After trying traditional methods to cope with his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Army veteran J.T. Ibanez opted to try an unconventional way to heal by buying his first camera in July 2014. He figured the camera would motivate him to get out of his comfort zone.

And he was right: The St. Louis native started to feel the positive effects of using his camera (similarly to veterans with PTSD who find healing through animal therapy).

He then decided to bring his camera along for a life-changing trip through national parks across the country. That’s when he really found the peace he hadn’t felt since his teen years.

“Using the national parks as a method to combat my symptoms really came about while I was researching what other veterans were doing to help themselves outside of traditional methods,” he told LittleThings. “I know for me growing up some of my happiest memories involved being outside in the great unknown — fishing, hiking, and camping. I know those are all things I was looking forward to experiencing again.”

Ibanez, who served four years in the Army and did a tour in Iraq, traveled through 12 of these parks capturing the beauty of each one. The experience helped ease the anxiety and stress that he often feels because of his PTSD.

“For me it was about not having to overthink my surroundings and being able to enjoy moments, which is something that doesn’t come easy to me,” he said. “Looking forward I’m trying to make a conscious effort to take at least one trip a year, even if only to one park. I think my recent experience has made me realize how important it is to maintain that connection with nature whenever possible in order to have a balanced life.”

Ibanez’s journey also led to “A Veteran and his Camera,” a special video in partnership with the Find Your Park initiative and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hitRECord.