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Growing up in Lake Tahoe, Joel had the wilderness (quite literally) in his backyard. “Having the Sierra Nevada mountains as my playground taught me to cherish and care for the wild and natural places we all enjoy,” he says.

In 2008, Joel hiked the 215-mile-long John Muir Trail, which stretches from Yosemite Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney solo—and without a watch, compass or altimeter. Transformed by the experience, Joel gave up his 9-to-5 corporate job, sold his home and the bulk of his belongings, and squeezed what remained into a backpack. A few years later, after having his passport stamped in 22 countries, he found his true north on Maui.

Joel is clearly in his element when he’s leading a hike. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity to learn and teach at the same time,” he says. But the best part? “We start the day as total strangers, but end with a round of high-fives and a group hug.”

Guest quote: Joel knows so much about the plant life and the rainforest in general. He encouraged us to step out of our comfort zone while keeping us safe. We enjoyed the waterfalls, walking through the streams, and the photo ops.

a man wearing a hat