20 November 2019

Two Years of Travel- Final Stretch of My Americas Tour.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, and her photography, @K.clayphoto ©2018 Terrell Neasley
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” 

On 08 January 2018, I set out on a dynamic, ever-changing journey to backpack around the world. My endeavor began with tumultuous life events that got worse the next year. It has taken considerable effort and time to center myself and in truth, I should say it's an ongoing process even now. I have marked objectives I need to achieve, but I still have yet to wrap it into a specific purpose and I try to be patient with that process. Right now, all I can do is simply keep moving and figure it out along the way.

In less than a week, I will complete my tour of Central and South America albeit this is not the last I intend to see of this place. I am grateful to have visited Nicaragua, Colombia, and Peru twice yet I have more to see in each of these places. In a few days, I will have spent 5 weeks in Ushuaia, Argentina at the bottom of the world. I have done more writing than photography. I was not able to make it to Antarctica. My plans changed from desiring to see Chile and more of Patagonia. Instead, I elected to stay in one place longer which has been true to my habit. Now I have an excuse to return here again.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, and her photography, @K.clayphoto ©2018 Terrell Neasley
My next leg will take me further away, although I have not made up my mind 100 percent. It will either be French Polynesia (Tahiti) or I will skip the South Pacific and go straight to Australia. If at all possible, I would love to sail around the South Pacific Islands with someone who could use a photographer aboard or at least a good friend. But maybe I will have to be cool with doing Tahiti, Fiji, and Tonga by air and THEN fly to Australia.

I'm working on a complete restructure of my photography business that will incorporate and consist primarily of LANDSCAPE, PORTRAITURE, and NUDE photography. This will include a new website, a new blog, and a few other options that will consist of LESS social media. I'm not an Instagram fan and I don't believe it should kill me that I'm not. I hope you don't hold that against me, either.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, and her photography, @K.clayphoto ©2018 Terrell Neasley
I wish I could have finished out this year the same way I started. Coming out here alone would have been much tougher when I left in January 2018. Kayci.Lee chose to join me for a month and that steadied me. I've mentioned in previous posts that Oct/Nov 2017 was a wreck for me. And oddly, then again the same exact months for 2018. But when we left that Dallas Airport 8 Jan 2018, I was in a much better state of mind to do this journey.

There's a good chance I would have canceled the whole thing in less than a month, otherwise, had I been alone. Shooting her gave me something to do... something to focus on. My brain was occupied on something that had to be completed instead of dwelling on past events. After she left, well... then I had work to do. I still had mess to deal with, of course, but I was dealing with it from a much better perspective. I would have loved to have her here with me in Ushuaia.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, and her photography, @K.clayphoto ©2018 Terrell Neasley
I sincerely hope I don't have to go such long stretches between my nude shoots. Having somebody traveling with me is definitely preferred, but this is not an easy option for 99% of people in the world. I confess travel life would be much easier if I didn't have an absolute need to shoot nudes. The places I will visit over the next year... man! They're gonna be expensive and this will likely be the case until I get to Southeast Asia... probably another year away. But who knows.

I have learned a lot about Latin America, though admittedly I can't say I understand it all. Positives? The diversity of all the forms of beautiful country you'll run into from the tropics to the cold spots and from sea level to 12K feet up. On the negative, damn... I have run into some of the same racial biases that we have in the US, between indigenous people, referred to as locals, Indians, or natives and those of European descent.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, and her photography, @K.clayphoto ©2018 Terrell Neasley
I have so many reasons yet to revisit Central and South America. I've been to Nicaragua and Guatemala 4 times each and I'm still not done. There are still places to see and I have friends there to visit. It's the same in South America. I need to get a better feel for Ecuador as I was only there for 3 weeks and all that time was spent grieving my brother. If you have any questions about making a trip to any of these places, please feel free to ask me. I want to encourage you to spend a little time out of your familiarities and travel outside your comfortable element. You won't regret doing so.

Thank you for following along with me this year. A new one awaits and I hope you'll be with me on the other side of the world next year.

I tried, but there's no way I could end a post of her with NO nudes. I was kidding myself and cheating you. Apologies. Let me correct that egregious error now...

14 November 2019

Giving Back - Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary

Athena Demos - Model, Extraordinaire 
"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another."
~ Charles Dickens

Altruism and Philanthropy are two concepts I want to ensure I incorporate into my life with everything I do. Along with, of course, being nice to people and treating others with respect the same way you should insist people treat you. I've tried to make it a point to pick up a cause and support it, but I've neglected this over the last two or three years, particularly since I've been gone on this journey. This is why I am choosing to begin my monthly support of the Cchocahuasi Animal Sanctuary.

Athena Demos holding Eagle feathers at Cchocahuasi Animal Sanctuary
I grew up learning about giving. Mama taught us about that in church. You gave during Sunday School and then at least twice during the morning worship. As an adult, I think the first time I actively gave a monthly donation to a cause was the United Negro College Fund as a soldier. As an artist, I donated my pay as a live nude model back to the Murry Art Guild, who hired me to pose. I also volunteered on Fridays to work at the reception desk and to fix their computers. I was a nude model for 12 years in total, but most of that time was with Austin Peay State University where I got my undergrad degree in Business.

Athena Demos, posing with an Andean Condor
But the last giving back project I did was volunteering my time for families for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I did portrait artwork for families whose child was dying or may have been stillborn. I did everything at my expense and in most cases, I was able to do enough photography to make a photo book for the family all at my expense.

But I haven't had another Give Back cause that I felt led to help until late this past September when I accepted Athena Demos' invitation to accompany her to the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary. I didn't think much of it at first. I didn't know what to think really. But let me set a few things straight. Two things, specifically. There is a difference between a ZOO and a SANCTUARY.

Finishing up construction on a new clean water reservoir 
I am not particularly fond of zoos. I'm just not. But my point is not to bash zoos, here. I just want you to know the difference. The animals at this Sanctuary were not captured and brought here for your amusement to make money. These are animals that have been injured or abandoned and are how receiving humane care and rehabilitation. The people there are individuals who are animal lovers who care about the welfare of the animals in their keep. I got to see this first hand with my friend, Athena who volunteered there and was returning for a visit. So she has first-hand knowledge of this place. She didn't just donate her time and sweat-equity, but she put her money behind her dedication and commitment to this sanctuary.

I read several of the reviews and many people lauded the care and attention given to the animals there. However, there were also some reviews that were sprinkled in there accusing the sanctuary of being a zoo intimating that they never release these animals. And this is the second item I wanted to make clear. I got the chance to see the entire sanctuary and was introduced to the many habitats. I saw a hawk who I was told would never be released. It had one eye and permanent injuries. It would never make it out in the wild again. There are also animals who were abandoned at an early age and raised there that, as orphans, were never taught to survive on their own. They won't leave either.

Yeah, I wasn't getting in with her. 
However, some of these animals have treatable wounds, injuries, or illnesses that are actually released back into the wild. How do I know? As a photographer, I was invited to attend, film and photograph a condor release in the next two days and they were quite excited about it. I couldn't attend, unfortunately. I was leaving Cusco before then and could not make it back out there. But you can see the video on their => facebook page <=.

So, SANCTUARY... vs ZOO. There is a difference. And these guys depend on the donations and the entrance fees they get by inviting people to come out and visit. Part of what they have to do is showmanship. I read where some fool complained that they make the condors fly down over people's heads. Hell yeah, they do!! I got so see it multiple times! It was fascinating! What else are they supposed to do? They put on a show and then teach you something about them. I didn't know they were so friggin' BIG! And I didn't know they don't really fly, they soar! They soared down over our heads and landed. Then they WALKED back up to their habitats! If they do fly, it's for really short distances to "jump" more or less.

Andean Condors, female in the foreground, Male in back.

Right now, they are doing everything they can to have larger enclosures to make the animals more comfortable. I was there when they had just added on to a monkey habitat and then knocked a hole in the adjoining wall so they could enter the new place. I got to sit and talk with the guys who work there. It's not easy to come up with solutions. They are in Cusco and they told me about attempts to acquire solar panels to heat some of the enclosures when it gets cold during the winter. They are not just looking for money, but rather also donated items! But yes. It takes money to feed the animals. It takes money to build more and larger enclosures. And it takes money to provide medicine and vet care for the wounded and sick. This is a first-rate sanctuary.

Andean Speckled Bears 
If you are in Peru, I most definitely recommend you take a flight to Cusco and visit Cchocohuasi Animal Sanctuary. And if you can't get there, then join me in helping them with your donation. Tell your friends who are looking at opportunities to go volunteer in Peru or they can donate as well. If you think what I'm doing is cool, Follow Athena Demos on her Instagram to keep up with her amazing adventures. She's a world traveler, as well and is documenting her journey as she goes.

Thank you for your generosity!