A WAGGGS Adventure in Mexico

By Kim DeWitt, Global Action Volunteer

Kim (top left) and her troop.

In November 1975, I had the opportunity to visit Our Cabaña, one of the WAGGGS (Girl Scouts is part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) World Centers located in Cuernavaca, Mexico. My fellow Girl Scouts at Mitten Bay Council (now Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan) planned out trip to the center established in 1957, about 50 miles outside of Mexico City. We were incredibly excited to not only venture out of the United States, but also to have the opportunity to meet Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from around the world. Although I don’t remember everything about the trip, it certainly was an experience of a lifetime and began a lifelong interest in travel! 

Planning for Mexico

We started planning the trip a year earlier using funds we gained from many money-earning activities. We sold crafts we had made at a number of craft fairs; I especially remember decoupage soap – think I may still have a bar somewhere! We also hosted Sarah Coventry jewelry parties. The estimated cost of the trip was $462 (about $2,000 today) and as a troop, we collectively worked hard to achieve our goal of traveling to Mexico. 

By the time we were ready to leave, I was a sophomore in high school. We had planned our trip to take place during the school year so we all got to miss school.

For most of us, it was our first airplane trip. We flew to Mexico City and visited a number of the tourist sites, including the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco, meaning the “Place of Flowers”. One of the more memorable sites was the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was amazing to watch some of the parishioners crawl on their knees on the cobbled stone to the entry of the Basilica as a means of giving thanks. 

Learn more about My Cabaña

Hello Our Cabaña!

Then we were off to Cuernavaca. I remember Our Cabaña as having many flowers and great food. Trying the local cuisine, like pigeon, was a new and exciting experience—also delicious. During our time at Our Cabaña we met Girl Guides from other parts of the world including Mexico and El Salvador. We also volunteered at an orphanage. And we visited the city of Taxco, a city heavily associated with silver. We all bought souvenirs to take back home.

At the time, a trip to Mexico was quite unusual and we were in the newspaper several times before and after the trip. Back in 1975, it wasn’t that common to take an airplane trip out of the country (or in the US for that matter) especially for high school students. The fact that we were going to Mexico was a big deal especially in our smaller council in Michigan.  Amazingly, I had saved most of the mementos from the trip in a travel bag we received from the airline – a trip that truly was the experience of a lifetime. 

I encourage EVERY Girl Scout to travel to a new place with their troop or even on their own. Girl Scouts of GCNWI has amazing travel opportunities both nationally and internationally, and Girl Scouts USA has Destinations!—for those individual adventure seekers!

Kim and her fellow Cadettes at My Cabaña 1975

Travel with Girl Scouts

Learn more about the WAGGGS World Centres here, and more about how you can visit Our Cabana here.

GSGCNWI hosted a trip to Our Cabana in 2017; see more about our trip here.

Check out the GCNWI travel page for more information on how to plan your own trip or join a council-sponsored trip!

Why You Should Try Backpacking on Your Next Travel Adventure!

Why You Should Try Backpacking on Your Next Travel Adventure!

Want to try something new for you first or next Girl Scout travels? Consider backpacking for your next adventure! Global Action Volunteer Team member Alex Porter shares her take on why backpacking is an awesome option as well as highlights the benefits and skill-building skills any Girl Scout can gain with this challenging and rewarding form of travel.

You can also read more about our Global Action Volunteer Team! Check our Blog 1 and Blog 2 now!

Backpacking?
You mean, you’re going to travel with just a backpack?

Those two questions summarize many of the responses I get when I tell people that I’m going on another “backpacking” trip.

Alex at the Great Wall of China.

To me, backpacking is about feeling free to move around easily and without restrictions. It is about being able to wake up in Paris one morning and arrive in Berlin the next. Backpacking also teaches you organizational and planning skills that are not easily mastered. When you are forced to fit all of your clothes/toiletries/etc. in one backpack for a week or a month (or in my case, four months+), you really test your understanding of necessity over convenience.

When it comes to the planning and execution of travel, you have to constantly make decisions based on necessity—this especially includes the items you carry with you on your back. For example, do you really need that hair straightener for the one to no times you will actually use it or would you rather have that headlamp to help you navigate?

Backpacking teaches you that you can live without nail polish, makeup, 100 different shoe and dress options, and still have an absolutely amazing time.

Since you are not fully stocked, you learn to be resourceful in many aspects. Through trial and error, you will learn, for example, what food you can take with you on a 12-hour bus ride overnight through Indonesia without it melting or smelling. You learn how to communicate in hand signals, smiles, nods, and gestures—essentially learning a different language!

Alex staying in a hostel.

One of my favorite parts of backpacking is staying in hostels. If you’re not familiar, a hostel is an inexpensive accommodation, similar to a hotel, where travelers, who are strangers, bunk together for a short time. Hostel-dwellers typically share a bedroom—think bunk beds or dormitory style—as well as common areas like a restaurant and/or a kitchen. My absolute favorite part of staying in a hostel is being able to meet people from all over the world! I would argue that I’ve learned more about different cultures from my time spent in hostels than all my time spent in both college undergraduate as well as graduate programs.

All in all, backpacking is a wonderful way to explore the world, meet amazing people, and learn more about yourself.   


Travel with Girl Scouts GCNWI!

Check out the GSGNCWI Travel page for information on how to plan a troop trip—where you can choose to go backpacking—or join a GSUSA Destination!

Future Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts, if you want to try your hand at camping and experiencing another part of the world, apply for the Camping in the UK 2020 trip!


Fund Your Travels: Have Questions? We Got Answers!

A blog series to help girls, parents, and leaders learn ways to fund your Girl Scout travels!

Are you ready to travel the globe and see what the world has to offer? Maybe you’re interested in joining a Girl Scouts Destinations trip or a Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) council-sponsored trip such as our upcoming You-and-Me Trips to St. Louis, MO, or Door County, WI! 

Whatever your future Girl Scout travels may be, we have the answers to some of the questions you may have when it comes to planning your trip!

FAQ

Here is a list of the Frequently Asked Questions our Service Unit Support Manages receive!

  1. Can we do a GoFund me page? When it comes to earning money for travel, we want our Girl Scouts to exercise their skills and knowledge of fundraising that is why crowd sourced fundraising is NOT permitted.
  2. Wait, but can we ask people to donate to us for our trip?  Yes you can through fundraising and donation events set up by your Girl Scouts. For more info see guidelines in Volunteer Essentials, page 78
  3. Can we accept cash donations?  Yes.
  4. What do we do for the girls that aren’t going on the trip?  Be transparent throughout the process, carefully documenting all troop accounts and sharing with girls and parents so everyone is clear what money is for trip and what money is for “general stuff”.  
  5. Can our troop have separate accounts for girls with money earning for trips? They often have some girls who want to travel and some that do not so it is tough to decide what money goes where.   Any money raised/earned is the property of the entire troop, no individual girl or adult.  Again, be transparent and open and encourage the girls to develop guidelines as to how to allocate money based on fund-raising participation, the girls usually have great ideas and are very fair! 
  6. How do we go about getting a receipt for donor or an in-kind donation letter?  See Volunteer Essentials, page 80 
  7. Can troop leaders earn money for being on the trip as well? It is up to each troop to decide! Some have the leader pay their own way, while others support the leader to attend. Again, be clear upfront how many adult chaperones are needed, whether the troop will help pay for the chaperones, if other adults can attend and payment details.

Use these money saving tips towards upcoming You & Me trips!

St. Louis, MO and Door County, WI

Read Blog 1 in our series: Fund Your Travels: Money-Earning Tips for Funding Girl Scout Trips

Read Blog 2 in our series: Fund Your Travels: Planning Tips for Funding Your Girl Scout Trips

What I Learned from Traveling as a Girl Scout

What I Learned from Traveling as a Girl Scout

The following is a guest post from Girl Scout Lillian H…

The Eyes to the Skies Destination at Camp WaBak in Marietta, South Carolina has inspired me to do things differently in many ways. One of those ways is to always look up, because you never know what you might see. Another one is to try new things, even if you think you won’t like them at first. Finally, don’t be afraid to mess up or fail, everyone makes mistakes.

During the solar eclipse, we all thought that the sky was going to remain cloudy during totality. However, when it reached totality we all looked up and the clouds had parted.

Even when it was cloudy we all kept looking for changes in the environment. On the brink of totality an owl flew from the woods surrounding us to a secluded pine tree.

At this destination, at least for me being from Illinois, there were tons of new opportunities. We all went for barbecue, I tried hush puppies for the first time. There was a flight simulator at the Challenger Learning Center, I was a little scared at first, but it turned out to be tons of fun. Trying new things will never be a disappointing opportunity to experience.

There were a lot of things that I messed up on. We made bottle rockets out of two two-liter bottles, mine wasn’t the best but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it failed. We also did creek walking and I have to say, that’s the one thing that I messed up. Once we had gotten to the waterfall I slipped and fell into the knee deep water and skinned my knee on a stone. After that I had tons of fun wading in the ankle deep water with some of my new friends.

This destination has really taught me to always look up, try new things, and not to be afraid of messing up.

 

If you’d like to learn more about our council’s travel opportunities, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

Girl Scouts Visit Our Cabaña in Mexico

Girl Scouts Visit Our Cabaña in Mexico

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 at Nuestra Cabaña in Mexico…

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Day One

Greetings from Mexico! This is Gillion (Joliet, IL) and Leianna (Chicago, IL) writing to you all. Today, we went to Plaza De Las Tres Cultras and we learned about the history of the Mexican government and why it is important to the Mexican culture.

When we went to Teotihuacan we learned that it is the “City of Gods” and there is a plant that gave the Aztecs the basic needs (paper, soap, needle and thread). We also learned that they made their blankets and sweaters out of the cactus fibers. We then went to the Teotihuacan (pyramids). The majority of the girls walked up and down the pyramids, and let us tell you; the view was beautiful. There were shops throughout the pyramids (technically called temples) that sold bracelets, shirts, shoes, etc.

Then we went for lunch at a buffet where a mariachi band played for us. Our tour guide Marco sang a song for us and he had a beautiful voice. After lunch we went to the Nueva Basilica de Guadalupe (the Shrine of the Virgin Mary). We visited the old and new shrine then walked into the chapel. When we were just about to leave the shrine, it was pouring rain. When it calmed down, only by 10 percent, we ran to our cars to head for dinner. We had a ton of fun at dinner. Last, but not least, we got churros to end our night. Overall, our day was very long, but it was all worth it in the end.

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Day Two

Greeting from Ticalli! This is your amigas Nina and Taryn. We had a jam packed day full of fun. To start our day we went to Xochimilco and rode on a boat through the last Aztec canal in Ciudad de Mexico. Xochimilco is known for its floating gardens and is a colorful burst of Mexican culture. While on the boat we enjoyed elote, quesadillas, and many vendors showing off their trade. We used our new-found bartering skill, courtesy of Jan, to get the best deal!

Afterwards, we travelled to Coyoacan where we enjoyed a lunch of tostadas and aqua de fruta. From there we walked to Casa Azul, the home of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, and her husband Diego Rivera. While we were there, we learned more about the difficult and painful life that Frida endured and how it inspired many of her famous works. Inside the house there is not only many beautiful works of art, but also articles of her clothing and other remnants of her life.

On our way to the restaurant, we stopped to take pictures at “Alas de la Ciudad,” “The Wings of the City.” When we arrived to the restaurant, we saw the locked doors and the vacant restaurant, so we made other plans. The brave Jodi Lynn and Ashley ventured through the thunderstorm to get us our delicious pizza. Although the day was filled with twists and turns, it ended with lots of laughter, smiles, and beautiful memories.

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Day Three

This is Jordan (Green Bay, WI) and Gillion again writing to you from Our Cabaña in Cuernavaca, Mexico! Today we woke up and ate breakfast at Ticalli, like usual and then went to Zocalo, a large town square in Mexico CIty. There is the Palacio Nacional, the Gran Hotel, and the Metropolitan Cathedral. Then, walked to a restaurant near by to eat lunch. After lunch, we drove near Central Alameda Park and the Fine Art Museum to get back to Ticalli in time to get picked up to head to Our Cabaña. When we arrived, we got a tour of the World Center and ate dinner. After dinner we played games with all 60 girls staying with us to get to know them. It was a day filled with fun activities and meeting many new people.

Our Cabana

Day Four

This is Jenna (Wisconsin) and Jaelyn (Virginia) coming to you live from Our Cabaña. Today we woke up and had breakfast. We then participated in team building activities where we met girls from all around the world. At lunch we got to try the best chocolate flan cake ever. We then played a real life version of chutes and ladders. We were split up into groups and went to different stations; some of the stations were Our Cabaña trivia, Mexican food, camping tips, Day of the Dead (face painting), and water activities. Some of the girls also worked on a challenge to earn a limited edition patch for the 60th anniversary of Our Cabaña. After dinner we had a campfire and sung campfire songs.

Day Five

Hola! This is Kate (Lewisvile, NC) reporting on the activities of this past day. Today, the entire camp ran activity stations for the kids of a local orphanage, boys and girls ages 3-12. Our table held the materials to design your own paper plate sun catcher, complete with sequins, colored cellophane bits, and stickers. LOTS of stickers. Later into the day, the majority of us split off with one child to have fun hula-hooping, eating popsicles, and dancing our hearts out.

After we said “Adios,” our group set off in shifts to a nearby mall, only 25 minutes away by walking. We didn’t find much, but our leaders did find a McDonald’s – a MEXICAN McDonald’s. We wrapped up the evening with games that the whole center played, Jenga, Head’s Up, a clapping concentration game, and a round of Bang where the leaders (Mrs. Machota) were especially trigger-happy. As I am writing this, Nieve, the camp cat, has claimed Ms. Christensen’s lap for herself, and is working on a campaign for her laptop bag. We will continue the war front updates tomorrow. Cheers!

Mexico waterfalls

Day Six

This is Caroline (Boston) and Sierra (Iowa) writing to you from Our Cabaña. After a rushed breakfast, we headed out on an adventure with our group, girls from Pennsylvania, and girls from an island in the Caribbean. We took a bus and a truck to Mil Cascadas (the site of the waterfalls) then hiked the rest of the way. There were seven waterfalls of varying heights that could be attempted.

Every girl hiked and most jumped at least one. The tallest was 10 meters and the shortest was 2 meters. The instructors were helpful with getting our equipment (helmets and life jackets), steadying us along the way, and guiding us once we were in the water. No one hit a rock, but there was at least one accidental belly flop. Following the jumping, we had lunch by the water then hiked back. We saw lots of donkeys, horses, and cows on our journey. Some locals were even waterfall jumping too. Lots of girls took advantage of the ride back by taking naps.

Day Seven

Writing to you is Sophia (California) and Zuri (Pennsylvania) live and in stereo. This morning, we had a buffet-style breakfast. Then at 10 a.m., we boarded a tour bus to drive to a cathedral in downtown Cuernavaca where we learned the history of the location and Hernan Cortez.

Then, we had free time to go shopping at the local craft market where girls bought authentic Mexican items such as hammocks, dresses, and handmade bags. We arrived at Our Cabaña at 1:30 p.m. where we had a delicious lunch which was followed by a fun-filled pool party. Later this evening, we had a traditional dinner and a Nuestra Cabaña scavenger hunt. Now we are off to bed awaiting the 60th Anniversary party tomorrow.

Mexico 5

Day Eight

Hola, it’s Taryn and Sierra writing to you about yesterday. The morning started off with an optional trip to the local pyramids called Teopanzolco. Girls could walk there or have a free morning. After returning, we came back for lunch. The 60th anniversary party was in the afternoon. Girls got dressed up in party clothes.

There were super fun arcade games, a cute photo booth with costumes and props, a piñata filled with traditional Mexican candy, Spanish, American, British, and Brazilian music, and lots of high energy dancing. During dinner there was even a mariachi band. They brought in caterers for dinner with traditional Mexican food- tacos, elotes, quesadillas, etc. To end the party, girls jumped fully clothed into the swimming pool.

Day Nine

This is Leianna (Chicago) and Celina (Missouri) writing to you all about our day. Today we worked on our scrapbook page for the Cabaña’s scrapbook. The book is basically full of all the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides that have visited the Cabaña. Then we planned out our international night swaps. We practiced our song and a brief sentence about each of our swaps. Then we had free time to do what we wanted like swim or go to the craft house.

The Cabaña had set up two programs for us to choose from. One was about self-confidence and the other was about types of violence. The classes they set up for us was to learn different views of what goes on in today’s society. When dinner time came the leaders left for dinner. The Girl Scouts stayed at the Cabaña to eat dinner and play capture the flag with the volunteers. All the girls are really enjoying themselves and don’t want to leave just yet.

If you’d like to learn more about our council’s travel opportunities, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

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.

Girl Scouts Visit Mackinac Island

Girl Scouts Visit Mackinac Island

Curious about travel, but not ready to commit to a week away from home? Then Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan may be the perfect fit for you.

Recently, 23 Girl Scouts and their moms or grandmothers boarded a coach bus to the ferry. After a 40-minute smooth sail, the participants landed on Mackinac – an island with no cars and lots of fudge!

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Together, the Girl Scouts and their favorite female family members went on a horse-drawn carriage ride, explored the Butterfly Conservatory at the Wings of Mackinac, and explored Fort Mackinac.

Amanda Esposito

After some group fun, the girls and their moms and grandmas split up to spend some bonding time together. Some girls went horseback riding.

LoreAnn Sprouse

While others opted to rent bikes and pedal the 8.2 miles around the island.

“My experience encouraged me to ride my bike more instead of riding a car, which prevents pollution,” said Girl Scout Lore Ann Sprouse. “I was encouraged because my destination didn’t have any motorized vehicles and the air felt so clean. I now ride my bike more because I want where I live to feel that clean, too, for myself and others.”

A few of the girls even got dressed up to have a fancy meal at the Grand Hotel. The Girl Scouts also went hiking, shopping and made new friends in the process.

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If you’re interested in how you can join next year’s trip, please email Ashley Christensen at achristensen@girlscoutsgcnwi.org. If you’re ready to sign up for your next adventure, you can register here. Space is limited, so sign up soon!