in fact!) with once in a life time experiences. I am not only thankful to be buzzing with inspiration gained from these adventures, but also thankful for being blessed to venture with people I care for so dearly. As the year wraps up and we enter the holiday season, I couldn’t be more thankful and inspired.