Karin Leperi is an award-winning writer and photographer with bylines in over 150 outlets that include magazines, newspapers, radio, internet and mobile media-based platforms. She has been canvassing the globe with pen and camera in hand, looking for insights, experiences, and revelations why our plant rocks. Leperi has been to 115 countries (at the time of this interview), many more than once, while seeking adventure, culture, cuisine, nature and the outdoors – and anything off the beaten path. Hers is a path less travelled.
Likening herself to a gypsy with wings, she seeks out her next journey through a process of synchronicity and going wherever the winds of opportunity might take her. Her travels have taken her around the world, spanning six continents, numerous natural wonders and varied UNESCO world heritage sites. Karin on Gettingontravel.com.
What are three of your favourite countries, and why?
Usually, it is the last country I visited because it is freshest in my mind. However, from a more long-term perspective, three perennial favourites are Peru, Portugal, and New Zealand.
Peru because it has three faces that include the Andes, Amazon, and the coast.
Portugal because the country is simplistically stunning, and the people are some of the friendliest.
New Zealand because it has the tropical North Island and the alpine-like South Island with some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in the world. (Think Lord of the Rings, as many of the scenes were filmed on location in New Zealand.)
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
Machu Picchu during COVID19
I travelled to Machu Picchu last December 2020, only to arrive in Cusco and learn that a train strike would prevent me from seeing my bucket list dream. I returned in March 2021, right before Easter quarantine of five days for the entire country, to experience the sacred grandeur of Machu Picchu with about 150 other people. It was mystical and surreal.
Photographing wildlife around the world, anytime, anywhere
From the Bengal tigers of India, polar bears and snowy owls of the arctic, migratory wildlife of the African Serengeti and the biodiversity of Costa Rica and Peru, I am happiest when immersed in nature and photographing wildlife.
Exploring the Peruvian Amazon
Since discovering the Peruvian Amazon several years ago when I was on assignment with International Expeditions, I find myself continually returning to the rainforest. There is a saying that the jungle either embraces you or spits you out. In my case, the Amazonian rainforest welcomes me with open arms and gives me glimpses into this magical land of biodiversity.
What are three of your worst travel moments, and why?
Robbed at gunpoint in Lima, Peru
This March, I was held up at gunpoint in Lima, Peru and robbed of my carry-on bag. Two men on a motorcycle apparently stalked me from the airport as my taxi took me to my apartment rental in Miraflores. While stopped at a red light, one of the men came up from behind and broke the taxi window and grabbed my carry-on bag in what was no more than several seconds. He also had a gun. It happened so quickly that I was still processing the broken glass all around me as I saw him leap across the median strip with my bag and hop on the back of a motorcycle.
I lost my credit cards, debit card, passport, driver’s license, cash that was to pay my lease for two months, and a small loaf of green chile cheese bread I was bringing for my fiancé to try some of the culinary creations of New Mexico. I became a person without a country for two weeks before receiving my emergency passport replacement from the U.S. embassy in Lima, Peru.
Hospitalized for a week in Ireland
Another worst travel moment was when I was in Ireland on a photo tour and unexpectedly ended up in the hospital for a week. The doctors wanted to operate on what was an acute attack of diverticulitis. I managed to dissuade them and have the doctors release me after six days. My salvation came from getting the U.S. embassy involved as well as my paramedic sister in San Diego. She served as a patient advocate for me.
Almost drowned from a flash flood in the Virgin Narrows of Zion National Park in Utah (United States) when I was 12 years old.
Though it was many years ago, I remember it well as we ended up hiking the wrong canyon that was reserved for only experienced hikers. I was with my Dad, older sister and brother as we became trapped in the Narrows when a summer rainstorm created a flash flood. We had an early warning and managed to scale the canyon wall to a safe distance above the rising water. Dad roped all of us around alone scraggly tree, and that is how we spent the night until the waters subsided. The next morning a ranger met us on the trail as we hiked out of the canyon. He mentioned they were dragging the river for our bodies because they didn’t expect us to survive.
What are three countries you still have a burning desire to visit?
Argentina, Antarctica (not a country, but a continent), Madagascar
Argentina because I am anxious to check out the lake region and sample the fantastic Malbec wines that herald from this country. Gaucho culture also intrigues me.
Antarctica because I want to visit the seventh continent and photograph penguins of all types.
Madagascar is one of the largest islands in the world with unique biodiversity due to its isolation and breaking away from the super-continent some 100 million years ago. Photographing lemurs is tops on my list.
What are three of your most favourite hotels/lodges?
The Grand Amazon Lodge in the Peruvian Amazon is jungle luxury in pristine rainforest. The wildlife is both wild and abundant.
Grand Residences in Cancun is resort luxury. Grand. Beachfront Luxury and Mexican Style.
Hotel del Parque in Guayaquil is a 5-star classic luxury in a park setting.
What are three of your best travel tips?
Always split your cash and valuables by dividing your stash between your bags
I had some cash in my backpack (my carry-on was stolen), and it was a lifeline until I could get my son to send me money in Peru by Western Union.
Always carry on your photo gear when you fly. Never put it in checked luggage. You will never see it again
Since I am a photographer, I always carry on all my gear when I fly. Never pack cameras, lens, or batteries in your checked-in luggage. Checked batteries will flag your bags as they are a prohibited item. It would be best if you carried them on the plane with you.
Create a Travel Emergency file you can access while on the road
Photograph all the important documents you might need to reference while travelling, such as passport, driver’s license, military ID, credit cards, debit cards, health insurance, Global Entry, and emergency numbers. I have a file in my Dropbox I call Travel Emergency. This is where I put digital copies of all these documents. It was a lifesaver when I was robbed in Lima as I could produce my passport number and other important information.