A Q&A With Plastiki Adventurer David de Rothschild On The WHOLE WORLD Water Campaign

Three years ago, adventurer, entrepreneur and activist David de Rothschild sailed from San Francisco to Sydney on a catamaran made of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles.

His goal with the Plastiki project was to bring awareness to environmental issues like global warming and plastic pollution, and he has continued to stay active in the environmental movement. Most recently, de Rothschild signed on as an advisor to WHOLE WORLD Water, a three-year campaign that aims to unite the hospitality and tourism industry to combat global clean water issues.

Launched on March 22 to coincide with World Water Day, WHOLE WORLD Water uses a social enterprise model to generate funds for the clean water movement. The process of signing on is relatively simple. First, hotels and restaurants sign on to the WHOLE WORLD Water campaign for a nominal per-property fee. Then, they use the suggested Vivreau water filtration system to filter, bottle and sell their own water to guests. Finally, they donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the WHOLE WORLD Water fund, which benefits safe, sustainable clean water projects in the places that need it most.

Founders Karena Albers and Jenifer Willig estimate that if the world’s three largest hotel groups joined the campaign and sold just one bottle of water per day, the campaign could raise up to $1 billion for its mission, while contributing up to 25 percent toward the company’s bottom line. The campaign has already signed on a number of well-known hotel groups, including Virgin, Dusit and Banyan Tree, along with a number of restaurants, nightclubs and Ritz Carlton properties. Advisors include high-profile names like Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson, designer Yves Behar, actor and filmmaker Edward Norton and de Rothschild.

In an email exchange, de Rothschild shared with Gadling what sailing the Plastiki taught him about the world’s water supply, why he decided to sign onto the WHOLE WORLD Water campaign and what travelers can do to get on board.

What did sailing the Plastiki teach you about the world’s water supply?

What the Plastiki taught me is sometimes it’s just as important to unlearn as it is to learn. We had to unlearn that it wasn’t all plastic that was the issue, but rather dumb uses of the material. And more importantly it was about redefining the story we tell ourselves about the value of the material – moving it away from valueless to valuable. That in turn will then have an influence over how we use and reuse. I believe the same applies to water issues; we all have to start to leave behind the concept that we have an endless supply of water, if we are to have any chance of creating a future.

Why did you decide to sign on to the WHOLE WORLD Water Campaign?

I can’t see any reason not to! I have been working for a while now to ban plastic straws across the world of hospitality so this seems like an easy and logical extension.

Why tackle hospitality of all industries?

Has to be a whole system approach to have an impact!

What will the WHOLE WORLD Water campaign achieve that other water campaigns haven’t?

That’s yet to be seen, but I have no doubt with such a great team behind the campaign it will produce something positive!

What can travelers do to support the efforts of the WHOLE WORLD Water Campaign?

Just say no to plastic water bottles! And encourage establishments that you come into contact with who haven’t engaged to sign up!

[Photo Credit: WHOLE WORLD Water]

Meet The American Man Who Is Walking Across Turkey

matt krause heathen pilgrim walk across TurkeyMatt Krause swears that he isn’t crazy. But some of his friends and family members would beg to differ, even though the 43-year-old California native has safely completed two-thirds of a 1,305-mile walk across Turkey.

I read about Krause’s plan to cross Turkey on foot in Outside last September, when he was just a few weeks into his trip, and wondered if he would have the resolve to make it. Krause and I spoke via Skype on Monday from Kahramanmaraş, where he’s taking a week off from his walk to work on a book he’s writing about the adventure he’s documenting on his blog, “Heathen Pilgrim.”

“I wanted to show people they don’t need to be afraid of the world,” he says. “Look at me, I can go out and walk across Turkey and be homeless and vulnerable and basically helpless every single day for 8 months and I’ll be perfectly fine, knock on wood.”




matt krause heathen pilgrim walk across turkeyKrause’s Turkish wife asked him for a divorce in 2011 and shortly thereafter he quit a hated kitchenware sourcing job in Seattle. At a crossroads in life, he moved back in with his parents in Reedley, California, and started taking long walks to see if he could physically handle a rigorous walk. Krause lived in Turkey for six years with his ex-wife before returning to the U.S. after a jewelry business he started failed. But he says that he didn’t let the failed business and relationship in Turkey extinguish his desire to see the country on foot.

“I still love Turkey,” Krause says. “I had a bad experience with one person out of 70 million.”

He did some research on other accomplished long-distance walkers and drew inspiration from people like Jean Béliveau, who spent 11 years walking around the world.




Krause set off from Kuşadası, on Turkey’s Aegean coast on September 1, and is on pace to reach Turkey’s border with Iran in early April. For the first 500 miles of his walk, Krause carried a 42-pound backpack and spent most nights pitching his tent at gas stations, mosque gardens and in roadside fields and clearings.

“They say ‘yes’ and then look at you like you’re crazy,” Krause says, when asked how Turks respond when he requests permission to camp on their property. “I’ve never had a hard time finding a place to stay, but sometimes I had to be more persistent than others.”

matt krause Eventually he decided that his trip would be more meaningful if he arranged to stay in people’s homes using the website Couch Surfing. Now he crashes with hosts on most nights and then commutes to his walking route by bus each day. When he was carrying his pack, he averaged about 12 miles per day but now that he’s couch-surfing, he averages closer to 20, walking on the narrow shoulders of two and four lane roads.

The apparent murder of Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old tourist from New York who was on holiday in Istanbul last week drew headlines around the world, but Krause insists that he feels very safe in Turkey.

“Getting hit by a car is the greatest danger I’ve faced,” he says.

He treats himself to a hotel room about once per week when he can’t find a free place to crash and says that he so far he’s spent about $700 per month, including food, health insurance, cellphone and all of his other expenses.

Krause says that he’s experienced tremendous hospitality in Turkey but admits that that hospitality has its limits.




“Turkish hospitality rocks, but it’s not as deep as Turks would like to believe it is,” says Krause, who has an undergraduate degree in Chinese history from The University of Chicago. “It goes a couple days deep, and then it’s like the American saying that on the third day guests start to stink like fish. It’s the same thing in Turkey.”

matt krause walk across turkeyHe dedicates days from his walk to different friends and posts a photo of a hand written sign in their honor to his Flickr page (see right). One of the highlights of his trip so far was a day he spent walking through the scenic Goksu River Valley, where a commander at a military outpost took him out for breakfast and villagers showered him with hospitality. But Krause has had to overcome a foot injury and plenty of rain.

“But even if it’s raining really hard, I still walk,” he says. “I like those days because it clears out the traffic.”

The last leg of Krause’s journey will also be the toughest. He’s heading into Turkish Kurdistan, a restive region where the Turkish military has been fighting Kurdish separatists for years, and he’ll have to face some serious uphill climbs to reach his goal.

But aside from the physical challenges, Krause says that the hardest part of the trip is fighting loneliness and maintaining his sanity.

“My Turkish is only good enough for small talk and I have that same conversation all the time, so I get sick of it,” he says. “You spend so much time in your own head that you need to connect with people.”

Krause says that he will be satisfied if his walk inspires even one or two people to go on a trip, start a business, or take a chance on something they’d like to do but can’t work up the courage for.

“People have lots of dreams but they don’t pursue them because they’re afraid,” he says. “I have a saying, it’s ‘Don’t have dreams, have things you do.'”



[Photo credits: Matt Krause]

Hospitality: What We Can Learn From The Greeks

greeks giving directions greek hospitalityTwenty minutes into an uphill walk on a sizzling hot day on the Greek island of Syros, we gave up and decided to take a taxi. My wife and I were pushing a 2-year-old in a stroller, and cajoling our 4-year-old to brave the heat, much to his chagrin, but realized that our destination, the Catholic neighborhood of Ano Syros, perched high above the city, was too far away.

But taxis don’t randomly patrol the streets of Ermoupoli and I doubted there was a public bus that could get us there anytime soon. I saw a matronly woman in her 30s sitting on a second floor balcony and asked her if she knew where we could get a taxi. She seemed not to understand me, and disappeared momentarily, before emerging a few moments later on the street.

“Tell me,” she said, using a phrase you hear all the time in Greece.

“I think we need a taxi up to Ano Syros,” I said.

She said she’d call one for us and then went back into her apartment. I thought we’d never see her again but a minute or two later, she came back out onto the street, crossed to the other side and popped a phone card into a pay phone. We had no mobile phone and assumed that she had either a landline or a mobile in her home and hadn’t even entertained the possibility that she could afford neither.”Car number nine will be here for you in 10 minutes,” she told us after crossing back to the shady side of the street to meet us.

Her name was Uranus, and she refused to accept any money for the phone call. She told us that she had studied to be a hairdresser but was never able to find a job.

“The crisis,” she explained. “There is no work here.”

ano syros greeceShe had no job and no phone but like most Greeks, she hadn’t lost the tradition of hospitality. After spending a few hours exploring Ano Syros (right), we were again at a loss to find a taxi with no mobile phone. But on a whim, I asked a man who was getting into his car if he was heading our way, and sure enough, he was happy to drive us back to our hotel, or anywhere else we wanted to go for that matter.

Over the course of a six-week trip through Kos, Patmos, Samos, Syros, Santorini and Crete, we’ve experienced remarkable hospitality in Greece, despite the economic crisis or perhaps because of it. Like any where else, we’ve had a couple of run-ins here or there with unscrupulous or unfriendly people, but for every negative encounter, there have been dozens of positive ones.

On the island of Kos, we found ourselves stranded in the humdrum town of Kefalos, thanks to an extremely limited bus schedule, and I walked into a pharmacy and asked a woman named Sevy, a Greek-American who had moved back to Kos, how to get to a nearby beach. There was no way, she said, but she insisted on having one of her colleagues drive us there in her car. It was a good 20-minute ride and they refused to take any money.

Hotel managers almost everywhere have redefined the concept of customer service. In Santorini, the owners of Rena’s Suites gave our children a whole host of toys and some waffles with ice cream upon arrival, and a bottle of wine on departure.

Lila at Lila’s Guesthouse in Syros insisted on washing all our clothes, free of charge, and picking us up at the port, also free, despite our 2:30 a.m. arrival time. And Yianni at the Afroditi Hotel in Rethymno, Crete, picked us up, dropped us off, gave us a bottle of wine, a plate of fruit and some little gifts upon departure even though we stayed with him just one night at the ridiculously low rate of 40€.

Hotel staffs have a vested interest in keeping travelers happy but we met kind people everywhere we went. In Crete, a group of locals welcomed me like a long lost friend during the EURO 2012 tournament. On the island of Syros, I accidentally barged into someone’s kitchen in a remote village and was invited in for a meal and entertained with some live music. Monks in Patmos made me coffee, served me cookies and invited me to worship with them. And on Election Day in Naxos, the mayor of a small village offered to personally show me around and insisted on buying me drinks.

Aside from the Middle East, where hospitality is almost like a religion, and neighboring Macedonia, where guests are also treated like gold, I can’t recall such a warm welcome anywhere in the world. Greece has a lot of problems, and there are many things that Greeks can learn from Americans (for example, having some gas in the tank of a rental car when you pick it up would be nice!). But I think that anyone who works in the hospitality industry should be required to come to Greece to see how it’s done right.

Travel Smarter 2012: Use CouchSurfing to ditch your hotel addiction

Hotels are so passé.

How many times have you visited an exciting destination only to find you’re staying in a generic hotel room completely lacking in local flavor? When I visited Greece last month, I stayed in affordable, centrally located hotels in Athens and Sparta. While they offered good service at a fair price, they could have just as easily been in Los Angeles, London, or Cairo.

CouchSurfing offers a better way. With a bit of online networking you can stay in a local home, and it’s free! CouchSurfing is a social networking site linking up friendly people around the world. Once you’ve created a profile, you can search through profiles in your destination and request to sleep in their spare room or couch. No money changes hands, although guests often bring an inexpensive gift from their home countries or take their host out to dinner. It’s a fun way to make friends and makes traveling a richer and less lonely experience.

As I’ve mentioned before, even though I’ve never actually surfed a couch, CouchSurfing has been hugely helpful to me. When I moved to Santander in northern Spain, the local CouchSurfers threw my wife and I a welcome party and 25 people showed up. Soon we knew the best barrios to get an apartment, where to shop, and they hooked me up with a hiking group. The group for Cantabria is pretty active and in the four months I’ve been here I’ve been to several meetings and met lots of people.More recently, local CouchSurfers gave me a ton of information that helped inform my travel series on Greece. One memorable night, two Athenians showed me around the Exarchia neighborhood. We visited some great bars I probably would have never found on my own and I got insights into the life of an area noted for its activism. The two CouchSurfers showed me a park that had been slated to become an ugly parking garage until the locals took it over and turned it into a garden.

On a more somber note, they also showed me the spot where a fifteen-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed by a policeman during a demonstration in 2008. The cop is serving time for murder and the spot where his victim died is now a shrine and political rallying point. Try getting that sort of information from your hotel’s concierge.

Couches can be found in some surprising places. One Gadling blogger has tried CouchSurfing in Haiti, and while I was in Ethiopia, I met someone who was going to stay with some expats in Somaliland.

CouchSurfing had a big year in 2011 that’s making 2012 the start of a new era for the organization. After having its 501(c)(3) charity status rejected, its owners decided to become a for-profit corporation. Currently, all revenues come from the verification service, in which members donate money in order to have their address verified, thus making them more trustworthy in the eyes of other members. There’s no word yet on how else the new corporation plans to make money. This change has not gone without protest, with many members pointing out that the website and network were built communally for free, and therefore should not be used for profit.

A more popular move last year was the creation of the CouchSurfing Cultural Exchange Fund, which offers grants for cultural exchanges between refugee groups and their new communities, classroom-based international information exchange and relationship building programs, and cultural understanding between ethnically or racially disparate communities.

CouchSurfing now has more than three million profiles in about 250 countries and territories–not bad for a group that only started in 2003. While you should always keep safety in mind when dealing with strangers, I highly recommend you try it. I’ve had nothing but good experiences.

[flickr image via CaseyDavid]

Couchsurfing: more than just a free place to stay

CouchsurfingHere at Gadling we’ve talked a lot about Couchsurfing, a very cool organization where members host each other. It’s an amazing example of how the world can work if you have a bit of kindness and trust. Millions of people have slept for free on millions of couches and made millions of friends in new places. I’ve been a member for a year and I’ve gotten a lot out of it, yet I’ve never once surfed a couch with them.

The two times I’ve used Couchsurfing have been when I’ve come up to Santander in Cantabria in northern Spain to explore the city in anticipation of moving there. Both times my wife was with me and she prefers hotels over couches, so we didn’t try to couchsurf. We both had great Couchsurfing experiences, though.

Before we visited last October I got onto the Couchsurfing Cantabria forum and announced we wanted to meet locals and learn more about life in the city. They organized a party for us and 25 people showed up! We got heaps of restaurant and bar recommendations, an invitation to a hike, and my wife got a list of local yoga studios.

We stayed in touch with the friends we made and this week we visited again. This time we got more suggestions of places to go, my son was introduced to a kid his age, and one of the Couchsurfers turned out to work for a rental agency, just the thing we needed! One well-connected woman is going to hook me up with a writer so I can tap into the local literary scene and a spelunker so I can get back into caving. Thanks to Couchsurfing, we won’t be moving to a city of strangers this September.

Couchsurfing puts you in touch with interesting, open people the world over. If you’re interested in exploring a new place to move there or just to visit, get your free membership and start networking!