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Featured Traveler: Kayaker Casper Van Kalmthout

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Casper Van Kalmthout travels for a reason: to find the best white water. He started kayaking when he was 10, in the Netherlands—not exactly a place for raging rapids, so he busted out. Now a professional kayaker, he’s traveled to New Zealand, Australia, South America, California, Canada, Uganda, China, and many more countries.

casper van kalmthout agua azul

See all of Casper’s Highlights.

Right now I’m in Eindhoven, Netherlands, at the office of my paddle sponsor Double Dutch.

Though I would much prefer to be in the granite highlands of California doing some overnighter kayaking trips.

Occupation: Professional kayaker

My next trip is to Sort, Spain, a perfect combination between tapas, cervezas and white water. I used to work there in the summers but never had the chance to go there with high water levels. But this year the water levels remain high everywhere in Europe, so I finally get the chance to dive deep into the Pyrenees and run some of the beautiful rivers they have there.

My last trip took me to Chiapas, Mexico, kayaking on the Agua Azul and the Santo Domingo, which is known as the steepest navigable run on earth. See the video of the trip below.

First international trip—when and where? Chile and Argentina. Me and a friend, both 18 years old, rented a car and drove all the way down from Santiago to the heart of Patagonia with our kayaks in the back to run as many rivers as we could.

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My most treasured travel souvenirs are my four broken front teeth from a trip to France this spring.

How has travel impacted your life? Traveling as a kayaker I’m always on a mission to discover the best places in the world to practice my sport. Being abroad for us doesn’t give the classic image of a sunny beach with a mojito bar three steps away. We live from river to river and are constantly searching for the right information, the right team and the right moment, also when I’m at home. My life is built around traveling.

Is there an experience that has specifically transformed your life? A near drowning when I was young made me realize the dangers of my sport and has probably saved my life many times after that.

Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met on a flight or while traveling? I sat next to a priest on a flight to Uganda. I have no religion and that’s how we started the conversation. We spoke for hours straight about our lives. The priest had seen a lot in the world and was an amazing storyteller. The time literally flied during that flight! At the end he gave me his e-mail address. Unfortunately I lost the paper.

Three things you can’t travel without. Passport, credit card and kayak.

If you’re driving into the mountains of western China along the border of Tibet, don’t miss the final ATM, because it might force you to drive back for 8 hours or borrow money from your translater.

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Where do you always take out-of-town friends? FAST surfdorp, the best place Scheveningen has to offer.

Best memory of a trip with kids—either from your own childhood or with your own kids: When I was 15 years old my parents took me to Australia to meet my dad’s family there. We were dead scared in the country with the most dangerous animals of this world. But then we met my little nieces , 4 and 6, who fearlessly ran through the bushes and grass on bare feet. That changed my mentality and made my stay much more comfortable during the whole trip.

Biggest travel mistake? Getting lost on Upper Cherry Creek in California 2012. We had to walk in with kayaks for 10 miles through the borders of Yosemite park. We ended up bushwalking for three days.

Favorite foreign word or phrase: heuvon (it’s the Chilean word for amigo!)

Favorite foreign tradition: I love the aperitifs and digestifs (the drinks you get before and after dinner) in France and the asados (grilled meat) in South America.

Travel has taught me all the stuff I didn’t learn at school and university.