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Girl Scout travel broadens Salem girl’s view of the world

A visit to Bondi Beach in Australia was a bit chilly, as it is winter there in July when Emma visited. Rip currents make the beach one of the most dangerous in the world. (L) A visit to the Sydney harbor, with the iconic Opera House and bridge in the background, also included the Sydney Tower, where the Girl Scouts saw the sparking lights of the city in the evening. (C) Emma Hansen pets a baby kangaroo at a wildlife park. (R) (Courtesy Photos)

Emma Hansen explored Australia and New Zealand with Girl Scouts from around the U.S.

SALEM, NH – Girl Scout Destinations are the ultimate in adventure for individual girls who want to travel the world! Girl Scouts make friends everywhere, have life-changing experiences, and pack their bags with inspiring memories. This year, Girl Scouts from Vermont and New Hampshire are traveling to the Galapagos Islands, Japan, Australia, Europe, South Africa, and more. Emma Hansen, 16, a Girl Scout from Salem, applied and was selected for a Destinations trip to Australia and New Zealand, representing New Hampshire in this program with Girl Scouts from across the country.

The Girl Scout Ambassador is starting 11th grade with a wealth of travel experience, but this was the first time she traveled so far away, and without any family or friends.

“Going on this trip was the best experience of my life!” Emma said. She wanted to honor her grandmother and great-grandmother, who were big travelers, and said Australia and New Zealand are places she’s wanted to visit since she was little. “I love kangaroos and koalas, and the Great Barrier Reef. The reef was one of our first activities. It was truly spectacular. I was in the water, seeing corals, fish, sea turtles, and I paused for a minute, with the waves washing over me, just appreciating this planet.”

Accompanied by 39 Girl Scouts and five adults from around the U.S., she made new friends, especially with the three girls from California, Wisconsin, and Texas she was grouped with for the duration of the trip. “Now I have a reason to go visit them!” she said.

The 10-day trip in July started in Australia, with the Great Barrier Reef, then a trip to Kuranda on the northeast coast, where they took a train to the rainforest and explored Barron Falls and aboriginal villages. From there, the girls went to Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, visiting the iconic Sydney Opera House and bridge. One stop in Sydney was Bondi Beach, one of the most dangerous beaches in the world due to its deadly? rip currents. It was chilly, being winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but only cold enough to prompt Emma to buy a sweatshirt. A whale watch there was a highlight.

“That was amazing,” she said. “Up here in the Atlantic, I’ve been whale watching, but we had a whale follow us for a whole three hours, right beside us, breaching and coming up out of the water. It was just spectacular. It was one of the best whale watches they had all season.”

Getting close to the wildlife, the girls enjoyed petting and feeding the kangaroos and wallabies at Featherdale Wildlife Park. “It was just really cool,” Emma said. “The kangaroos were so soft, and wanted to be fed.”

The group then traveled to New Zealand and immersed themselves in the Maori culture in Rotorua, which has a lot of hot springs and geothermal activity. “You see steam everywhere, coming out of the ground!” she said. “It’s the funkiest thing. I’ve never seen that before. It’s sulphur steam so it makes the whole city smell like rotten eggs.” Rather than complain, Emma said she just decided to enjoy it. The group enjoyed tours, jade carving, and traditional Maori food and performances. They even went to a place called Hell’s Gate, where they enjoyed a rejuvenating soak in the warm mud baths.

Emma said her travel experiences have made her more confident in many ways, and helped her overcome her natural shyness. “As a Girl Scout, it was a new thing I could try,” she said. “I hadn’t been on an experience where I came together with Girl Scouts from all over the U.S. I hadn’t had to meet new people. I was terrified of trying to make new friends. I would say that going on this trip and having to meet new people, go to a new place, being on my own without my parents right there helped me problem-solve.”  She said it was no easier on her parents, with her mother concerned for her traveling alone, but when she got home her mother said “I’m really proud of you” because she made it through the airport so quickly and easily.

Being able to travel and experience new cultures has widened this Girl Scout’s perspective on the world. “It gives me an appreciation for how diverse we all are,” Emma said. “We all have different customs. I am trying to appreciate our native cultures here in America, now that I’m home. There’s a broader story most of us don’t know.”

Destinations brings together Cadette, Senior, and Ambassador Girl Scouts from all over the country for amazing summer and winter adventures filled with nature, culture, service, art, science, and more. Any girl in grades 6-12 can apply, and can become a Girl Scout just for the travel opportunities. See more about Girl Scout Destinations and travel at

Girl Scouts unleashes the G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ in every girl, preparing her for a lifetime of leadership. Girl Scouts fuels the female leadership pipeline -  80% of female tech leaders were Girl Scouts. Whether she’s building a robotic arm, coding her first app, packing for her first hike, or traveling the globe, a Girl Scout has an exciting array of choices to suit her interests at any age.

About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that helps girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving more than 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit