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Our newest Protector Ambassador, Derek Klopfenstein, has a passion for travel that’s matched only by his sense of adventure. Whether he’s in France, Vietnam or somewhere in between, he’s continually inspired by the beauty in nature, desiring to see as much of it as he can. Learn more about his itch to experience new places:
BP: When did you begin traveling, and why is it an important part of your life?
DK: My love for travel began in college when I was able to study abroad in Wales for a fall semester, and I got to visit many countries during that time. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated with different cultures, and I love the history that some of these places possess.
BP: What are some of the places you’ve traveled? What’s been your favorite and why?
DK: So far I’ve been to Europe twice, hitting Paris, Amsterdam, Athens, Munich, London, Geneva, Rome, Florence and Venice. I’ve also hit Vietnam in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Canada, Hawaii and several other cities in the U.S. My favorite place is a toss-up between Ha-Long Bay, Vietnam and Florence, Italy. Ha-Long Bay was stunning watching all of these small towering islands emerge from the water. The green jungle and blue skies really made me feel like I was in another world. My Florence experience can be summed up in four parts: gelato, wine, an awesome night in a piazza listening to a four-man stringed quartet and gelato.
BP: What’s something you can’t travel without?
DK: A camera, music and a good book, the latter two of which are great for passing time in planes and trains.
BP: Do you prefer to walk, take public transport or private transport?
DK: I’m all about walking if it’s feasible. It may take longer, but there’s so much more to see and experience if you have the time. However, if a city is real large and you are short on time, there is something to be said about living it like a local and experiencing the public transport.
BP: Do you recommend a strict schedule or going with the flow?
DK: For me it’s twofold. I like to be strict with my planes, trains and lodging. Plan your route, how many days you will spend in each spot and how you will get to each destination. Once at each location, I’m pretty go-with-the-flow. I’ll generally make a list of things that I’d like to see, and then it can depend on the weather or how close one stop is to another as to how I work in what to do each day.
BP: How do you choose where to eat when traveling?
DK: My first rule of thumb is to avoid any American chain. Part of the fun of traveling is experiencing the different cuisine. I also try to avoid places on the front lines of popular tourist stops. The food may sound authentic, but I think you find better stuff off the beaten path. If you are staying in an Airbnb, ask your host. Most of the time they have great local options that might be off the tourist path. Occasionally I will read travel blogs for some cities, but most of the time I stop at places I find while wandering.
BP: How do you document your trips?
DK: I try to take a lot of photos and videos to remember places. After some of my larger trips, I’ve made Shutterfly books or I upload albums to Facebook. I’ve got some hard copy albums from when I studied abroad as well.
BP: What trips do you have planned in the future?
DK: Right now I have a week trip booked to South Africa this fall where I’ll be diving with sharks and taking a balloon ride safari to see the animals from above. I’m also in the early stages of planning a trip to Australia for January 2019.
BP: What destination is at the top of your bucket list?
DK: The top three that are next on my radar are Peru (to hike to Machu Picchu), Costa Rica and Thailand.
BP: What’s your top travel tip?
DK: Explore, explore, explore. I’ve been on some group trips where some individuals have wanted to nap upon arriving at a place, and unless that nap is on a beach or in a park, then I’m not about that. You can rest and relax when you get home, so I am all about maximizing your time. Other tips: Be flexible with your time. Not everything has to be scheduled and you have to be able to go with the flow, as some things are out of your control. Also, make an attempt to use the language of where you are and smile. No one likes an angry American trying to shove English in someone’s face. So along with that, show respect for the cultures you are visiting.
Is your story similar to Derek’s? If you’re passionate about the outdoors, love our products and have an interest in becoming a Protector Ambassador, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.