CAREERS IN TRANSIT

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Can you wander the world while working in a traditional industry? These professionals prove it can be done!

Doctor Andrew Peacock

“I’M A PROBLEM SOLVER”

Six months a year, Doctor Andrew Peacock embarks on a healthcare expedition – with his camera for company.

It all started when I volunteered as a doctor in India and Nepal in 1996. I took 50 rolls of film with me on that trip and, when I came home, I sent them to Lonely Planet who were planning a trekking guide to Nepal. Most of my images were not decent but, amazingly, I had just enough for them to take me on as one of their [freelance] photographers. It was a carrot to keep shooting.

I’ve always loved cameras, but the pursuit was a slow burner because medical school and then work as a doctor distracted me for many years. Was there a way I could find time for both career paths?

Today, in addition to working in a busy emergency room in Brisbane, I spend around six months of the year as an expedition doctor. I’ve been to Nepal seven times since then. I’ve been to Antarctica seven times since also, and travelled through central Asia.

The standout trip has to be to Pakistan a few years ago. I accompanied a photographer called Corey Rich. He is a friend of mine and he approached me to travel as a backup photographer, a doctor and a kind of a jack of all trades, to help him with a documentary he shot about climbers.

My photo that has garnered the most attention, which is probably one of my favourites, is from a time when I was working on a private ship in Antarctica. I was leading a group of sea kayakers and a 20-foot [six-metre] minke whale swam underneath my kayak. Super inquisitive!

You can’t really call my day job, working in an emergency room back in Australia, creative.

Although, there is some carry over from solving patients’ problems and problem solving how to get great photography shots.

The idea that I may shoot something and not do it very well is kind of okay, because I still work as a doctor. That’s far more important than whether I nail the photos in a shoot. There are things to take very seriously, and there’s other things to have a go. It’s about understanding what is important, really.”

Nathalie Claessen

“THE KEY IS FLEXIBILITY”

Travelling vet Nathalie Claessen uses social media to share her journey – and care virtually for sick animals.

In the Netherlands, where I’m from, when you are 16 years old you are told to make a career choice. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life when I was still so young. All I knew was that I wanted to travel. I thought about being an air hostess, but I also wanted to get a degree, so I headed to New Zealand to study International Tourism Management. However, when my studies ended and I returned home, I didn’t enjoy the nine-to-five lifestyle. So, I had to make a choice.

Most people who love to travel find a way to fit it in around their career and their day-to-day job. But for me, it was a little different.

I have two passions in life. One is travelling the world and the other is my love for animals.

So in 2011, I decided to pursue my love for animals and I became a qualified veterinary nurse.

And then, to give me more flexibility to travel, I set up my own business called Crazy Cats, looking after cats and small animals when their owners are either away or need help, like administrating medication, when they are sick.

It allows me to keep my own hours and to travel a large part of the year, where I often volunteer for different animal sanctuaries around the world.

I worked at an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai recently, which was incredible. They nurse orphan elephants and save elephants from the riding camps.

Last year, I crossed off my sixth continent by going to Morocco. During my travels, I’ve been documenting my work and wanderlust on Instagram, and I’ve found a lot of people contact me via my handle @travellingvetnurse to ask advice about their animals, from all corners of the world.

My two passions now seem to be crossing into each other, as I’m lining up collaborations with animal welfare projects, such the Sea Turtle Conservation project in Costa Rica, for this year. I am also trying to organise a visit to Namibia to finally meet two leopards from a wildlife organisation called Spot who I adopted five years ago.

To me, wanderlust is a funny feeling. It makes me feel alive and free. I feel like the real me, not someone who is weighed down with commitments. I think my mantra to life comes from writer JRR. Tolkien who said, ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’”

Daxton Ward

“IT’S A NEVER-ENDING PROJECT”

Teacher Daxton Ward splits his time between a Bangkok school and abandoned urban structures.

I’ve called Asia home since I packed up and left America after finishing university. I finally settled in Bangkok 10 years ago, where I teach a broad spectrum of topics, but mainly computer programming. In the 21st century, programming has become essential in learning. But I have to admit, it isn’t my main area of interest.

For the past two years I’ve also been an ‘urban explorer’ [where you search out and photograph abandoned manmade sites which have been left to decay or are usually hidden from the general public].

My passion has always been for photography, and being a teacher has enabled me to travel to some incredible places, as we’re lucky enough to have large chunks of time off during school holidays.

There’s perhaps two which really stand out, though. One was an abandoned shopping mall that had been flooded, and the other was Petch-Siam, an abandoned cinema [in northern Thailand].

The New World shopping mall was special because it’s located in a very densely populated area, yet I was all alone in this vast, shadowy space. The ground floor was flooded a couple of years ago, and there were thousands of fish swimming in there, but most have been removed. It was just me and a few of the remaining large koi swimming around the escalators. Incredible!

The cinema was amazing as it had been closed for 35 years, but still everything remained intact, including all of the seats and the original, now antique, projectors. It was as if the last audience stood up after the credits rolled, walked out, and the doors were locked for three decades. A truly amazing place.

That was about 18 months ago, and since then I have documented locations in Thailand, America, and South Africa. I’ve been lucky enough to have my photos featured in a number of publications.

Mostly, it keeps me busy and gives me a never-ending project. If I hear of a derelict location, it becomes my mission to explore and shoot it. If I’ve heard of an especially unique place, I sometimes can’t really rest until I’ve gained entrance.

Russia and Ukraine are on my bucket list of places to hit next, as they have a multitude of unique abandoned places that I would love to document, such as Pripyat, the site of the Chernobyl accident, and the abandoned Soviet-era space station.

[People do question whether urban exploring is legal.] I have to plan ahead for ways to get in, deal with security guards, three-metre walls, or other restraints. However, I’ve become a bit obsessed with documenting these places before they are demolished or completely inaccessible.”

This and many more articles featured in Issue 53, our special Wanderlust Issue

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