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A bucket list life

January 13, 2020

From the Fall 2019 Penn Law Journal

How many people do you know who break their necks traveling through the Bermuda Triangle on a photography assignment? That’s what happened to Sivani Babu L’10, who left her job as a public defender to travel the world … and get paid for it.

As career changes go, hers was a doozy. Sivani Babu L’10 went from advocating for indigents to becoming a champion for the conservation of the night sky. It has been quite a career journey for Babu, a former federal prosecutor in Texas who returned to her native California to co-found Hidden Compass, a digital travel magazine and worldwide community of journalists, writers and artists that promotes the power of exploration and storytelling. She herself is an award-winning nature photographer and writer, who literally puts her neck on the line, most recently while sailing through the Bermuda Triangle during the height of a lightning storm. Babu suffered a broken neck and concussion when a crewmate fell and landed on her head and neck. A contributor to BBC Travel, AFAR and Backpacker, as well as a host of other magazines, Babu has also chased storms through Tornado Alley and searched for polar bears in the Arctic Circle—all for the sake of art and adventure. Her work has been displayed in exhibitions from the Sorbonne to San Diego. Her courtroom days ended after a sailing expedition to Antarctica in 2014. The blog she started to chronicle that adventure gained notice, leading to her first published piece in a small photography magazine. She decided to seize the opportunity to become a writer and photographer. More than five years later, Babu is working on her first book, Saving the Night: Shedding Light on the Importance of Darkness, which she describes as a rescue mission to save starlight. By her account, studies estimate that 80 percent of North Americans cannot see the core of the Milky Way at night, and scientists estimate that by 2025 virtually nobody in the continental United States will be able to clearly see with the naked eye the core of our galaxy. The book will discuss the science and philosophy of dark sky conservation as well as share her travels chasing and capturing the darkest night skies across the planet.

“I loved being a lawyer and happily saw myself being one for the rest of my life, but I also had this draw to photography and travel.”

Hidden Compass