The Great European Adventure

Switzerland – Part 3

Read Part 1 – London here and Part 2 – Paris here!

What. An. Adventure. Our first council-sponsored international trip is a wrap!

Girls said au revoir to Paris and hit the (long) road to Adelboden, Switzerland on Day 8! It was an 8+ hour bus ride to Our Chalet, another of the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) Centers! With the travel time, they wouldn’t make it to Our Chalet by dinner, so they stopped at a French supermarket on their way out of France. It was a cultural experience, for sure! The girls navigated the aisles and utilized their French speaking Girl Scout sister, Ruby J.! When they arrived in the Swiss Alps, they had a little GSKSMO potluck! It didn’t take long for them to fall in love with Switzerland!

The cool air, mountain views and slow pace were a welcomed change from the hustle and bustle of London and Paris! Our Chalet put together a great day of programming for the group. Everyone received their pewter Our Chalet pin that can only be received by visiting in person, toured the grounds and had the opportunity to do fire building or Swiss crafts. In the afternoon, they hiked nearly 4 miles round trip to Wanderfall in the Swiss Alps! They also got a chance to use all that rain gear they were told to bring (finally). The weather fluctuates so much in the mountains; the sun is shining one minute then the clouds roll in and there are chilly little rain showers! “I didn’t think Switzerland would be as beautiful as it is and that I would like it as much I do,” Katie W. said.

Their programming for the evening was a “Swiss Night” and there was a little concert by Alphorn players followed by Swiss Quiz Bowl game (the GSKSMO team won!) and fondue – one of the traditional foods of Switzerland!

The time at the two World Centers has been a once in a lifetime experience for our Girl Scouts. These Seniors and Ambassadors have participated in World Thinking Days year after year, researching and presenting what Girl Scouts looks like in others countries. Now, they have experienced it. Visiting the WAGGGS Centers has given them a whole new appreciation of the Girl Scout/Girl Guide sisterhood and some are considering working or volunteering at a WAGGGS Center now!

The next day, was their last full day in Europe. They left Our Chalet and had a two hour bus ride into Lucerne. After a visit to the monument dedicated to the Swiss soldiers who protected the Royal family during the French Revolution, a brief walking tour around the city square and a trip across the world’s oldest wooden bridge (built in 1365), they had their final excursion opportunity – a visit to Mt. Pilatus! A boat ride on Lake Lucerne brought them to the base of the mountain and the Cog Railway brought them up to the summit. It was fairly cloudy and rainy which made pictures difficult, but they were met with a rainbow on the cable car down! They ended the night, and trip with a traditional Swiss Folk Lore night complete with Alphorn playing, yodeling and dancing by our Girl Scouts!

It’s no surprise that GSKSMO girls made friends with other Girl Scout Sisters on this EF Tours trip from Silver Sage, Utah, NY Penn and Nation’s Capitol councils and were sad to part ways with them! Not only did they make friends with sister councils’ girls, but they made friends with each other. “It’s the people that are in Girl Scouts that made this trip memorable,” Kaitlin G. said. “The [Girl Scout] journeys teach you how to be a good person, so all the people here are nice!”

This wasn’t an overseas vacation for our Girl Scouts. It was an adventure that challenged, engaged and excited them. Girl Scout Senior Katie W. has always dreamed of living in Europe and this trip just validated those dreams. For Skylar, this was her first time visiting major a major city! “I don’t go a lot of places and I’ve never been a massive city. I feel like I adapted to every place easily,” Skylar said!

For all our Girl Scouts, this was a first good experience to ease into international travel, learning how to navigate the city and the different cultures.

“My favorite part of this trip was realizing that I can apply what I have learned from school and my French class and use it in real life.” Ruby J. said.  “This experience has helped prepare me for bigger adventures in the future.”

We are excited to announce that our next council-sponsored trip for Seniors and Ambassadors will be to Belize in the summer of 2019! Details will be posted to our website early next week so you plan your trip and travel like a Girl Scout!

The Great European Adventure – Girl Scout Style

Part 2 – Paris, France

Read Part -1 here!

Leaving London, you wouldn’t know that the group of 11 girls had only just met a few days before!

The group left London on the Eurostar bright and early on Day 5 and rode on the Chunnel under the English Channel. They arrived in Paris, France, the city of lights and the city of love just a few hours later and hit the ground running!

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The bus dropped them off at the Louvre, the largest museum in the world, and the first one to ever open to the public. Among the 35,000 pieces in the museum are some of the world’s most famous such as the Mona Lisa, Venus di Milo and Winged Victory. Girls broke up into small groups and explored the museum hitting the highlights. To see every piece in the museum would take hundreds of hours!

That evening dinner was at Flamm. A French-styled pizza place and was the girl’s favorite meal so far!

The next morning they boarded the bus and made the drive into the city from the B&B Disneyland Paris hotel and got their first taste of Paris traffic, which would continue to impact their travels for the next two days! They picked up the tour guide and spent the morning seeing the Paris sights, trying to spot all the sailboats they could. Did you know that a sailboat is the official symbol of Paris?!

In the afternoon girls had the opportunity to do an excursion to the Palace of Versailles, the Royal Palace that King Louis XIV had built because he didn’t like the Parisians. The Palace only lasted a century before it closed during the French Revolution. While some toured the grandiose building and grounds, others had the chance to go up into the Eiffel Tower and visit the city’s most famous macaroon shop!

That evening there was the option to go up into the tallest building in Paris as well as go on a sunset river cruise on the Seine. Those two activities did not disappoint!

Day 7, was just as jam-packed as the previous day and there wasn’t a single second to be wasted their final day in Paris! The morning started out in the Latin Quarter of Paris at Notre Dame where Andrea, our awesome tour guide gave a brief history of the church. During the French Revolution the French beheaded the saints on the church because they thought they represented the Royal family. It wasn’t until The Hunchback of Notre Dame that the perception of the church changed and the statues were repaired!

Andrea walked our group around the area showing them the narrowest street in the city, Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche (The Street of the Fishing Cat). Named after an Inn that was on the street, it’s just over five feet wide! Also in the area was Shakespeare and Company, the first and oldest English bookstore in Paris (Hemingway was known to visit here)!

The group had another excursion option that afternoon to go to Disneyland Paris, just minutes from the hotel. While some chose to visit the most magical place on earth, others continued exploring the city of lights shopping and visiting Pompidou Centre, the modern art museum and going to Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur!

For all of the girls, this was their first time being in a place where English wasn’t the primary language. On their last night they were chatting and comparing the two cities they had visited thus far; liking both London and Paris for the own unique reasons. “I was surprised at how easy it was to still communicate with people who didn’t speak English,” Kaitlin B. said.

The next day the group will take 8-hour bus ride to Adelboden, Switzerland where there will be three different languages spoken – French, German and Italian and spend time at another WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts)!

How have you traveled like a Girl Scout? Let us know in the comments below!

 

The Great European Adventure – Girl Scout Style

Part 1 – London, England

“Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on deep and permanent in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

Do you remember the first big trip of your adult life? The one where you were equal parts nerves and excitement because you were finally going somewhere that only existed in text books and movies? Were you worried that it wouldn’t live up to your expectations? Or maybe you left feeling personally challenged seeing things in all new ways and maybe wanting more?!

Girl Scouts from our council are having that experience. Right. Now.

For over two years we have been planning and preparing for our fist council-sponsored trip abroad with EF Tours. This trip was open to all Girl Scouts in high school and volunteers at the time of travel in our council and girls worked their Cookie and Candy, Nuts and Magazine businesses to supplement the cost of the trip using proceeds as well as Cookie Dough! Finally, on July 1, 11 Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors and two volunteers left the USA with two GSKSMO staff members for an 11 day adventure to three countries in Europe – England, France and Switzerland!

A slight delay in Atlanta didn’t dampen our spirits! Passports in hand, peace out USA!

After a full day of travel they landed at London Heathrow airport where they met their tour guide, Andrea, and Girl Scouts from three other councils and begun immersing themselves in the culture even before they left the airport! (When you order a coffee, you get espresso. When you order water, you have to specify tap water. And don’t expect to get ice with it!)

After checking into the hotel, Andrea explained how to navigate the Tube (mind the gap!) and they were off to Trafalgar Square, to dinner and then spent time in Leicester square where they were all captivated by a unique street performance!

Day 3 was their first full day in London and it was chalked full of information! The group met up with tour guide Keith, who was equally knowledgeable as he was hysterical. He spent the day showing everyone around London and spouting off fast facts, comical jokes and stopping at some of the notorious landmarks and activities like the Changing of the Guard, Westminster Abbey and touring Windsor Castle.

  • The city of London is actually only one square mile? Greater London surrounds it and is 600 square miles!
  • Most of London burnt down in 1666.
  • The Tower Bridge is the most photographed bridge in the world and is named after the Tower of London, which it sits next to.
  • The Queen of London doesn’t live at Buckingham Palace, but that is where she does 75% of her work.

Their final day in London began with an educational morning at Pax Lodge, one of Girl Scouts’ World Centers. Each girl received the official Pax Lodge Pin, a pin you can only get by personally visiting! They joined Girl Scouts from other councils and for special programming led by a Girl Guide from Nigeria!

In the afternoon they went on a river tour on the Thames, rode the London Eye and a double-decker bus (a bucket list item for many), had the traditional fish and chips dinner and then some revisited Leicester Square and Chinatown while others saw Wicked!

London was a whirlwind, but everyone had a great time and checked those “must-dos” off their travel bucket-list!

Next up, they’ll take the Eurostar, also known as the Chunnel, under the English Channel and head to France where they will spend three days in Paris!

For them, this trip is just getting started. These 11 girls didn’t know each other are now forming friendships among themselves, as well as with the Girl Scouts from three other councils who are travelling with them.

This is the first of a three part installment that we’ll bring you after each country! If you want to keep up with their trip along in real time, follow us at www.instagram.com/gsksmo for photos, InstaStories and LIVE videos (you’ll get a notification) or search #GSKSMOabroad2k17!

We want to know about your travel experiences, with or outside of Girl Scouts so let us know in the comments below!

GSKSMO Goes to the Nation’s Capital

Guest Bloggers: Sara Babcock and Roxie Cody, Girl Scout Ambassadors

Long before any primary or convention, we planned a trip where Girl Scouts could experience history and democracy in action. And, they could have robust conversation, learn from one another and know their voice matters. Last Thursday – Sunday, these 14 Girl Scouts traveled to Washington DC together, united as Girl Scout sisters. Thank you to Sara and Roxie for documenting their incredible experience.

We had the opportunity to witness the Inauguration of the 45th president of the United States through Girl Scouts and EF Tours with 12 other sister Girl Scouts. The trip was not only about the inauguration but about getting to know Girl Scouts from other service units, visit the Smithsonian Museums, monuments and memorials in and around DC. Before the trip Regan gave a very funny speech about group dynamics that had us all laughing and two of the younger girls helped us prepare for safety on the trip as well as airport etiquette.

On Inauguration Day, it took us 4 hours to walk to the National Mall. We were surrounded by tons of people while standing in the security line to enter the National Mall. There were a lot of security and military personnel from all over the US, even some from Alaska!

The audience was a mix of supporters, protesters, and those just wanting to witness history in person as we watched the Inaugural speech of the 45th President of the United States of America on a JumboTron next to the Washington Monument. What we witnessed were many speeches that recognized importance of the peaceful transfer of power to President Trump. It was ironic to be standing next to the Washington Monument, remembering a class lecture where we learned how George Washington shocked the entire world when he peacefully transferred the power of the presidency, starting the tradition we have today.

The next day we visited the Capitol Building; the Mall was so overwhelmed with people that they had closed the Capitol Building and we had the opportunity to see the Women’s March first hand. Everywhere we looked there were people holding signs and supporting the Women’s March. Some were holding signs, but not all. Those that didn’t made us curious as to what they were there support specifically. Everything during this trip was very interesting to see and to experience.

During the trip girls prepared and gave small speeches about the places we were visiting when we arrived, including the Vietnam and Korean War memorials, well as the Lincoln Memorial.

An older girl in our group, Annaleigh, said that her favorite part of the trip was our first day when we visited with Congressman Kevin Yoder. “He was very kind and willing to answer our questions not just briefly, but he gave very descriptive answers”

Overall he was a very kind and accepting person. He took our questions seriously and didn’t talk down to us.

Fellow group members Naomi and Courtney both said that they “liked making new friends and that the trip as a whole was low drama!” We walked a lot every day (11 miles on Inauguration day, alone); so in addition to having a good pair of shoes, having a low drama group was very important. Especially when everyone, was tired, sleepy, and a bit cranky!

When asked why she wanted to come in this trip, one of our group members, Riley said “I wanted to try something new.” Which we personally think exactly describes everything we did on this trip. It was all new and exciting. Some of us had never ridden a plane, the metro (subway), or been to a food truck before.

We were complimented multiple times by our bus driver and the tour director for being attentive and so well behaved. Overall, it was a very engaging and interesting learning experience for all of us involved.

“This trip was important because I got to witness an inauguration, a crucial part of our nation’s politics. The most important thing I got to do on the trip was attend the Women’s March. Dissent is also a very important part of our country; attending the march made me feel like I was part of something bigger.” Lillie said.

Thanks to Girl Scouts and EF Tours we were able to try new things, met new people, and had experiences we will never forget.

Four Generations of Girl Scouts

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Spotlight on Girl Scout Alumnae and Volunteers Doris Frost, Janet Pelton, Becky Blankenship and Girl Scout Cadette Katie Blankenship

There’s a special bond that Girl Scout mothers and daughters have. From sharing stories of badge earning decades ago, teaching the newest Girl Scout about how to cook on an open fire, to traveling together to the birthplace of the organization that you all hold so dear to your heart, Girl Scouts brings women even closer together who are already connected through their family tree.

Girl Scout Cadette Katie Blankenship is a fourth generation Girl Scout in her family. You might say that she was destined to be a Girl Scout that it’s in her DNA. After all her mother, Becky Blankenship was a Girl Scout. Her Grandmother, Janet Pelton was a Girl Scout. Even her Great Grandmother, Doris Frost was a Girl Scout!

As Doris recalls her own Girl Scouting experience, it doesn’t sound much different from the ones her great granddaughter Katie is having today. She remembers having awesome leaders, going camping, earning badges and just generally being a G.I.R.L. (Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader)™.

Today, Becky and Janet are both troop leaders, and Doris is a retired troop leader. Between the four of them they have over 100 years of Girl Scouting experiences and stories!

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Doris (front), Janet (left), Becky (center), Katie (right)

Katie’s grandmother, Janet, went through all the Girl Scout levels herself then when her daughter Becky was old enough, she volunteered to lead her troop of Girl Scout Brownies (the first level of Girl Scouting in the 1980s) and saw them all the way through earning their Gold Award! When Becky left for college, Janet started all over again, with a brand new troop of Girl Scout Daisies, but this time she recruited Doris to join her on the troop leader adventure, and oh what an adventure Doris had with her daughter and the group of girls they led!

After 12 years of Girl Scouting, in Janet & Doris’s troop embarked on an 8-day cruise to culminate their Girl Scout experience before life took them in all different directions. That Girl Scout trip is what got Doris on an airplane for the first time in her life, at 84 years young.

“That trip was wonderful, the best time I ever had,” Doris said!

Doris (left) & Janet (right) on the cruise!

Doris (left) & Janet (right) on the cruise!

After that trip, Doris hung up her Girl Scout volunteer hat, but Janet decided to dive right back in and start all over again with her third troop; all while still continuing to serve as Service Unit Manager for Service Unit 661.

While Doris and Janet were leading their troop in Leavenworth, Kansas, Becky was stepping up for troops who were without leaders in Emporia, Kansas, while also going to school full time at Emporia State University!

After graduating college, Becky moved back to the Kansas City area, got married and had Katie! In January, before Katie was set to go to Kindergarten, Becky called her area service unit manager and let her know that she could count on her to lead the Daisy troop where Katie would go to school that fall!

Becky always dreamed of giving Katie the opportunities through Girl Scouting that her mother, Janet, had given her.

“Girls have opportunities they wouldn’t have without Girl Scouts,” Becky said.

This past summer, Janet and Becky took Katie’s troop on the council-sponsored trip to Savannah, Georgia, the birthplace of Girl Scouts. A trip that was important for Becky to experience with her mom. “She gave me my start in Girl Scouts and I wanted to have the experience of going to the birthplace with my family,” Becky explained.

“It was really neat that we got to do that last trip together,” Janet said of the cruise with Doris. “I’ve gotten to do so much with Becky now.”

Janet (left), Katie (center) & Becky (right) on the council-sponsored trip to Savannah, GA.

Janet (left), Katie (center) & Becky (right) on the council-sponsored trip to Savannah, GA.

For this family, Girl Scouting truly is in their DNA. Through all the things that life has thrown at them, they credit Girl Scouts for keeping them going. “Being a Girl Scout leader was a lifesaver during the times that my parents were sick. Most people quit being a volunteer when those things happen but it kept me sane,” Janet explained. “Girl Scouts is what keeps me happy.”

Girl Scouting has come full circle for these four women. Doris loves hearing what Katie is accomplishing through Girl Scouts and what exciting activities and trips Janet and Becky are doing as leaders for their girls. The memories that the four of them have all overlap and constantly remind them of what they’ve experienced not only as Girl Scouts, but as a family.

“All of the things Girl Scouts get to do are good. Everything is a learning experience for them,” Doris said.

Thank you Doris, Janet and Becky for all you’ve done to empower girls and instill the Girl Scout leadership experience in their DNA!

 

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Taking a Risk and Finding Your Passion

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Evelyn Peat’s Girl Scout Destination to Rock-N-Wilderness

With dozens upon dozens of Girl Scout Destinations to choose from, there is trip for every Girl Scout.

If she wants to be a go-getter, honing her photography skills while hiking through a national park, she can.

If she wants to discover more about herself as a leader while backpacking through Peru with a pack of llamas, she can.

If she wants to be a risk-taker, canoeing through the boundary waters, she can.

Evelyn Peat did.

Evelyn is a Girl Scout Senior and one of five girls in troop 3394 out of Topeka, KS. Just like any other troop, #3394 is girl-led. They choose what activities they will do each year, together. But, one of the great things about being a Girl Scout is that you can also do things outside of your troop that have particular interest to you – like a Girl Scout Destination!

You see, Evelyn loves the outdoors – camping, exploring and taking risks as a Girl Scout. So when her mom told her about a trip called Rock-N-Wilderness that would take her up to Minnesota to canoe through the various lakes that make up the Boundary Waters and through Canada, she was sold.

Through her experiences on Lake Odonata at Camp Daisy Hindman, Evelyn knew that she liked canoeing and that she wanted to do more of it!

Her Destination started out at a Girl Scout Camp in Duluth, MN where she was put into a group with six other Girl Scouts from around the country and two guides. The first two days they did team building exercises and learned the ins and outs of canoeing. They also did a small kayaking expedition, something Evelyn had never done before!

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For the next seven days, Evelyn and her group canoed over 50 miles through Minnesota into Canada and back, camping and cooking their meals along the way. During those seven days Evelyn learned more about herself as a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk taker and leader.)™

“I really liked the since of accomplishment I felt each day. I learned that I can always push myself to go farther; even if I think I can’t,” Evelyn said.

 

Throughout the trip their guides were constantly monitoring the weather, determining the best time for the group to be out on the water, completing their trek. This meant that some days they canoed in the early mornings, some in the afternoons and once, during the night! They were prepared for whatever they might encounter and had supplies and food packed for those seven days in the wilderness.

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There are three roles in a canoe – the bow (front), the stern (back) and princess (middle). The guides quickly realized that Evelyn was an excellent bow and often looked to her to navigate the choppy waters, not only for her own canoe, but for the entire group.

While out on the Boundary Waters, something really special happened to Evelyn. She crossed paths with her brother who happened to be on a Boy Scout expedition himself!

At the conclusion of her destination, Evelyn met back up with her family for a mini-vacation in Minnesota while they waited for her brother’s expedition to conclude. During that time she convinced her family to go kayaking out on Lake Superior!

Since she has returned, her passion for canoeing and kayaking has remained steady. The Peat family has been out to Eisenhower State Park where they can rent canoes and kayaks by the hour. Other families have joined in on these outings and Evelyn has been teaching others how to properly and safely be out on the water!

She’s even taught her 10-year old brother how to canoe!

Melissa Peat, Evelyn’s mom, sees a difference in Evelyn since she’s returned. “I’ve realized how much more confidence she has and she is communicating better,” Melissa explained. “When we have gone out kayaking and canoeing with friends, she is a leader and teaches people what to do!”

Thanks to Girl Scouts, Evelyn took risks and discovered a new passion that she is now sharing with those all around her!

November 15 is the first application deadline for 2017 Girl Scout Destinations! Where will you travel as a G.I.R.L (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)?

Leadership in the Andes

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Girl Scout Senior Amanda M. is no stranger to travel. As a freshman in high school, her passport already dons more stamps than many grown adults. This summer, she added Peru to that stamp collection when she traveled with Girl Scout destinations on a Leadership in the Andes trip!

For 12 days, Amanda was fully immersed in the Peruvian culture with 15 other Girl Scouts from all over the United States.

The leadership skill building aspect of this trip is what really caught her attention – and the fact that it was in the mountains of a foreign country. “I knew I wanted to do another destination [after Space Camp last year]. I wanted to expand my boundaries and further myself,” Amanda explained. “I thought this would be a cool experience; you’re out of the county and you have to lead yourself and other girls!”

And what a cool experience Amanda had.

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Her and the group toured cathedrals, an alpaca farm, salt mines, Sacred Valley, volunteered at an orphanage and visited Machu Picchu; but, the bulk of the trip was a four-day, 20 mile backpacking trek through the Andes Mountains.

To prepare herself for the physical aspects of her destination, Amanda speed hiked with 15 lbs. in her backpack in her neighborhood every day. Her mom, Terri jokes that the neighbors started to wonder if she was practicing running away!

Amanda and the group hiked the Lares Trek, a more difficult path than the famous Inca trail. Each girl was responsible for carrying a day pack that held items they wanted immediately available to them, while over 20 llamas carried all their camping gear! They camped at various sites each night and had guides that would setup the campsites and cook dinner for the group. “We had a lot of freedom to search and explore,” Amanda said. Over the course of four days, they climbed from 9,000 feet to over 15,000 and even got a clear view of the Milky Way one night.

“It was hard work but it was so worth it!” Amanda said.

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A lot of the leadership development for the Girl Scouts happened during the trek. “I learned that while that I’m a very rough and tough person, that I’m not really that rough and tough,” Amanda explained. “I have limits and I have to accept that. It’s hard to be able to ask for help and say that you need a break, when you think you’re putting your pride on the line but you have to see your limits, accept them and love yourself for who you are.”

The pinnacle of the trip for Amanda was her visit to Machu Picchu. The group spent nearly six hours touring the ancient ruins and soaking up every bit of information the guides gave them.  One of the things they learned was that unfortunately Machu Picchu won’t last forever. First, because its sits on a fault line and second because of all the foot traffic. While there is some regulation of visitors, they’re not always followed or enforced.

Amanda was particularly fascinated with the tourism industry in Peru and had the opportunity to speak Spanish and converse with older girls at the orphanage they visited about it.

“The positive is that tourism improves their economy, the negative is that they’re losing some of their culture because of the tourism,” Amanda said.

Their guides taught them about sustainable tourism and what to look for in items they were purchasing. She learned how to tell the difference between foreign items and those which were locally sourced and produced in Peru. Amanda made it her mission to only purchase these sustainable items and came home with sweaters, socks, ponchos and more for her family!

She even bought every girl on the trip a friendship bracelet and wrote them a letter at the end of the trip. “I had a personal bond with every single girl in the group, even the leaders; I thought that was so cool.”

Every Girl Scout on the destination wrote a word that described Amanda on her flag.

Every Girl Scout on the destination wrote a word that described Amanda on her flag.

Amanda’s experience in Peru expanded her horizons and she realized that a major part of being a leader has to do with being true to yourself. “The leadership development they did with us was a lot more on the emotional side of things and how you feel.  You have to love yourself to ultimately lead others.”

Is your Girl Scout interested in an experience like Amanda’s? The first deadline to apply for a Girl Scout destination trip is Nov. 15! Domestic trips begin at the Junior level and international travel opportunities are available to Girl Scout Cadettes and older – find out more!

A trip of a Girl Scout Lifetime

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Troop 110 Experiences Costa Rica

Do you remember watching your group of wee little Daisies navigate Girl Scouts their first year? The tiny vests, loving demeanor, imagination as big as the universe? That was Troop 110…12 years ago.

This group of five Girl Scout Ambassadors from Olathe, KS has been together since elementary school. Growing together and becoming girls women of courage, confidence and character. Led by longtime volunteers Chris Hrdy and Marcia Woodard, Troop 110 kicked off their final year of Girl Scouting with a trip that has been 12 years in the making – a nine day adventure throughout Costa Rica.

For Danni Park, Ann Marie Hrdy, Rachel Woodard, Clar Groff and Kimberly Fenton this was the pinnacle of their Girl Scout experience; something that they have been working together to earn for the past 12 years.

Each year they would participate in product sales programs, spending 70% of their proceeds on activities for that year, donating 10% and saving 20% to take a big trip when they were older. In the beginning, they had their sights set on a trip to Disney World (every little girl’s dream), but as they grew, so did their vision for their trip. They next thought about a sightseeing tour of Europe but then realized that they were girls who like to do things and were back to the drawing board. “Were not a sightseeing kind of troop, we’re into activities,” Danni said.

Then, Costa Rica was brought up. A place that Ann Marie’s older sister (and Girl Scout alumnae) had been and loved. The research was done and they made a unanimous decision – they were bound for Costa Rica June 10 – 18, 2016 with EF Tours, Girl Scouts’ leading travel partner!

Those nine days were jam packed with adventure, just what they all wanted. Troop 110 traveled throughout the country of Costa Rica, never staying more than two nights in any town. They went on day and night hikes through the rain forest, traveled up and down volcanoes, visited coffee and cacao plantations, kayaked on Arenal lake, ziplined through the canopies of the rain forest, visited La Fortuna waterfall, swam in the hot springs, experienced all the wildlife, had fresh strawberry shakes in the strawberry fields, went horseback riding in Monteverde, and the list goes on.

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They also totally submerged themselves in the Costa Rican culture. The country’s traditional dish was available to them at nearly every single meal – rice and beans. Most of the places they stayed were small family owned inns; very different from the typical hotel experience that they were accustomed to in the states. This allowed them to get to know the owners personally and really appreciate and truly enjoy the places in which they were staying.

They spent one afternoon at a local elementary school, a one-room schoolhouse in Monte Verde and played soccer with the kids. This school, in particular, relies on assistance from local farmers and donations from individuals to stay operating. Each year they receive less government funding and are trying to provide meals to every student on less than $8 a day. Troop 110 came with supplies and donations to support the efforts of the school.

During their afternoon with the students is when the learned about some of Costa Rican ways of life. “You get a skirt when you’re young and keep that skirt for your entire life. They just add ruffles at the bottom as they grow up so they don’t have to buy another skirt,” Ann Marie explained!

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While all of these adventures and experiences were amazing, their tour guides and leaders put together the ultimate surprise experience for them – an evening with a fellow Costa Rican scout troop. Scouting in Costa Rica is part of the Asociación de Guías y Scouts de and is a co-ed program.  “You don’t say ‘you guys’ to them because there are girls too,” Rachel explained.

They spent the evening sharing their scouting experience with each other; the scouts from Costa Rica speaking in Spanish, Troop 110 in English, with Rachel translating for both groups. One of the many similarities they discovered was their shared love for the infamous s’more.

The Costa Rican troop built a large bonfire and provided the girls with small skewers to roast their marshmallows…they never quite got the hang of the Costa Rican way of roasting the mallow while not roasting their arms as well!

“We’re from different worlds, but the one thing we have in common is our curiosity,” Danni said.

At the conclusion of their time together, they exchanged friendship bracelets, knots and patches and each group sang a closing goodnight song to the other. “I’ve never cried more in my life than I did that night,” Danni said.

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All in all, their experience exceeded their wildest dreams from when they first envisioned taking this trip together when they were wee little Daisies.

“We would have had fun anywhere, but we loved Costa Rica. It was ‘Troop 110-style,’ we went out with a bang,” Danni said!

To round out their final Girl Scout year together, they are doing a series of flashbacks – repeating their favorite activities from the past 12 years of Girl Scouting! This month they hiked around their old campsite at Timberlake and are headed to Build-a-Bear next month! Next year they’re all headed off to different colleges, but have committed to reuniting after they all finish undergrad to do a “Troop 110 Legacy Trip” together.

They credit their tenure in Girl Scouting to their leaders. “100% it has been Miss Chris and Marcia. They have gone out of their way to find things to keep us interested. They cared about what we wanted to do and facilitated those activities for us,” Danni explained.

Troop 110 is the epitome of what Girl Scouting is all about. To hear these girls and their leaders talk about their trip and Girl Scouting experience as a whole will likely bring a tear to your eye.

“I have seen over the past 12 years excited little girls grow into confident women who can express themselves and have become great leaders. Girl Scouts has allowed them to be themselves while trying things they might not have otherwise tried,” Chris said.

A trip like theirs is doable for any troop! You just have to set goals and work your way towards achieving them – in true Girl Scout fashion. Ann Marie encourages all troops to dream of having an experience like theirs. “Work hard because it’s so worth it in the end.”

To learn more about trips coordinated specially for Girl Scouts, visit the EF Tour website.

Tell us the dreams your troop has in the comments below!

 

Blast off to Space Academy

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A Girl Scout Travel Spotlight: Rebecca Hoff

It’s no secret that Girl Scouting provides girls with opportunities of a lifetime. This is something that Amanda M. communicated at her service unit meeting when talking about her Girl Scout destination experience at the Space Academy in Huntsville, AL.

Lucky for Rebecca Hoff, her mom (and troop leader) was at that meeting. Like Amanda, Rebecca is a Girl Scout Cadette and is always on the lookout for new experiences. So after hearing Amanda speak, Trish knew that a trip like Amanda’s was just up Rebecca’s alley.

After doing some research on all the destination options for Rebecca, they both decided that the Space Academy was the perfect first trip to take.

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When Rebecca arrived at Space Camp, she didn’t know a single soul, but knew everyone at the same time – she was one of 84 other Girl Scouts from around the world!

Girls were split into small groups and Rebecca was assigned to team Ariel, with 14 other Girl Scouts. Throughout the week they learned to work together to accomplish tasks and complete missions. These missions were Rebecca’s favorite part of the experience. “It was so realistic – if you messed up, it actually mattered.”

For each mission the team was equipped with a book – kind of like a play. Each girl was assigned a role and was given lines to say. It was up to them to go through their lines and execute specific tasks; each task impacting those of another crew member.

For their first mission, Rebecca’s role was in mission control and she had to make sure that the people in the rocket ship had enough oxygen as well as survey the weather conditions of their landing spot. This was the only mission that her team performed without any incidents!

Their other missions included a task where Rebecca was strapped into a space suit to complete jobs that mimic those of real astronauts and one where she had to transfer ships in space and board a replica of the International Space Station!

In addition to the missions, Rebecca got to hear from astronauts, Jan Davis (female astronaut) and Jerry Ross (the record holder for the most space walks), participate in anti-gravity activities and go through several team building exercises! “I learned that if you’re going to be a leader, you have to lead but you have to give people the opportunity to express their ideas – it was challenging to get all 15 girls to agree!”

With all the fun Rebecca had, you wouldn’t have known that this was her first real trip away from home.

“Before she went she was very concerned about not knowing anyone there, it was a very big concern.” Trish explained. “Now I think she’ll be less apprehensive about doing something where she doesn’t know anyone.”

Not only did Rebecca come home with a new knowledge of all things space, she also came home with a ton of new Girl Scout friends!

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Left: Team Ariel; Right: Rebecca working on a mission.

“It was an amazing experience. I don’t think I would have that opportunity to do this had it not been for Girl Scouts,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca’s story is the first in a series of Girl Scout destination stories we’ll be bringing you throughout the summer as our other four Girl Scouts return from adventures in the Andes Mountains and Costa Rica, just to name a few!

Girl Scout destinations is a program from GSUSA and trips are being added to their website year-round. Is there a destination location that inspires you to get out of your comfort zone and learn something new?!

GSKSMO Takes Savannah!

On June 27th, 22 Girl Scout Cadettes, volunteers and GSKSMO staff left Kansas City for a trip of a Girl Scout lifetime – to visit Savannah, Georgia with EF Tours!

It was an early morning for this group following Girl Scout Day at the K; they convened at 5:30 am but that didn’t dampen their excitement! When they arrived in Savannah that afternoon they hit the ground running…literally…on a scavenger hunt! This took them all around the historic district, visiting the district squares and the Federal Courthouse. That evening they had a hearty dinner at The Pirate’s House and then took a Trolley Tour that highlighted Savannah’s unique historical past and the events that have pegged Savannah as “America’s Most Haunted City.” They heard many stories of Savannah’s historically dark background from war, burnings (Savannah has burned down THREE times), pirates, illness (yellow fever), and other tragedies. They were fascinated!

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On their second day in Savannah, they traveled to Juliette Gordon Low’s Birthplace for an art session on self-portraits and learned more about female artists like Frida Kahlo and Judith Leyster! They discussed self-expression as well as themes and symbolism in some famous female self-portraits and made personal collages reflecting themselves!

Following the art lesson they went on a tour of Juliette’shome and saw her extensive art collection. The tour concluded with an interactive exhibit called “a library reimagined” where they experienced inclusive books, listened to videos and wrote poetry.Day2

After exploring the city a bit and eating lunch, the group reconvened to visit the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum where they learned about the USS Juliette Low and earned a Rogues & Rouge Patch that involved the history of female pirates like Anne Bonney and Mary Read!

 

Their third day in Savannah took them out on the Atlantic Ocean for a visit to Tybee Island! They encountered marine life in tide pools like crabs, mussels, clams and also on the beach with starfish and horseshoe crabs. They also went on a dolphin cruise along the coast where they saw over 20 dolphins!

That afternoon they visited Old Fort Jackson for a lesson on the Militia Program! They participated in a role play workshop where they were taught marching, saluting and about life as a soldier during the Civil War and saw a cannon actually fire!

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The fourth and final day was no less exciting than the first three; EF Tours did a great job sending them out of Savannah with a bang! Their final hours included a tour of the Andrew Low House and photos outside the front gate with the lions that Juliette petted everyday while she lived in the house. They also visited the first Girl Scout Headquarters which started out as a Carriage House, then was Juliette’s garage and eventually the first Headquarters building! The tour guides talked to them about the history of the uniform (the green didn’t come along until after Juliette’s passing) and Girl Scout programs like cookies and outdoor adventure (and they found out what the new cookie will be for the 100th anniversary)- shh… we can’t tell you quite yet, but get ready for National S’MORES Day on August 10th!

The group made it back safely to Kansas City the evening of June 30 with stories to tell for a lifetime!

Have you visited the birthplace of Girl Scouts?! Tell us about your trip in the comments below!

We’re going to be announcing our next set of Council-Sponsored Trips soon so be sure to keep an eye on all our social media channels (@gsksmo) or on our Council-Sponsored Trip webpage!