Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Waterloo Girl Scout Katie Albert Revels in World Adventure

 
Just 16, Girl Scout Katie Albert from Waterloo is already an accomplished world traveler.  For two years in a row, she has been selected to go on two trips sponsored by Girl Scouts of the USA.  Girl Scouts’ mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the better place.  The organization believes that travel opportunities help fulfill this mission by allowing girls to see new places, meet diverse people and learn about different cultures and ideas. Travel opportunities for girls ages 11-17 called destinations give girls the chance to see the world, meet new friends and develop vital leadership skills for the future.
“I love to travel,” said Katie.  “I’m open to new experiences, new adventures and new cuisine.  I’m willing to work hard and make it fun.”

For her first destinations experience, Katie traveled to Switzerland to visit Our Chalet, a World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) World Centre located in the Alps.  The 10-day program included outdoor adventure and international friendship.   Girls enjoyed hiking, mountain climbing, rappelling, zip-lining, boating and exploring the local landscape and villages.

One of the most surreal moments to Katie was playing an alphorn under the Zytglotte, a famed astronomical tower built in 1530.  “There I was, standing under the Zytglotte on the historical streets of Bern, surrounded by tourists and playing an authentic alphorn,” she said.  “It was a feeling unlike any other I’ve experienced and a memory I will treasure.”
 

Katie playing the alphorn in Bern.
 
What Katie loved the most about visiting Switzerland was climbing Elsighorn, a mountain peak in the Alps.  Girls got to see Swiss pastures, glacier fed lakes and fragrant meadows on the way to the top.  Exploring the summit, girls found Edelweiss in bloom – a rare flower that grows only in the highest peaks of the Alps.  “It was a big challenge and a big accomplishment,” said Katie.  “I had really just climbed a mountain!”
 

Katie at the summit of Elsighorn.
 
For her next destinations trip, Katie joined fourteen Girl Scouts from around the country to kayak and camp along the San Juan Islands of Washington.   The trip was packed with natural splendor including cool blue water, bright sunshine and lots of local wildlife that included starfish, seals and even rare sea otters.  The transition from a day of paddling and hiking to a night under the stars was especially memorable.  “The sunsets never let us down with their beauty,” she noted. 


The beauty of the San Juan Islands on full display.
 
Putting their leadership skills to the test, girls took turns being “leaders” who checked tidal charts, plotted the course and led the group, and “sweepers,” who were at the back of the pack making sure that no kayakers ran into trouble or became separated.  The course could be strenuous and the days were demanding, but fulfilling.  “I didn’t know I had that much determination, dedication, enthusiasm and perseverance,” said Katie.
 

This group paddled and hiked together all day and camped on Lopez Island at night
 
This year, Katie will be pushing her boundaries even more on two additional destinations trips.   In late December, she will travel to Southern Patagonia in the wilds of Chile and to tackle outdoor adventures such as kayaking through the Straits of Magellan, horseback riding through wetlands and forests, meeting Patagonia gauchos, hiking through Pali Aike National Park and a glacier cruise. This summer, Katie will explore the culture, history and highlights of Sydney, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. 

 Along with lifelong memories and cherished friendships, Katie is also building leadership and life skills.  “Traveling on my own without a parent or troop leader build my confidence to take care of myself,” Katie said.   She also notes that trips of this magnitude require careful planning, organization and financial literacy.  “I learned how to save and conserve money throughout the year to pay for the trip,” she explained.  

Best of all, Katie knows that her future is boundless.  “I used to think that the world was so much bigger than my backyard.  Now I realize that the world IS my backyard,” she said. “Girl Scouting has helped me have the courage to do things I’d never dreamed I’d be doing.”  

For more information about Girl Scouts destinations travel opportunities, please contact Program Manager Julie Schloss at 800.345.6858, ext. 1119 or e-mail jschloss@gsofsi.org.

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