I found a word in Malay which seems to describe my ‘occupation’- Pengembara. A kind of traveler, adventurer, backpacker, vagabond- all the above.
My background is in Cell biology and genetics. I thoroughly enjoy microbiology and the study of tropical diseases though having first traveled to the Peruvian Amazon in 2004, I was bitten by the bugs. And since I’ve been traveling off and on to whatever rainforests I can reach, the more pristine and untouched the better. Being surrounded by the natural biota has led to me to diversify my interests into zoology, rainforest ecology,and the interesting yet challenging disciplines of tropical systematics and taxonomy. Only recently have I gotten into macrophotography, but I find it immensely satisfying and hope to continue traveling and photographing for many years yet, since each new discovery fuels the existing passion.
I have been asked many times how I fund my seemingly endless travels. The short answer is by treeplanting during the summers, and picking up odd jobs like fruit picking wherever I can. However the more accurate response is that I could do any kind of job and travel the way I do, since I travel extremely cheaply and independently. After an initial outlay of costs for camping gear and camera equipment, subsequent trip costs have plummeted so that I can comfortably live a month in the jungle in my hammock for $100, just the amount required for groceries and travel. All that is required is the will to step out of our fixed notions of what we can and can’t do. The moment we let other people’s notions of what we are capable of determine our own actions is the moment that we have ceased living for ourselves and are governed by the standards of others. My lifestyle provokes a variety of responses from people, from the person who thinks it a lofty goal and says “Oh, if only…”, to the somewhat derisive “yes but what kind of a life is that…when will you grow up and settle down…”. For me simply this is what I enjoy, and if I enjoy it, I will keep on doing it…some decisions in life are just…simple.
Others are more complex. Like partway through my travels in Borneo I developed a list of worrying symptoms like a temporary blindness that was complete, yet resolved itself within 5 minutes or so. Upon my return to Canada I was diagnosed with stage III testicular cancer that had metastasized to my lungs and spine. With such concerns it is easy to question one’s life and goals, etc… However, after undergoing a regimen of chemotherapy and surgeries I am again traveling, trying to put those hard months of recovery behind me and enjoying with renewed enthusiasm what the natural world has to offer. Traveling to rainforests all over the world is my goal and passion with no desire to stop in the immediate future. Subsequent trips will no doubt include:
Madagascar and West Africa
Ecuador- currently traveling
Papua new guinea
If you plan on visiting any of these places or on traveling to some of the places I’ve already been to, I would be happy to trade experiences.
Gear is slowly evolving:
Started with a Pentax K200D, and moved on to a 5Dii, 7D, Zeiss 100mm makro planar f/2.8, canon 100mm usm f/2.8, MT-24EX twin flash, 580 EX, MPE-65mm. After frequent water damage to my 5dii I’m looking to upgrade to a weather sealed body with same specifications (Still holding out for that 1Dsiii). For a more in-depth list of the equipment that I use you can check out my equipment and reviews which gives a brief synopsis and overall opinion of most of the equipment that I use.