A Wild Life with Justin Meneguzzi
Life has a funny way of panning out. I was coming towards the end of my final year studying a Law Masters in Melbourne when out of the blue I won $10,000 in travel vouchers from a 25-words-or-less-style competition run by Lonely Planet. Fast forward after a year of travel and I knew I wanted to be a travel journalist. I became addicted to the rush of being a fish out of water, alone in unfamiliar territory and forced to push past my comfort zone. I decided I wanted this to be my life.
But the best laid plans don’t always go smoothly, and I ended up training and practicing as an insurance lawyer for several years. When one of my best childhood friends died of brain cancer after a long battle, it made me realise life was far too short to spend in a suit. I took the plunge, quit my job, and somehow landed in a content creation role at a travel company.
That job is where I really honed my storytelling skills as a writer and photographer. I invested in my first proper Canon DSLR camera and took every opportunity that came my way to join professionals in the field, observe how they work and learn a few things. These people were warm, open-hearted, and so happy to answer my many annoying questions, and I owe them so much.
There was one assignment that would forever change the course of my career. I had the opportunity to join a photographic expedition around Svalbard, a remote archipelago in the High Arctic and the last landmass before the North Pole. One evening, while eating dinner, a polar bear unexpectedly approached the ship. I ran to the bow with my camera and fluked a spot sitting right on top of the bear. Looking down the lens, there was a moment where our eyes connected, which has stuck with me forever.
Seeing first-hand how these magnificent animals were threatened by climate change made me want to tell stories that matter. I felt compelled to try help others understand the risks facing our planet and what we can do to help. I also realised I had unique skillsets gained from my legal training that would allow me to tell stories in a different way.
Since then, I’ve had the immense honour of working with National Geographic to report on Australia’s destructive bushfires, new wildlife discoveries, and the illegal wildlife trade, which has been a dream come true.
The way I see it, it’s a real privilege to be able to travel and tell stories for a living, so I want to use that privilege to achieve something good. The most exciting bit is that you never know what is around the corner, or what stories you might stumble on in the field.