In 2007, when I became a member of Couchsurfing in Groningen (NL), I met a bunch of very nice, friendly, interesting and welcoming people. Jörgen van der Pol (Kayak Cobber) was one of them. We met often for meetings and shared really nice and open conversations. And, of course, we were also Couchsurfing, as hosts, as travelers and as hosts of gatherings.
Now, in 2019, I had the big pleasure to interview Jörgen van der Pol. The reason for this talk was just very simple: In 2017 Jörgen walked all alone from Flensburg (Germany), through Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithunia, Poland and Germany and then back to Groningen (NL) in ten and a half months. While he did this amazing trip I followed him on Facebook and could witness his restless walk from time to time.
Jörgen was born with the EEC syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder. Among other various problems, this implies a cleft lip and palate, abnormalities of hair, skin, eyes and hands. From his childhood on he has been ongoing treated for this syndrome, also with various operations. Doctors told him years ago, the chance to loose his eyesight forever is very big. Beside dealing with this huge health impact, Jörgen always was traveling a lot in his life. He lived in Asia for years, started to discover his love to kayaking and towards traveling big distances.
In 2008 he was paddling 2.200 miles (4.000 kilometers) for “Smiles For Moldova”, a kayak trek to draw attention to set up a Dental Surgery and Special Dentistry Surgery in Moldova. In 2016 he walked from the south side of Portugal to Holland, 3.500 kilometers with a walking cart. Due to serious districtions in his daily life he is forced to walk only in his own speed and to adapt his planning day by day to his physical condition. His eyes are effected and very often he has only partial eyesight, which then forces him to rest for a period of time. In this interview I had with Jörgen, he explained how it was and is possible for him, to walk such big distances all alone, to even sleep and stay during the nights outside in the wild, confronted with extreme low and high temperatures. He told me, how the Wim Hof method (WHM) helps him to deal with these really challenging circumstances and why he still feels comfortable leaving his comfort zone day by day.
Just right now, Jörgen is walking in the Ukraine for another 4 months long ongoing adventure. If you are interested to follow his walk, just write him on his facebook account “Kayak Cobber”! Please enjoy our very special talk! With many thanks to Jörgen van der Pol (Kayak Cobber) and the “Smiles for Moldova” Foundation and Dr. Rob van Oort/University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG), Netherlands.
Cover picture by Jörgen van der Pol.