Because I don’t have to worry about directing traffic in La Paz. There are men in zebra suits to do that for me.

Because the Andes are jagged, raw and breathtaking.

Because api and pastel is quite possibly the most indulgent breakfast on Earth.

Because trout from Lake Titicaca really is that good.

Because co-instructors like these make life (and work) a breeze!

Because there are ample opportunities to play with the “color accent” feature of my camera.

Because these are 11 of the best teenagers on Earth.

Because sometimes there are no words…

Because our home stay families in Sorata welcomed us with open arms.

Because this is the backyard of the Program House in Sorata.

Because teaching gringos to dance is always funny.

Because local, fresh fruits and vegetables are the norm, rather than an expensive indulgence.

Because this is one of those places…where there be dragons.

Because Lake Titicaca has an energy that is inexplicable, yet oh so tangible.

Because even men can weave.

Because glaciers such as these won’t be with us for much longer, and I feel honored to be in their presence.

Because of the sheer joy felt upon arriving at our first high altitude camp.

Because of high altitude soccer matches.

Because alpacas are awesome.

Because even altitude-induced vertigo can’t erase the beauty of this place.

Because glacier lakes still exist.

Because the starkness of the land is only part of its beauty.

Because making it to the top feels OH SO GOOD.

Because some feelings can cross any boundary.

Because cow dung fires are actually really warm.

Because accomplishments like these do not get old.

Because jumping pictures are always in order.

Because crossing one range of snow-capped mountains to reveal another equally majestic range in the not-so-distant view instills in you an extraordinary sense of place.

Because condors have up to a 10 foot wingspan and seeing them is said to bring one luck. We saw four.

Because these hands have touched so much.

Because sitting down at the end of the day feels fabulous.

Because sometimes the cheapest meals are the most delicious.

Because a little dust from the road can’t hide a smile.

Because even a LOT of dust from the road can’t hide a smile.

Because there is green in Bolivia as well.

Because keeping day packs dry going over rapids on the first day of a river trip seems like a good idea.

Because even 18 hours of constant rain can’t stop us from having a good time.

Because inner-tubes and baibo trees make a great raft.

Because I will never tire of taking pictures of my Chacos.

Because eating cow hearts is considered a delicacy.

Because learning the meaning and value of a hard days’ work is invaluable.

Because coca is a tradition, not a drug.

Because kids are beautiful.

Because a fresh coat of paint goes a long way.

Because service to others is infinitely fulfilling.

Because exhaustion is real.

Because salteñas are indescribably delicious.

Because the altiplano is truly, expansively inspirational.

Because a battered flag serves as a brilliant reminder of the strength, diversity and beauty of a nation.

Because some of these cactuses are over 2000 years old.

Because we made shirts that say “Where There Be Llamas”.

Because Maro is really strong.

Because fourteen people together for six weeks will not tire of group photos.

Because Liza is an amazing leaper.

Because jumping pictures never get old.

Because they were always willing to help.

Because deserts and active volcanoes blow my mind.

Because lunch came with a view.

Because reflection is found in so many places and forms.

Because vicuñas are probably my favorite animal.

Because flamingos live at 16,000 feet.

Because the colors of these mountains are other-worldly.

Because the altiplano sky really is that big.

Because a new band has just been born, and this will be its album cover.

Because we travel to where there be dragonz.

Because I am on this journey too.

Most photos and captions by the author. Additional photos provided by Marolyn Vidaurre de la Riva and Andy Coval.

Community Connection

Check out a trip-report of a incredible backpacking route in Bolivia, learn about the organization Sustainable Bolivia and read an interview with a photographer who specializes in Big Bolivian Sunsets.

If you’re jealous of Helen’s job, check out employment opportunities with the educational youth travel organization Where There Be Dragons.

To further stoke your wanderlust, read the full description of the Dragons 6-week Bolivia summer program.

View 40 comments