Archive for May, 2015

Hostelling International Explore America Hostel Scholarship

Hostelling International Explore America Hostel Scholarship

Hostelling International is offering scholarships for residents of Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and Chicago to help make their dream trip in America a reality. Scholarship winners will receive vouchers for 75% discounts redeemable at HI USA hostels. To be considered for the scholarship, candidates must:

   • Be between 18 and 30 years of age
   • Be a permanent, legal resident of the United States
   • Live in one of these metropolitan areas:
      • Austin
      • Dallas/Fort Worth
      • Houston
      • Chicago
   • Have a strong desire and motivation to experience other people and cultures
   • Plan to take your trip to an American destination within the next six months

In return, you’ll agree to:

   • Tag posts and photos about your travel experience at least three times
      with #explorethe world and @hiusa
   • Participate in at least one in-house hostel activity in order to meet other travelers
      and to experience the culture of hostelling
   • Participate in at least one activity that the hostel hosts in the local community
      (for example, a walking tour or a museum tour) in order to learn about
      the local community and meet other travelers
   • Complete a short post-travel report on your travel experience and submit at least
      three additional photos that can be shared in the HI USA newsletters, website,
      and social media.

The deadline to apply is rolling, so applications will be reviewed throughout the year.
Apply Here.

For more details visit the Hostelling International USA site.

Hostelling International’s Women Traveling Solo at Southlake

Hostelling International’s Women Traveling Solo at Southlake

Thursday May 28th at 6:30 pm – Southlake

No travel partner? Don’t let that hold you back! Traveling alone as a woman can be a powerful, emboldening experience. However, safety is a consideration Coleen Barry of Hostelling International USA will address this and other issues in Women Traveling Solo on Thursday evening, May 28th, at 6:30 pm at our Southlake store.

You want your trip to be memorable for all the right reasons. That takes some pre-trip planning, preparation and luck. And luck, as they say, favors the prepared. Coleen will help you learn how to plan, prepare, pack and travel smart. Please bring your questions about solo travel, foreign and domestic, for our Coleen.

Coleen Barry has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia. She usually travels solo, but occasionally acquires travel companions along the way. She likes to alternate her time between traveling from place to place with stops devoted to volunteering and taking part in work exchanges. She is now a freelance copywriter and hopes to one day engage in full-time sustainable travel.

Hostelling International USA was founded in 1934. Today it is a part of a network of over 50 quality hostel facilities across the United States (including Austin and Houston) and is affiliated with an international network of over 4000 hostels in 60 countries.

Please join us on Thursday evening and take the first step toward the journey of a lifetime.

PESH – Organizing an expedition to Sistema Huautla

PESH  - Organizing an expedition to Sistema Huautla

This is the third in our series of posts following the 2015 PESH Expedition to Sistema Huautla.
Read the first post here, or the second one here.

Whole Earth Provision Co. is a proud supporter of Proyecto Espeleológico Sistema Huautla or PESH for their 2015 expedition to explore the deepest cave in the Western Hemisphere – Sistema Huautla.

What if you were suddenly tasked with the responsibility of organizing a six week-long expedition to the mountains of Mexico where you would be exploring one of the world’s largest cave systems with a team of experts from around the world? Where would you begin?

It’s a massive undertaking that requires at the very least, a clear set of goals to accomplish; fundraising; skillful assessment of potential team members; setting technical standards for performance; negotiating with local officials, finding food and shelter for a shifting cast of participants and moving gear and equipment across an international border. In other words, it’s a huge organizational challenge requiring attention to a host of details, some of which may be a matter of life or death.

This gives you a rough idea of the tasks confronting Bill Steele and Tommy Shifflett, co-leaders of Proyecto Espeleológico de Sistema Huautla (PESH) as they plan an expedition to survey the deepest known cavern in the Western Hemisphere.

So where does it all begin? For many participants, the first steps towards Huautla are taken at the National Speleological Society Convention. A session devoted to the latest discoveries at Huautla usually results in a list of cavers who are interested in being a part of the following year’s expedition. Their names are entered onto a list and, in late summer, the call goes out to see if they are still interested and asking for descriptions of their previous experience and caving skills. Those who are chosen join other members of the team which include scientists, graduate students, support staff, and members of previous expeditions who return to Huautla year after year.

Group photo of the PESH cavers present on the surface with the Explorers Club flag on April 17, 2015  Victor Ursu photo

Group photo of the PESH cavers present on the surface with the Explorers Club flag on April 17, 2015 ~ photo by Victor Ursu

Based on the previous year’s expedition, a new set of objectives is drawn up. These are quite specific, for example, “Bolt climb in Bazofina Cave – good air flow, one drop in from the surface, on the slope above a major sinkhole valley which should possibly lead to the system deep below.” The objectives will also include the work of any scientists who are studying Sistema Huautla’s hydrology, geology, biology, paleontology and archaeology. Refining the maps and searching for new entrances to the Sistema are also recurring objectives.

Each expedition is built upon the knowledge of previous years. Guidelines are created that list preferred methods of rigging, climbing and moving safely through the caves, including vertical work. Caving techniques vary from country to country and so it is very important that all the members of an international team share common methods and expectations for the safety of all. The reservoir of past experience is also important for sustaining good relationships with local government officials and the Mazateca people. The caves of Sistema Huautla are sacred to the Mazateca, and it has taken many years for a cordial understanding to develop between the explorers and those who depend on the caves for rainfall and contact with the spirits of their ancestors.

Good relationships with government officials in Oaxaca continue to be very important for the expedition as well. In the early days language was a major problem. Negotiations would take place in three languages: Mazateca, Spanish and English. Permission to enter and work in Sistema Huautla is now granted at the local level where the team members are issued cave inspector photo IDs. With the IDs local people are able to recognize that PESH has official permission to be there. Local pride is growing around Sistema Huautla. This year PESH presented a display to the municipal building in Huautla de Jimenez describing the discoveries and including a “Varro Book” – a robust, U.S. National Park Service visitor’s center quality interpretive flip-book – displaying 16 pages of images of Sistema Huautla. The idea is to present sort of a “slide show” of the Huautla caving experience.

Part of the PESH display for the Municipal Building in Huautla de Jimenez

Part of the PESH display for the Municipal Building in Huautla de Jimenez

Fundraising is another important facet in making an expedition a reality. Grants are applied for and donations of money and gear are actively sought. PESH is a non-profit and part of the U.S. Deep Caving Team. Carrying the Explorers Club flag 209 is an aid to fundraising. It’s a testament to the level of professional expertise and achievement demonstrated by PESH. Longtime supporters like PMI – Pigeon Mountain Industries have provided generous donations of rope for many years. Some companies offer pro deals for the purchase of needed equipment. The Collin Street Bakery provisioned this year’s expedition with coffee. Whole Earth has been a contributor over the years as well. In 2015, we sent GoPro Cameras, PESH t-shirts for the team and for giveaways as well as gifts for Mazateca children.

The expedition officially begins when the trucks bearing gear and supplies head to Mexico from Texas. A fieldhouse, which serves as the above-ground center of operations and the community kitchen, and several houses, for sleeping, are rented and prepared for occupancy. The arrival of participants is staggered according to their particular tasks within the expedition.

Dinnertime at the Field House

Dinnertime at the Field House ~ photo by Dave Bunnell

Early arrivals begin rigging the caves and moving supplies into place. At the fieldhouse, team members are expected to help with chores like fetching and treating water, chopping vegetables, and washing dishes as well as cleaning gear, loading and unloading vehicles and generally making themselves useful without being asked. Each caving week has its own goals that are often dependent on the accomplishments or challenges of the previous week. The last week is devoted to wrapping up surveys, cleaning up cave campsites, removing supplies and gear, and derigging.

Once home, reports are written and the whole process begins once again at the National Speleological Society Convention. If you’d like to read more about Huautla and some of the expeditions of previous years we suggest:

• Huautla – Thirty Years in One of the World’s Deepest Caves by C. William Steele

• Beyond the Deep – The Deadly Descent into the World’s Most Treacherous Cave by William Stone and Barbara Ende

• The PESH website

• The PESH Facebook page

This is the third in our series of posts following the 2015 PESH Expedition to Sistema Huautla.
Read the first post here, or the second one here.

Donations accepted for relief and recovery in Nepal

Nepal Fund Drive

The devastating earthquake in Nepal has left terrible suffering in its wake. Thousands of lives were lost, and the numbers of those injured and left homeless has yet to be fully determined. As of April 30th, the death toll is over 5,000, the number of injured tops 10,000 and 34,000 people are living in camps. Hundreds of thousands have been left without adequate food and medical care. Nepal is culturally rich but hard-pressed to cope with the level of physical destruction brought on by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake. The difficult terrain and weather conditions have delayed the first response, especially to the villages in districts far from Kathmandu. Aid organizations and nations are joining together to respond to the crisis.

Whole Earth Provision Co. is sponsoring a donation drive to help the Nepalese people, with the funds raised to be directed to Oxfam America. Oxfam America is on the ground in Nepal providing emergency food, shelter, clean water and sanitation facilities. They are working hard to repair existing water sources and to install new pumps and wells. Clean water and sanitation are especially important for preventing the spread of disease in the crowded camps of disaster survivors.

If you are able, we hope you will give generously. Donations in any amount will be gladly accepted at any Whole Earth location through the end of May. Thank you.