Get to Know…Your Friendly Senior Manager of Travel Programs: Ashley Christensen

Get to Know…Your Friendly Senior Manager of Travel Programs: Ashley Christensen

When I stepped off the plane in Beijing in May 2004, during my sophomore year of college, I knew that I was destined to live in China someday. That month-long study abroad throughout China and Hong Kong changed my life forever.

Not only did it inspire me to be more globally aware and a worldwide, lifelong traveler, it was the catalyst to me living in Hong Kong. Two college degrees, two elementary teaching positions, and six years later, I stepped off another plane, this time in Hong Kong.

I was carrying a bundle of nerves along with my three giant suitcases. Of course I was nervous about living in this strange world, but I was doing it all alone which increased my worry tenfold. Even though I got lost on innumerable occasions, had a hard time making friends at first, and missed my friends and family back home like crazy, this was an adventure that I had chosen and was excited about.

It took me many months to find my confidence. One month to go to a coffee shop and actually eat there by myself, not just take it and run back to the safety of my tiny apartment. Two months to go a movie alone. Three months to make my first real friend outside of the school where I taught. Four months to stop crying to my parents every week on our weekly Skype dates (this was before smartphones, mind you!).

And yet I found my confidence. For that, I am really grateful. Not only did I survive those first few hard months, I flourished for my nearly two years there. Hong Kong helped me to become a published writer, a certified yoga instructor, a world traveler (country #28 was ticked off in September!), and a confident, brave woman.

At first, I was honestly so worried about doing any single thing alone. “How in the world will I ever meet a friend if I can’t even leave the house?” I often asked myself. Then one day, I grew the gumption. I was gonna do it! I went by myself, of course, to see one of my now all-time favorite sites: Ten Thousand Buddhas. I’d been putting it out into the universe that I wanted to make a new friend, and lo and behold on this day that I’d shoved myself outside of my apartment, I met a friend.

I titled my blog post that day “Ten Thousand Buddhas and One New Friend.” From there, my social life skyrocketed. I have been in a friend from Hong Kong’s wedding, traveled to several countries with others after moving back to Illinois, and have Whatsapped for hours on end. In fact, one friend is even visiting Chicago as I type this!

Ten Thousand Buddhas
Ten Thousand Buddhas, Hong Kong

Not only was I changed during those two years, I often look back at my time in Hong Kong and the difference I made with my students. By profession, I’m an elementary school teacher, so I was able to teach third grade at an American school. When I went back to Hong Kong in 2016 to visit, I went to my school and saw some of my former students.

I wish I had a video camera recording their faces the day when they realized who I was; their faces of surprise and excitement were priceless. It still makes me teary-eyed thinking about the kids whose lives I impacted. On my birthday in September, I received an email from a former student wishing me a “Happy Birthday” from Hong Kong! I hadn’t seen this girl in five years!

Hong Kong students
Visiting my students in Hong Kong, December 2016

Some of my fondest memories of my time in Hong Kong are with my students, first in our tiny, dripping classroom, and then to the new school. Though I am no longer a teacher, I still hope that in my current position at the Girl Scouts planning travel opportunities, I am able to make a difference in the lives of the girls.

I hope that through this work I can inspire these girls to be more globally aware and worldwide, lifelong travelers. Maybe, someday, these girls, too, will take that first step off the plane and just know, “Someday, I’m gonna live here!”

Girl Scouts in Mexico
With Girl Scouts in Mexico, August 2017

Learn more about the travel programs Ashley plans at girlscoutsgcnwi.org

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Girl Scouts Explore Colorado

Girl Scouts Explore Colorado

Ever wonder what it’s like to travel with Girl Scouts? In this guest blog post, members of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana share their experience in Colorado…

Day One

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We started off meeting at the airport at 9:30 a.m. We got all of our plane tickets and went straight to our gate. Some girls went out and got food before our flight. Soon our plane was ready to be boarded! The flight was two-and-a-half hours to Denver. We practically played Mad Libs at least half of the plane ride. Yay!

We flew over Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado. Once we landed, we boarded our bus and saw the most beautiful mountains and hills. The two-hour bus ride was a blast when all of a sudden the girls burst out into the song “Titanium”. Our bus driver also took us to Starbucks so we could eat before the camp dinner time.

We arrived at the camp successfully and learned about different activities we could do during free time. Many girls went out for a dusk hike and even saw a deer! Soon it was time to go to bed so we could have an amazing day tomorrow.

Day Two

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We started off the day with an early-morning horseback ride through the mountains. We were on the trails for about an hour and the views were incredible. We had big, super friendly horses … although some of them were a bit slow. Some of us liked that the horses started trotting, that was fun! Our tour guide also took us through a small creek so the horses could stop and get a drink of water.

In the afternoon, a bunch of people enjoyed doing mosaics, and other crafts at the craft cabin while some swam at the pool. Our favorite part about the pool was the rock-climbing wall. Many of us have gone adventuring off to explore the property and saw llamas and goats.

Later in the day we did the low-ropes course. It was all about team building and communication. We learned to always make a plan and think outside of the box. There was also a small challenge course. Another lesson learned is that it is better and easier when everyone joins in and tries their hardest.

Day Three

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Today was our whitewater rafting trip! When we got to the Mad Adventures Rafting, we were split up into two different groups for rafting. The two guides were really funny and nice. At first we were in slow, smooth, and peaceful water.  Later we ended up in rapids and we got very wet even on the boat.

We went to a small cliff with two different levels, the lower one being 5 feet and the higher one being 20 feet. Some of us climbed up the cliffs and jumped into the river. In the middle of our trip, we stopped to rest and eat lunch (on land). The guides set up a sandwich station and we got to make our sandwiches and eat cookies.

After lunch, we got back out on the water. We played many games, for example, Rodeo. Rodeo was a game where you stood at the front edge of the raft and the rest of the boat would go in circles, trying to make you loose your balance and fall into the river. The people who jumped in had very surprised looks on their faces. Today was an enjoyable day and everyone enjoyed it!

Day Four

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Today we went tubing, and had fun doing archery as well. Some of us also had fun rollerskating and swimming. We also enjoyed a cook out dinner and had a campfire afterwards where we enjoyed S’mores and sang songs.

Day Five

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Today was definitely a fun-filled day! First, we started off with the adventurous canoeing. Girls were playing music, dancing and playing different types of competitive games. Sadly, the hour was short although, it was an awesome start to the day.

After the drive back to camp most of the girls went to lunch. We had a walk back to the forest zip line. Most of the girls went for a second turn because it was super fun. Some put their fears aside and went for it and ended up with the biggest smile on their faces! We headed back to our chunk of free time. Girls did activities including swimming, visiting the library, mini golf, and hiking.

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Later that afternoon, nine girls set off for the steak dinner and horseback ride. The food was amazing and horseback riding was even better! With a trot, walk, fun fact learning, and singing, and joke telling, the two-hour horse ride was a complete success. After that activity, girls decided to go play the human version of Hungry Hungry Hippos and some stayed for rollerskating.

Day Six

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Today we went to the Rocky Mountain National Park. While there we encountered a herd of elk, learned how to lasso a wooden horse, some of us took a tour of a homestead and learned of the family that lived there.

We went on a photo tour, going to different spots to take photos. We climbed the Alpine Ascent at 12,000 feet! After our climb in the wind and cold (plus a little snow!), we did some souvenir shopping.

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We also went to the Continental Divide for a photo op. Then we went to a town called Grand Lake. We enjoyed ice cream and trinket shopping.

Day Seven

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To start the day, some girls went on a breakfast horseback ride. The horses were very energetic; they trotted numerous times. The food was delicious — we had giant cowboy pancakes, seasoned eggs, bacon, and sausage.

After our ride, we went to lunch and later that afternoon, four of us went to the high-ropes challenge course. Some of the obstacles were the Jacob’s Ladder, the “Leap of Faith,” and other trust activities. Some people went for a beautiful waterfall hike, went swimming, and went to the craft cabin.

If you’d like to join our council’s next trip to Colorado in 2019, click here to learn more and register. For more information about our travel opportunities, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.