In 2014, I packed my bags and left my Manhattan apartment for Peru. I lived there for a year and it was one of the most important experiences of my life. I met so many amazing people who led their own Divergent Paths as well. I wrote The Cage: Escaping the American Dream about my eye-opening time living in Peru and becoming a professional MMA fighter. Because Peru always holds such a special place in my heart, I have had many guests on the podcast to speak about the country.
Alejandra Arias Stella is the co-founder of the Llama Pack Project which works with indigenous communities in the Urubamba Mountains near Cusco, Peru. They help train locals how to breed and use their llamas for the tourism industry. Their aims are to help the local communities and provide a more eco-friendly and sustainable form of tourism.
Kim Macquarrie wrote the book about Peru, literally. His book The Last Days of the Incas is the definitive book about the Incan Empire and the Spanish Conquest of Peru. Kim lived in Peru for four years in the 1980s, an experience he writes about in Life and Death in the Andes. Kim got the chance to interview members of the Shining Path in prisons which were run by the inmates themselves. He spent time living with a recently contacted tribe in the Amazon. In his books, he writes about everything from the history of Machu Picchu to the boatmen of Lake Titicaca.
Ted Alexander has lived in Peru for 20 years up in the Andes Mountains in the city of Huaraz. Ted was a hiking guide and even founded an adventure trekking company called Skyline Adventures. Then he founded a brewery called Sierra Andina which has become one of the biggest craft breweries in Peru. In this episode, he offers many insights into life high in the Peruvian Andes.
Paul Rosolie is an adventurer, author, and conservationist. For years, he lived and worked at a research station deep in the Peruvian Amazon, an experience he wrote about in his incredible book Mother of God. Paul writes about his adventures wrangling anacondas and caiman like its nothing. Paul founded a company Tamandua Expeditions which guides tours of the Peruvian Amazon and he also founded JungleKeepers to support local conservation efforts.
Cristian Vélez works at the Amazon Rescue Center in Iquitos, Peru, where he rescues and rehabilitates baby Amazon River manatees. Many people try to keep them as pets and they don’t survive so the rescue center raises them until they are able to survive in the wild. At the rescue center, Cristian guides groups to see the manatees and learn about their conservation.
Claudio Puelles is a Peruvian MMA fighter who has reached the heights of the sport and now fights in the UFC. He was a finalist on the UFC’s reality show The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America. Claudio and I were old teammates and he taught me so much about Peru and the sport of MMA.
Dan Cleland founded the Ayahuasca Adventure Center in the Amazon jungle outside of Iquitos, Peru. He has worked for many years with plant medicine and lived in Iquitos. He also worked as a tour guide around South America and has lived a super adventurous life. Dan wrote a book called Pulse of the Jungle about his experiences as an entrepreneur and working with plant medicine in the Peruvian Amazon.
Ben Reiter is an amazing human being. Ben first moved to Peru to volunteer in a small village outside Arequipa. Soon after, he launched a career as a professional MMA fighter and became a famous fighter in Peru. Eventually he fought in Bellator, one of the world’s largest MMA organizations. Ben lived in Peru for many years and has a Peruvian wife. He in constantly focused on his charitable initiatives and helping others. Ben was a central figure in my move to Peru and you can read all about him in my book.