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Trip Leaders


Ian Zatarain


Trip Leader 

WFA & WFR Instructor


Founder of The Mojave Center : Environmental Educational center


Wilderness First Responder


Outdoor Educator

(The Athenian School & Chadwick International School)

6-12th Grade Social Studies Teacher 

Leave No Trace Trainer

Permaculture Designer

B.S. Tourism and Outdoor Leadership (International Ecotourism)

A.A. Cultural Anthropology/Archaeology

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Ian discovered a love for travel and cultural anthropology while studying at Foothill College. At the age of 18, he participated in an archaeology field study in Belize where students were immersed in the local culture and buried ruins of the ancient Maya civilization. After the trip, Ian had further interests to pursue a life of authentic experience and adventure which led him to Oregon State University in Bend, Oregon. During his time in university, he studied how to be a professional trip leader in the U.S. and abroad. While living in Central Oregon, he continued to develop a passion for backcountry backpacking, rock climbing, trail-running, and ski mountaineering/snowboarding. 

Currently, Ian works as an Outdoor Educator in California and Korea for the Athenian School, Chadwick International and the Crossroads School of Arts and Science. Within these programs, students have the opportunity to learn how to rock climb and backpack for up to 26 days while living in nature. As well, Ian teaches wilderness medicine on the western coast of the U.S. to help students gain valuable emergency first aid skills. After working professionally for eight years, he found himself exploring South America and Southeast Asia living with indigenous communities, contributing to sustainable agricultural projects and discovering rock-climbing areas. He has worked extensively with eco-friendly climbing resorts and seed-saving centers in Thailand and Colombia to spread sustainable agriculture and ecotourism. 

In 2019, Guardian Cultural Expeditions and Wilderness Medicine launched after seven years of research and planning. Ian strives to offer transformative travel experiences to the general public while imparting hands-on first aid knowledge.


Nicolette Wagner

Marketing + Photography

Trip Leader

Founder of The .RAW Collection

B.A in Drafting & Design

Founder of The Mojave Center : Environmental Educational Center

Through storytelling and photo journalism, Nicolette discovered her purpose & desire to travel, experience, document and share. Originally from the midwest, home grown in Nebraska, Nicolette quickly got the travel itch to experience life outside of the US. She headed out on a 6 month backpacking trip spending time in the Pacific Islands, Asia & Europe. Two of those months were spent on the Big Island of Hawaii gaining permaculture experience while working on a banana, avocado & coffee farm. 

Prior to traveling abroad, Nicolette picked up a camera to document her travels and began to discover a passion buried deep within. With a Bachelors of Science in Design from the college of Architecture & Interior Design of UNL she had a creative & visual side already programmed inside but wasn’t sure how to express or utilize those abilities to their fullest potential nor how to blend the love of travel and outdoor connection. When she came back from her 6 month stint, Nicolette started a photography business that was just rebranded to “the .RAW Collection” that focuses on adventure & experiential sessions capturing raw emotion & storytelling. Most of what she shoots are destination elopements, families, adventure sessions, outdoor product photography, photo storytelling for non profits  + so much more. Her jobs take her to some of the most beautiful places and allow her to meet and experience incredible people along the way. Within the last year she’s gotten to document; a children’s home story in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, plan and photograph elopements across the US & Europe & now down to Colombia with the Guardians team.  

Upon coming back to the states Nicolette & her partner John still craved the nomad life. Together last year they built out a converted 1988 ford van into their full time totally off grid home where they are currently residing in the state of Arizona has a home base with plans to continue move throughout the states. 

Crossing off large goals & shooting for big dreams aren’t a foreign concept to Nicolette. This year especially she’s delving deep and beginning to knock off some things on the list. The summer holds plans of heading back to Hawaii to further her permaculture knowledge as well as taking up another course in the fall down in South America prior to the next Guardians trip. Further down the road, she has high hopes to own and maintain a fully off grid sustainable farm in a jungle paradise. She has goals to continue to grow her photo journalism exposure of gathering knowledge & sharing stories from cultures and peoples she comes in contact with throughout her travels. A documentary is definitely somewhere in that list as well! 

Through own travels, Nicolette knows first hand how important & impactful immersing yourself in cultural experiences can be and how they can shape and mold an individual. With a full heart, she is so grateful to be a part of the Guardians team. 

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