Why You Should Take an International Paddling Trip


paddle ecuador
One of the beautiful put ins of the Quijos River

A really smart woman once told me I didn’t need a drysuit when I could just boat where it’s warm enough not to wear one. Inspired by this approach to winter boating, I booked my first international kayaking trip to Mexico and have been traveling ever since. Although it’s not quite drysuit season yet and the warm weather has me wondering if I’m ever going to need my drysuit again, fall is always a time when I start dreaming about my next big adventure, preferably to a more tropical location. You don’t have to be an expert boater to enjoy kayaking in another country, and you don’t have to spend the whole winter in the southern hemisphere either (although that would be nice). There are many options for international trips to suit the budgets and time constraints of most paddlers. That being said, here are my top three reasons you should take the plunge, make the arrangements and take your paddling global.

Improve your Skills and Confidence

jill wrenn kayaking ecuador mind body paddlePaddling in a new environment is great for improving both your skills and your confidence. On an international trip, the rivers will be quite different from what you’re used to, and you’ll paddle more days in a row than you normally might at home. There is no substitute for time in the boat when it comes to increasing your skills, and gaining experience reading different types of whitewater and interacting with unfamiliar river features will boost your confidence to try new things. I always return home feeling energized and ready to step up my paddling game.

international paddling
Visiting Boudhanath in Kathmandu


Lifelong Friendships

International paddling trips will introduce you to people you would have never met otherwise, and you have the opportunity to make lifelong friendships. While you can book a custom trip to the destination of your choice with your local paddling buddies, getting schedules and budgets to match up to allow for a week-long paddling vacation doesn’t always work out. Booking a guided trip that is appropriate for your skill level will introduce you to paddlers from all over America and even the world. The women I have met through international Girls at Play trips are now lifelong friends that I continue to travel and paddle with. We’ve traveled across the country to paddle each other’s favorite runs in our home states, and we’ve even done our own multi-day trip on the Rogue River in Oregon.

Experience a Different Culture

paddle ecuador anna levesque kayak instructor man weavingPerhaps my favorite thing about international paddling trips is experiencing another culture. In Mexico, we stayed in a small town on the Antigua river and got to know the locals. We bought smoothies from the juice ladies, went salsa dancing at the town tequila bar, and bought jewelry from the local artists. Traveling to Nepal exposed me to the bustling chaos of Kathmandu and the quiet of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery before allowing me to spend nine days paddling and sleeping next to the Sun Kosi river. During the day, we would look upstream and see the Himalayas in the distance, and at camp the local villagers would often stop by for a visit and to try out our kayaks. My most recent trip to Ecuador allowed me to take in the architecture and history of Quito and see snow-capped volcanos, all while getting to experience incredible whitewater. And you really can’t beat the jungle lodge in Tena with its monkey concierge.

What are you waiting for? International kayaking trips can increase your paddling skills, expand your circle of friends, and introduce you to life-changing experiences all while liberating you from your drysuit for at least a week. I am already dreaming about warm days, warm water, and the excitement of experiencing a new country. Consider joining Anna and Juliet in Ecuador this winter. You won’t be sorry you did! For more information about paddling in Ecuador, click here.