Both of our groups have been basking in the beauty of tropical Belize, where they’ve had the opportunity to work with our partner Ridge to Reef Expeditions. Ridge to Reef, or R2R, was founded in 2014 by the non-profit organization Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) to manage protected areas.
R2R focuses on environmental awareness, using natural resources, and sustainable economic development. These are three skills that our students comprehend and demonstrate everywhere they go. The program is structured specifically for volunteers, making it a great fit with Winterline.
One of the main concerns in Belize was the decline of manatee populations due to hunting and gill netting. R2R continues to work on protecting vulnerable and endangered species today. TIDE reported that a recent study showed 10% of manatee sightings were calves, meaning there’s strong reproductive activity. This shows how the hard work of researchers, scientists, and volunteers is paying off!
As important as the conservation work is, volunteers also get the weekends to relax and explore. Students get to explore the temples, learn to make (and taste) chocolate, swim in waterfalls, and zipline through the jungle. There’s never a dull moment in Belize!
Can you believe it’s already Friday again? Trimester one is going by fast for our students! Having finished up in Belize, our blue cohort arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica earlier this week. There they had a couple of rest days and met with the students at United World College of Costa Rica. Following close behind, our green cohort is SCUBA Certified and finishing up their time with Ridge to Reef in Belize. Check out these photos from their week of adventures!
Don’t forget that every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. Be sure to check out last week’s photos, if you missed them. We will be back again with more photos from the field next Friday!
Let us know which photo is your favorite in the comments! To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook.
People often ask me about our name. Why do we call ourselves the Winterline Global Skills Program? What is a winterline and why did we choose this name for our company?
A winterline is an atmospheric phenomenon. It is a second horizon that develops under special conditions during an inversion when warm air is trapped beneath cold air.
Winterlines don’t occur very often or in very many places in the world. But, in the lower ranges of the Himalayas in northern India – where several of our staff (including myself) attended an international boarding school – winterlines occurred almost daily during the months from mid-October to mid-February.
During these months, warm smoky air from all the cooking fires down below us would mix with the dust of the Indian plains and rise up into the air. But instead of dissipating, it would be met with a mass of cold air coming down from the snow-capped peaks of the high Himalayas. And there it would be trapped.
If you were looking up at the winterline from down below on the plains, you wouldn’t see anything except warm smoky air. However, if you lived where we did at 7,000 ft, you were up above this mass of warm air, and could look down into it.
In and of itself, there was nothing special to see. But if you looked out toward the horizon, particularly as the sun was setting in the evening, you would see a line, a new horizon. The rays of the setting sun would bounce off this dense air mass creating beautiful and colorful displays of light. Much like how clouds in the sky make a sunset more beautiful by reflecting the changing light as the sun drops behind the horizon, a winterline has a similar effect. Reflecting and catching the sun’s light as it drops behind the horizon, a winterline creates a band of light across the sky! A land horizon is static, but a winterline, because it is up in the air, allows the light to play across it.
So what does all of this have to do with us? Well, we named our program the Winterline Global Skills Program because it gives our participants a new perspective, new tools and skills to experience their lives in a new way. Our program takes students up and out of their day-to-day lives, and puts them in a new place with a new vantage point from where they can see things differently. And from this place, just like being up in the mountains at 7,000 ft, they can look beyond the horizon that they are used to seeing and see a new horizon that is just as real. A new horizon that is beautiful, that reflects and refracts light in new and different ways – just like the winterline we named our program after.
We want our students to embrace their experience, push past their fears and insecurities, and allow themselves to travel to that place where they can see beyond the horizon to a new and more beautiful line in the sky. To look for and follow the Winterline.
NOLS Wind River Range Expedition: “This Too Shall Pass”
I once saw a woman with the words, “This Too Shall Pass” tattooed in huge cursive letters across her chest and collarbone. At the time, I was struck with utter disbelief that someone would mark their body with this quote. It was ironic to me that she had permanently marked her body with a statement claiming that all things are temporary. I hadn’t thought of this phrase until my experience last week in the Wind River Range of Wyoming in which I was forced to remind myself constantly that “this too shall pass” more so than I hoped. Looking back on my time in the mountains, there is one day in particular that stands out to me as most significant with this quote in mind.
The infamous “Monday” of my NOLS trip has been quite the conversation piece in my Winterline cohort. Whenever someone mentions this day, there is an audible groan followed by sighs of relief that we are forever done with the misery and pain that ensued that day. For me, the morning and the afternoon of that day completely juxtapose each other. In hindsight, the stark contrast between various events that day is beautiful, but at the time I failed to appreciate the value of this experience.
We woke up that Monday morning to copious amounts of snow dumping from the sky in addition to below-freezing conditions. Despite the extreme discomfort that came with dragging my body out of my warm sleeping bag, layering up with every article of clothing I packed, and forcing myself to brush my teeth with snowballs outside, I managed to make it to the “kitchen.” Patrick, Leela, and I huddled underneath our kitchen fly, which was caving from the snow. We boiled some water in hopes of warming ourselves up with “cowboy coffee” and hot cocoa. I decided that to raise the morale of my cooking group, I would make Mickey Mouse pancakes with cranberries and chocolate chips, which were a big success and had us all feeling optimistic about the day to come.
By the time we were packed up and ready to go, thick snowflakes covered our bags and paved the trail for our hike. We divided ourselves up into small hiking groups and set out through the freshly made winter wonderland, making the hike markedly more tedious than it had been in prior days. While many people have told me since NOLS that this was their least favorite hiking day, I had the complete opposite reaction. Walking alongside the thick trees and frozen rivers that were each buried in light, sparkling snow was a euphoric experience. My hiking group was completely silent during the majority of our walking, which gave me an opportunity to just focus on myself and my thoughts. I found myself being completely present in the moment, something I often struggle to emulate in my day-to-day life. I felt at peace. We all continued to trek through the dense powder until we reached the apex of the hike: the river.
The river. The merciless river. The monster of a river that we reached when we were almost completely finished with our four-mile hike. As opposed to previous water hazards we had encountered in prior days, this river did not have an obvious trail of rocks to use as a bridge. We spent about twenty minutes scouting up and down the riverbank, trying to find the path of least resistance, but we were unable to do so. We hesitantly accepted our fate, but trusted that our NOLS instructors knew what they were doing. While everyone decided to roll up their pants, I decided that my high-quality boots and gaiters were adequate to protect me from the frigid water. Not a good idea. As I waded through the river, the water reached to just above my knees and I was drenched and felt slightly hypothermic upon reaching the other side. By this point, group morale was at an all-time low. As I heard people complaining and groaning and even crying, I stripped off my soaking wet boots, socks, and one of my layers of pants. I changed into my “camp shoes,” which were running shoes that did not provide any protection from the frigid cold. I decided to break a rule of fashion in order to warm up and, as much as I hate to admit this, I put plastic bags on my feet as a layer between my socks and my camp shoes. Yes, plastic bags. It was quite the look. After getting somewhat more comfortable, my cooking group and I set up our kitchen flies and hunkered down to drink tea and soup.
Although the rest of the evening was freezing cold, ridiculously uncomfortable, and provided us with frozen boots and socks for the next morning, I somewhat tentatively will admit that this day was my favorite day- only in hindsight. When I look back on the morning hike I can only be content with the way in which I lived so effortlessly in the moment. When I look back on the river and the events that followed, I am proud of myself for how I tolerated the adversity. I think that because those two drastically different experiences ensued in the same day, let alone just a few hours, I can appreciate the day for what it is: a day of personal growth. And when I look back on the entire day as a whole I find myself going back to the phrase, “this too shall pass.” Everything is temporary, but what we take from each experience is permanent. I went through various trials and tribulations throughout my 8-day NOLS course, but I will forever have the appreciation and gratitude for that cold Monday ingrained in my mind, whether I like it or not. -AN
To hear from more students in the field, like Anna, be sure to check out other posts on our Blog, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, we are on Snapchat (@winterliner) and we upload new photos to our Tumblr everyday.
Can you Belize it’s Friday again? The weekend is here and we’re rounding up our favorite photos from this past week. Both of our cohorts are in Belize with our blue cohort heading off to Costa Rica soon. Check out our favorite shots of their most recent adventures.
Don’t forget that every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. Be sure to check out last week’s photos, if you missed them. We will be back again with more photos from the field next Friday!
“My bruises have bruises,” Alice says, but it’s with a smile, because it’s Thursday morning and we’ve just plodded onto the recommissioned school bus that is set to return us to the real world. Where were we? The Wind River range in Wyoming, United States.
Alice, Patrick, Anna, Sophia, Susie, Andrew, Pablo, Liam, Alex, Jack, Natanielle, Hayden and I make up Winterline’s Green Cohort, or as we’ve fondly coined it: The Green Gang. We’ve been together for a little over two weeks, and after a lovely five days of orientation in Estes Park, Colorado, Winterline threw us right into the fire. Eight days, twenty miles, and our entire lives wrapped in eighty liters of water repellent canvas. In partnership with The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) we ventured out into the woods, and I think we all came back with a little more than we expected to find.
What was supposed to be a week of mid forties and minimal precipitation, as per usual late September in Lander, Wyoming, ended up being an average of thirty degrees and about two feet of snowfall throughout the week. In other words, it was cold. Snow and below freezing temperatures made even the most mundane tasks seem exasperating. I struggled to find the energy to brush my teeth in the morning, a task I’m usually hard pressed to accomplish regardless of circumstances. All of our energy was spent keeping warm, for every minute of the day, and doing so meant we ate a lot of food. Namely, cheese.
I’m someone whose primary sources of food are plant-based and non-processed, but wow did those rules go out the window. When its below freezing the only thing you’re thinking about when looking at food is “how much fat will this have?” Not to avoid it, but to covet it, to shove it in your face. And in case you missed it, cheese is full of fat. So in addition to straight up spoonfuls of peanut butter (of which I had so very many of), we would eat copious amounts of the cultured dairy product just to stay warm at night.
Naturally, we carried every bite of food with us over the week, all dried or processed goods. Every morning and every evening we would get together with our cook groups, crowd around a faltering Whisperlight Stove, and do our very best to chef up something both edible and calorie dense enough to sustain us until our next meal. Every night after our evening meeting we’d sit for up to an hour waiting for the tiny fuel run burner to bring otherwise undrinkable water to a boil. Water that would then be bottled and put in our sleeping bag for temporary warmth. We rationed to ensure that we’d have food for every meal. We had to be creative, but also conservative. The good news? I was lucky to have some pretty proficient people cooking with me. I’d might even be inclined to say we were the best, but that’s besides the point.
During the day we’d hike. Though NOLS stands for the National Outdoor Leadership School, it might be more appropriate to call it by its name known by those who partake in the adventures: The No Official Lunch School. Nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and (if you’re were lucky enough to have extra from breakfast) leftovers acted as our lunch as we hiked anywhere between two and five miles each day. Now I’m aware that not everything I’ve said thus far sounds less than appetising, and maybe this won’t change your mind, but the most amazing part of our trip were the hikes themselves. The lengths we traveled and the views we saw were like nothing I’d ever encountered. We made it above the tree line on our fourth day, our highest point being 10,600 feet about sea level. If the altitude didn’t make you swoon, the sight of the snow dusted Wind River Range would.
I’m not going to lie, it was excruciatingly difficult at times. We waded through frozen rivers, and pitched tents in the snow; honestly if I see another freeze dried carrot I might cry. But to leave behind the world you know for what some call the bare minimum? It’s an experience like no other. There is something extremely empowering about knowing you are responsible for not just your survival, but for your ability to thrive out there.
So here we are, the thirteen of us: a handful of musicians, a few sports fanatics, a Spaniard, and a couple of zealots. A motley crew of many beliefs, ideals, and cultures who, if anything else, can agree on the following:
You are capable of far more than you know.
“Ride That Pony” is the single most effective way to raise spirits, with the exception of a good hype circle.
Tummy time (the act of warming your feet of someone’s bare stomach) creates a sacred bond that can never be broken.
And finally, years from now, when this program has long been finished, we will all find solace in the little things: fresh fruits and vegetables, dinosaur oatmeal, and the promise of a warm shower.
To hear from more students in the field, like Leela, be sure to check out other posts on our Blog, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, we are on Snapchat (@winterliner) and we upload new photos to our Tumblr everyday.
Looking for some color to brighten up your drab winter? Our January trip to the Costa Rican rainforest will help make your life green in more than one way. The luscious canopy of the rainforest is a sight to behold, and the lessons inside at Rancho Mastatal will educate you on how to live sustainably and reduce your carbon footprint to be kinder to the world wherever you go. Need a little convincing? Here’s a few reasons you should join us on our trip!
Rancho Mastatal is focused on community resilience, aka, they care about the people around them. They source their food and building materials locally and “support regional efforts for clean water, healthy food, fertile agricultural land, and safe, naturally constructed buildings”, according to their mission. This will teach you the value of community focus, which you can apply to your home, wherever that may be.
You’ll get to make really good food. Like, really good food. Like, the best food you’ve ever had in your life food. These Healthy, fresh, delicious meals will bring you and your peers together after a day’s adventures.
Through communal living, you’ll learn patience, practice, and balance. This experience will teach you how to live harmoniously with others, an important skill in an increasingly hostile world.
Climate change is real and it’s happening now. The way we live impacts the Earth, and that means we have the power to decide how much of an effect we have. A sustainability lesson will show you how the area of Mastatal has been affected by climate change, and how you can change your habits to prevent further damage.
Learn about permaculture, a way of agriculture that mimics the patterns and relationships found in nature. This will teach you to be a producer when possible, and at other times, an ethical and responsible consumer.
Every day is something different. You’ll be helping with whatever the farm is working on that day, which means no experience can be replicated anywhere else.
You don’t need to love science or farming to join us on this trip. You just have to care about our planet and be adventurous, and you’ll have an amazing time in Costa Rica.
Every Friday we round up our favorite photos from the past week. Last week we highlighted photos of our blue cohort in Belize. Our green cohort had just returned from their backpacking expedition in NOLS and on Monday they traveled to Belize as well. We’re excited to show you not only some fun shots of our students enjoying the tropical weather of Central America but also of our green cohort’s adventure in Wyoming. We are so proud of them for not only surviving in the wilderness, but thriving as a group!
Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into the day to day of our programs.
Lastly, check out this fun video of our green cohort returning from the wilderness. They were so excited to see their field advisors, Ed and Sarah!
In case you haven’t heard, we’re offering a 9 day trip to Costa Ricathis January where you can get SCUBA certified. We have partnered with PADI, the leading scuba training organization, to provide you with the adventure of a life time.
To get you excited for this trip, we’ve gathered a list of 10 reasons you need to get SCUBA certified this Winter.
71% of our world is ocean, so you can’t truly “see the world” if you don’t take a dive underwater! How else will you see the unique species like hammerhead sharks, turtles, and large schools of fish that live beneath the waves?
You don’t need prior experience. All you need is to be able to swim and breathe. You don’t have to be expert swimmer; as long as you’re comfortable in the water and willing to learn, you can master this skill.
Experience a mindfulness like no other. There’s no technology to distract you underwater. Focus on your breathing, the natural beauty of the fish swimming and the sun filtering through the water around you.
See history up close. Not only are there amazing animals underwater, but there’s so much history. Learning to scuba dive gives you the opportunity to explore wrecks like sunken ships and planes.
Learn to communicate better. Underwater, you can’t use your words, so you get better at using and reading body language and hand signals. This is a skill that will help you when you resurface, too.
This skill travels with you. Anywhere there’s water, there’s an opportunity for you to scuba dive, unlike some other activities. Even though the activity is the same in any body of water, it’s never a boring experience. You’ll always be seeing new species and wrecks and experiencing a new area of the ocean.
Challenge yourself. Scuba diving requires patience and attention, which are skills we sometimes forget to use in such a busy world. It can also be scary relying on the tank and going down into a foreign depth. However, scuba diving is an experience like no other, and it’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone to take the plunge. Don’t let your fear hold you back!
Be your own #TravelGoals. Make your friends (and Instagram followers) jealous. Take amazing pictures, get a tan on the beach, and learn an enviable new skill. When you show off what you learned in science class, all your classmates will wish they went, too.
Become a part of a community. Meet people online and in-person to share your stories with. Get recommendations of the best places to dive, see pictures of the most beautiful places they’ve gone, and learn about the most stunning species they’ve seen. Scuba is a passion that’s easy to bond over anywhere you go.
Protect marine life. By scuba diving, you’ll see firsthand how humanity’s effect travels underwater and harms creatures that get no say. Once you scuba, you’ll help prevent marine animals from becoming captive, and once you see how incredible ocean life is, you’ll want to get more active in protecting our waters.
More importantly, what should you know about credit?
Getting a credit card is really tempting. A lot of power and benefits are held in that shiny piece of plastic. However, it’s easy to fall into the the illusion of buying now and paying later with money you may not have yet. It’s essential to be aware of the responsibilities that come with credit cards.
In a past post, we outlined some great resources for helping you manage your finances. We’ve recently come across another platform: the U.S. News & World Report’s credit survey and guide. Here, you can find the knowledge necessary to be financially responsible.
U.S. News & World Report published a study of 1,500 credit card users with credit scores below 640. One finding states 35% of those individuals conducted no research before applying for a credit card.
Additionally, 32% of respondents are taking no steps to improve their credit scores. 20% do not even know what steps to take. The study addresses these issues and more, ranging from: what to do before applying for a credit card, how to choose the best card for you, what to do if your application is denied, and how to rebuild credit.
To be completely honest, I don’t know how to calculate a credit score and I’ve had a credit card for two years. I don’t even know my own credit score. And that’s an issue. With all the technology available to us, checking your credit score is simple and inexpensive, so I have no excuse. Luckily, the “Before You Apply” outlines the determination of credit scores. There’s also discussion of which bureaus are reputable to request your score from. U.S. News & World Report also talks about recognizing identity errors, incorrect account details, fraudulent accounts.
The report includes an extensive amount of information, making it a simple guideline to follow for either basic knowledge or specific questions. Best of all, it’s located on one site, perfect for the typical, on-the-go, streamlined millennial.
Happy Friday! The past week was a big one for our Gap Year students. Our blue cohort traveled to Belize where they have been learning skills like kayaking, fly fishing, and research regarding the local lion fish population with Ridge to Reef Expeditions. Meanwhile, our green cohort just finished their wilderness expedition with NOLS. Soon they will be headed to Houston to fly to Belize. Check out these amazing photos from their week of adventures!
Every Friday we will be putting together our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.
Lastly, check out this silly video of our students having fun on their first night in Belize!
Want an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the daily happenings on Winterlife’s gap year program? Lucky for you, one of our own students is keeping a blog as she travels.
We gave you a spotlight on Meagan already, but now we want to direct you to her blog! In her last post, Meagan gave us some words of wisdom and told us what she learned on their wilderness expedition in Wyoming. Here’s what she said:
Sacred socks are socks that never leave your sleeping bag and are possibly the best creation ever
Appreciate the little things like running water and having feeling in your toes
You don’t realize how strong you are until you get put somewhere completely out of your comfort zone
One of Meagan’s photos from NOLSThat last point is especially important. We think that the whole point of a gap year is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and experience new things. That way, you know what you like and what you’re good at when it comes time to move forward.
Meagan has other great words and photos to share with you, so head on over to her blog to read what else she has to say!