Meet the 2 Americans who were chosen from a pool of 140,000 people to spend 10 days on a mini-sabbatical in Antarctica with Airbnb this winter

Tynthia King - Spencer Ingley - Diptych - Airbnb 2019 Antarctica Sabbatical

  • Airbnb
    received 140,000 applications this fall for its all-expenses-paid
    expedition to
    in December.
  • Five individuals were selected for the trip. Among those are
    two Americans: Tynthia King from Arizona and Spencer Ingley from
  • Together with citizen scientists from Dubai, Norway, and India,
    King and Ingley will study the impact of microplastics alongside
    scientist Kirstie Jones-Williams.
  • The “Antarctic Sabbatical” follows Airbnb’s inaugural sabbatical trip to Italy
    earlier this year.
  • King and Ingley told Business Insider that they hope to use the
    trip to inspire a larger conversation about the effects of waste on
    the environment.
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories

Earlier this fall, Airbnb announced that it would be accepting
applications for a month-long, all-expenses-paid research
to the most remote destination on Earth: Antarctica.
In total, 140,000 people hailing from 200 countries and territories
applied — and five were selected to go.

The five expedition members,
announced on October 30
, include Tynthia King, a 35-year-old
loan officer from Phoenix, Arizona, and Spencer Ingley, a
33-year-old assistant professor of biology at BYU-Hawaii. 

King and Ingley will be joined by citizen scientists from Dubai,
Norway, and India to study the presence of microplastics in
Antarctica alongside scientist Kirstie Jones-Williams.

The expedition members will first attend immersion training
for two weeks in Punta Arenas, Chile. They will then fly to Union
Glacier Camp in Antarctica to collect snow samples and measure the
presence of foreign microplastics over the course of 10 days.
During the final week of their sabbatical, they will return to
Chile to review their findings and partner with the Ocean
Conservancy to communicate their findings.

The trip comes on the heels of Airbnb’s inaugural sabbatical program
this spring, which sent five individuals to help revitalize the
historic town center of Grottole in southern Italy. The overarching
goal of the sabbatical trips, according to Airbnb, is to provide
“eye-opening opportunities for people around the world to travel
with purpose and do good.”

Business Insider spoke with King and Ingley about what inspired
them to apply to the sabbatical program.

Tynthia King is a loan officer whose efforts at reducing waste,
from Ghana to her office in Phoenix, brought her to the sabbatical

Tynthia King Airbnb Antarctica Sabbatical

King’s interest in the environment started on the humanitarian
side, she told Business Insider.

King grew up in a poor neighborhood in Chicago and spent much of
her childhood homeless. “I’m actually the only one of my siblings
that hasn’t been in federal prison,” she told Business Insider. “I
know a lot about what it is to grow up without things, and that
kind of drove me to be passionate about youth — having been a
homeless youth.” 

A few years ago, an opportunity opened up for King to volunteer
at an orphanage in Ghana. The purpose of the trip was to help build
a composting bathroom.

Initially, King didn’t know much about how composting bathrooms
worked. “I am absolutely not an engineer,” she said with a

Once she learned more about the process, she began to reflect on
humans’ environmental footprint.

After volunteering at the orphanage, King decided to explore
more of Ghana and was aghast at what she saw in the fishing
villages along the coast. “When you go to the beautiful
Atlantic-side beaches, they’re just littered with all types of old
fishing equipment. They have bottles, they have plastic, and it’s
just filthy,” she told Business Insider.

There was no clean-up effort around the beaches, so she started
to clean them up herself.

King now works as a loan officer in Phoenix, Arizona, and has
become “hyper-aware” of the impact of her everyday actions on the
environment since her Ghana trip. Recently, a small Amazon order
came to her office enclosed in a massive box wrapped in what King
likened to “20,000 pieces of bubble wrap plastic.” This level of
excess prompted King to approach her COO and begin a recycling

King heard of the Airbnb Antarctic Sabbatical amid discussions
of reducing office waste and was surprised to learn that
microplastics would reach such a remote region.

Antarctica has also been on King’s travel list since childhood.
“When I was a kid, I knew that I wanted to visit every continent,”
she said. “I never wanted to spend the money halfway across the
world to take some pictures in a bikini on a beach somewhere. I
wanted to make my time wherever I was going important or worth it
or to take something away from that experience.”

Spencer Ingley is an assistant professor of biology who sees
parallels between Hawaii and Antarctica

Spencer Ingley (Airbnb Antarctica Sabbatical) in El Chato Preserve, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos

Growing up near a lake in Gainseville, Florida, Ingley developed
a love of nature at an early age. Today, he shares his passion for
the outdoors with Brigham Young University-Hawaii students as an
assistant professor of biology.

BYU-Hawaii has a student
of 2,500 representing 70 countries. Many of these students
come from Asia and the Pacific, which presents a unique teaching
opportunity, according to Ingley. “These are the countries that are
having some of the biggest impacts on environmental issues like
ocean plastic pollution, and also they’re the countries that are
being most impacted by these issues,” he said.

“Our students can go back to their home countries across the
Pacific and throughout Asia and be leaders in their community,” he

Ingley told Business Insider that one of his favorite classes to
teach is an introductory biology course that focuses, in part, on
conservation issues in Hawaii and across the Pacific. 

Ingley’s students are often surprised to learn that the trash
washing up on beaches of Oahu is by and large not from the island.
“Virtually none of the pollution that we find on our shores is
local,” said Ingley. “Almost all of it is coming from Asia and from
the west coast of North America.”

In this sense, Ingley noted, Antarctica is not all that
different from Hawaii. “It’s incredibly remote, but it’s
threatened. It’s being bombarded with these outside forces, such as
plastics coming in,” he said.

One thing that is quite different, however, is the weather.
While Ingley has spent time in cold locations before, Antarctica is
in a league of its own. “I’m not sure there’s anything that you
could do to prepare for Antarctica other than being in it,” he

Ingley learned about the Airbnb sabbatical program through one
of his students and hopes that his experience will encourage future
students, and others around the world, to be stewards of their

Ingley also calls himself “an explorer at heart.”

Though preparing to be off the grid for a month will be a
challenge, fieldwork is par for the course in his profession,
Ingley said, and he plans to be in touch with his students as much
as possible during the trip. “I’m thrilled about the adventure and
work that awaits,” he told Business Insider.

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Meet the 2 Americans who were chosen from a pool of 140,000 people to spend 10 days on a mini-sabbatical in Antarctica with Airbnb this winter