From living abroad for months on end to getting heavily discounted (and even fully-comped) travel opportunities, being an entrepreneur and tourism professional has granted me unparalleled access to iconic destinations that I could have only dreamed of visiting before starting my business.

This is part of a blog series that explores some of the bucket list experiences that I have enjoyed since starting my travel business. 

Want to turn your life into a series of incredible, bucket list experiences?

Apply to become a travel advisor today.

--

I didn't have any expectations going into Iguazu.

Yes, I know it was one of the new seven natural wonders of the world...

And that it was the largest waterfall system on the planet...

But still. 

It was just a waterfall to me.

The reason I had chosen to visit Iguazu was because it was a short flight from Florianopolis - where I was working remotely for the month - and I figured that visiting the falls would be a great way to set foot into Argentina, the 20th country I had visited outside of the US.

Little to did I know how much of an impression these falls would make...

IMG_7768.jpg

The sky was on fire as we descended into Foz do Iguaçu international airport.

Our flight had been delayed and re-routed through Sao Paulo and then Curitiba, causing us to lose half of day of an already short, weekend trip.

To make the most of the 30 or so hours we had left in the area, we enlisted the help of a local guide, André, who picked us up bright and early the next morning.

As if we hadn’t lost enough time already, the day started with us waiting at the Brazil-Argentina border while André sorted out the border crossing.

Everyone we spoke to kept commenting that the Argentina side was the best side... the only side with the actual falls... well-worth the wait to cross the border.

After about 45 minutes, I was starting to have my doubts, but André suddenly re-appeared with our freshly stamped passports in hand.

"Did they tell you that Argentina was the best side?" Andre asked with an inquisitive smile on his face.

We confirmed they did.

"We will see," he said smiling and then turned to the driver. "Vamos!"

We cleared the border crossing station, passing over the Iguazu river where André pointed out Paraguay in the distance, before we turned into the national park gates.

Immediately, I felt like I was entering Jurassic Park.

Wonder and anticipation begin to build up inside of me, as André explained that the park was home to over 3,000 species of plants and dozens of (mostly) nocturnal animals, including bats, rodents, coati, and jaguars, sitting at the top of the food chain.

Our first excursion of the day was a boat ride to see the falls from below.

We strapped on life jackets and received a very brief safety instruction - strictly in Spanish - before climbing into an inflatable motor boat that sat about 40 passengers.

I intentionally chose to sit in the first row, having overheard that the front of the boat would going into the actual falls.

How this glorified raft with an inboard engine was going to handle these roaring rapids was a mystery to me, but I was must say, I impressed by how smoothly we cruised upstream against the raging current.

Still, I wasn't convinced that we were any match to the mighty power of these falls.

As if the captain felt the need to test my theory further, the guide then directed everyone - again in Spanish - to put our cameras and phones into the water proof bags provided.

We were going in for a closer look!

With the electronics safely stored away, the captain proceeded to steer the boat directly into the mouth of a small, nearby waterfall.

We all roared with laughter as the entire boat got soaking wet.

The captain then turned the boat to about face and headed toward a much larger, more powerful waterfall.

As we inched closer and closer, the fear of impending death rose up in my chest.

I remembered a moment earlier that morning when one of my buddies traveling with me - one who had opted out of the boat tour - had pointed out a specific location on the park map and stated that's where I was going to die.

It just so happened, we were right around that very area.

"Why did I choose the front seat!?" I asked my adventure-seeking, former self.

I was equal parts terrified and thrilled. 

Glancing around quickly, I decided exactly where I would swim when the boat most assuredly capsized, and then fired off a quick prayer before closing my eyes as the water came pounding down.

Everything was a blur of white water and screams.

Then suddenly, darkness.

Life stood still.

It couldn't have been more than a second or two, but it felt like eternity.

Then slowly, light started to re-appear...

The intensity of the falling water lessened into a cool mist...

And I realized that the boat was reversing out of the mouth of the mighty falls.

We had survived!

I was filled with adrenaline and relief; immediately reminded that it's moments like this that I live for...

And that wouldn't be the last time that i thought I was going to die on this trip.

Back of dry land, we met up with André and started to hike along the upper trial to the mighty mouth of the largest falls - the Devil's Throat - which were too powerful to traverse by boat.

It was a beautiful day for a hike and everywhere we turned, butterflies surrounded us.

"It's their mating season," André explained.

After an hour or so of hiking and waterfall selfies, our group piled into an open-air train to make it the final stretch the Devil's Throat.

André explained that the [ EXPLANATION FOR THE NAME OF THE FALLS ]

...

The Argentines were right. 

There was no way this side could be topped by the Brazilian side, which didn't even have the falls.

I had never witnessed anything so powerful and stood in awe while thousands of gallons of water careened over the edge of the falls and into the explosion of white water below.

IMG_8347.jpg

The next morning, we were able to sleep in an extra hour, not having to take the extra time to cross over into Argentina.

Today was the day we were to explore the Brazil side of the falls.

Again, my expectations were low.

There was no way that they were going to top the awesome power of what I had witnessed yesterday.

Argentina had the mighty falls and the Devil's Throat.

All that Brazil has was the view.

We started the day in front of the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, the only hotel inside Brazil’s Iguacu National Park.

As we wound our way along the river, we again snapped selfies and videos while dodging the mischief coati, who were all too eager to climb into our bags.

And along the route, I noticed a plague with a verse from Psalm 93, bolted into the mountainside.

I snapped a picture and caught up to our group, who were now approaching a steep set of stairs.

We carefully climbed down the damp stairs, which covered by a heavy brush through which I could not see beyond.

As we descended down the stairs, the cool mist of the falls kissed my face.

We then reached below the brush line and a mass of people ahead became clear, appearing to gather around this specific area, in a pilgrimage of sorts.

They were walking along a large platform that jutted out in front of the mightly falls, now clearly visible across the river, where the Argentine flag proudly soared.

And suddenly, I stepped out from under the tree and onto the platform myself, something came over me.

At first I didn't know what exactly it was...

Perhaps it was the cooling mist, I rationalized...

And as I walked closer, it grew stronger.

I paused, disregarding the urge to pull out my camera at the selfie-rich opportunity, to completely became one with the present moment.

A deep sense of peace came over me...

And in that moment of peace and wonder, the presence of God was not only palpable, it was plainly visible in the omnipresent rainbow, which shown brightly every which way I turned.

The Argentine side awed my senses, but the Brazilian side touched the depths of my spirit.

And the experience from the day prior paled in comparison.

I believe my travel comparisons shared my awe, because we all sat in silence, deep in reflection, as our guide drove us one of the park and onto our final destination of the whirlwind trip.

A breathtaking helicopter tour, perfectly timed by our guide that would get us to the airport with an hour spare before our flight home.

Again I felt that I may not make it out alive, as the helicopter rattled violently in the wind, over nothing but 67,000 hectares of national park.

But this time, I had no fear.

I was in too much awe.

--

From living abroad for months on end to getting heavily discounted (and even fully-comped) travel opportunities, being an entrepreneur and tourism professional has granted me unparalleled access to iconic destinations that I could have only dreamed of visiting before starting my business.

This is part of a blog series that explores some of the bucket list experiences that I have enjoyed since starting my travel business.

Want to turn your life into a series of incredible, bucket list experiences?

Apply to become a travel advisor today.