I live in the Southeast, which I'm mostly convinced is the Promised Land. We have year-round whitewater, epic bike riding, and amazing mountain views. Every winter while other kayakers flocked to Chile, Peru and New Zealand, I stayed at home, content with my local creeks. It was hard to justify spending money and risking bot flies when you have amazing water in your backyard. Last winter, however, I got to spend several weeks kayaking in Costa Rica and Ecuador, and the experience I had there has me pumped to once again explore from my boat this winter. Here are some of the factors motivating me to once again start budgeting and researching airplane cargo rules.

Photo by Ben David Jacob

Photo by Ben David Jacob

Confidence building. Learning new rivers, traveling alone internationally, or punching giant holes, which are, unlike the SE, the norm in Ecuador, give you a confidence rush similar to your first combat roll.

It's CHEAP. Especially if you travel to South America to kayak. The biggest expense you'll have is your plane ticket, and perhaps all the souvenirs you end up buying because they're so affordable.

The whitewater is amazing. The quality of whitewater in other countries is just as amazing as ours. Whether you're looking for Class III or to step up from Class IV, there's plenty variety and options.

You'll meet new people. All kinds of people from various backgrounds travel in the winter to kayak. When everyone returns home, you'll have new friends all over the country to visit.

Learn about a new culture by immersing yourself in it. Photo by Ben David Jacob

Learn about a new culture by immersing yourself in it. Photo by Ben David Jacob

It's educational. Traveling to a foreign country will inspire you to learn a new language, or expose you to environmental issues you were unaware of. You'll learn about different cultures and history in the best way possible: by experiencing them!

You'll gain new perspectives. Traveling internationally will cause you to re-evaluate things you took for granted at home. Trying to learn how to direct a taxi driver back to your hostel in a country with hardly any road signs in a new language will make you more than grateful for your cozy car and readable road signs back home.

Why the heck not?! It's just like the annoying phrase YOLO, why not go travel for a few weeks this winter?

Challenge yourself on new runs. Photo by Ben David Jacob

Challenge yourself on new runs. Photo by Ben David Jacob

A few more tips:

Spending holidays in another country kayaking can be a really interesting experience, as you learn firsthand how other countries celebrate. Look at each country's national holidays when you're planning a trip.

When planning to travel abroad, remember to check cargo rules. Some countries, like Ecuador, have embargo rules certain times of the year where they limit the weight of cargo you can bring into the country. Nothing is worse than ending up in a foreign country without the boat you planned to bring.

See you in South America this winter!

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