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Ian Lean

If someone told you they’d nearly gotten trampled by an elephant, witnessed an all out street brawl with wooden bats, and spent hours photographing one of the world’s most endangered whales, you’d probably be thinking it was a hectic dreamland they lived in. For Ian, it was the daily routine in Sri Lanka.

One night we were walking back from having food in town and there was a rustle in the woods. The next minute this elephant came barreling from a hedge, ran across the road and plowed through the other side. That’s how wild it is there still. To immerse himself in the weather, culture, and wildlife, he explored the island nation the way it was intended. Our conversation was filled with a lot of laughter, an overwhelming amount of comments: “Daaaamn, that’s rad! That’s straight up insane,” and too many moments wishing we were out in the forest instead of in the office finalizing designs.
On safari in Udawalawe National Park he had the pleasure of watching a herd of Sri Lankan elephants enjoying the sanctuary the nature reserve provides. There was a day spent photographing whales off the coast of Mirissa with Raja and the Whales, a company committed to responsible whale watching and wildlife viewing. However, when we asked if there was anything he found particularly rad about the country, he made the English proud when he said “I’ll tell you what was good there—the tea. Amazing.”
Ian spent time photographing some of the most exotic locations Sri Lanka has to offer, but for him traveling is about leaving a place better than he found it. “I’ve been more involved over the past three years with organization Surfers Against Sewage. It made me more awake, more aware. In Sri Lanka it was just unbelievable. They try to separate it by the riverways that lead out to the sea. They block them with sticks so that plastic doesn’t float out to the beach where all the tourists are. You see animals swimming in it.” His passion for treating our planet with respect bled through during our conversation, and it makes him not only the most ideal kind of traveler but also a person to pay attention to. As a company dedicated to staying woke, it’s epic to find others who aren’t shutting their eyes to the issues our planet is facing. His adventure reminds us that guidebooks will only get you so far. The best destinations are found when you put down your phone, pick up your camera, and step off the beaten path. Words by Emma Whitney

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