New Castle News

Closer Look

September 16, 2010

City native opens up world classroom

NEW CASTLE — (Second of two parts)

Education always was a priority for Markus Naugle and his fiancée.

Naugle, the valedictorian of the New Castle High class of 1986, went on to earn a degree in microbiology from MIT. Laura Wheelock, his fiancée, studied at Harvard and Stanford.

The two, though, have never limited learning to the classroom. They’ve traveled the globe, not as tourists, but more like empty vessels looking to be filled with life as it is lived by other cultures.

Naugle spent time working on a boat in Australia — he calls Jacque Cousteau one of his childhood idols — and lived in New Zealand, where he helped to regenerate a rainforest and volunteered with a school.

He and Wheelock lived in Costa Rica, volunteering to protect leatherback turtles and helping with a local recycling initiative.

Together, they’ve explored more than 50 countries. And in all that time, perhaps their greatest discovery was learning that they wanted to be able to share the same kind of experiences with others.

Thus, for about three years now, the couple has lived in a Mayan village on a mountain lake in Guatemala, running a program they established called Magic Carpet Rides. Originally, they offered a gap-year experience that placed students with local families for long-term stays. Now, though, they are offering such home stays for shorter durations to travelers of all ages.

“Magic Carpet Rides,” Naugle said, “grew out of an extension of our individual lives and when we came together to share the world rostrum and encourage Americans, who don’t travel quite as much as some European or Australian or other cultures.

“We really just wanted to encourage people to get out into the world classroom and do volunteer work and do homestays and really see a different kind of way of living.”

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