NLC at miniwanca

So the last time I left off was with my Alaskan adventure. Well..the travels didn’t stop there! My boyfriend Mo came to pick me up from my Alaska trip at the Columbus airport, and we arrived back home around 1:30 am..I had to do my laundry and re-pack so that I was ready to leave for Michigan the following morning at 9am..woof. But it was all so worth it for the experiences to come..and I actually did fine, thanks to my friends Tessa and Katharine who let me chill in the back seat of the car and attempt to sleep (I’ve never been able to do that..but I managed for about half an hour I think!) while they drove and navigated the way.

So why was I in such a hurry to get up and go again? Because I’m nuts. Or because I wanted to get back to this

Yeah, that’s more like it. I headed to my favorite place on Earth, also known as Camp Miniwanca. I am fortunate enough to be on staff with the American Youth Foundation (AYF) there for two weeks in the summer as a part of the National Leadership Conference.

This is a conference for high school age students who come from all over to country (and occasionally internationally) to participate in various aspects of leadership development through a four year program designed to inspire people to discover and develop their personal best, seek balance in physical, mental, social and religious/spiritual living, and to make a positive difference in their communities and in the wider world.

Whoa, I know..a lot to take in there. Basically it’s an incredible experience rife with silliness, seriousness, and inspiration all set on the beautiful sand dunes of Lake Michigan with some of the greatest people I’ve ever been lucky enough to know. I graduated from the program in 2010 and since then have been granted the opportunity to offer my insights and service back as staff.

We had lots of fun with games such as human foosball

And constant random dance parties

The National Leadership Conference is very focused on building community, and I was so glad to have some of my class (my year of the program and our mentors who guided us all 4 years) there with me on staff to represent that community which has grown into a true family.

I left Michigan and only had about five days at home before heading off for Australia, but it was so worth it to connect to new participants and leave fully refreshed, recharged, and ready for my new adventures to come!

I’m now hangin in LAX waiting for my flight to Sydney then Perth, finally..but I’ll leave that story for when I arrive and can post again!!

[edit..I’m in Australia!! I’ll get a post up about my trip and first week hopefully real soon]

Thanks for reading 🙂

Where is your favorite place to travel?

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Ohio to Alaska

I’m back! So sorry it’s taken me such a long time to post again but a lack of internet for three weeks plus crazy prep for the next adventure will do that to a girl..thanks for being patient 🙂 Now I’d love to share some of the highlights of my incredible trip to Alaska a few weeks ago. First, the story behind the trip: I have been visiting a group home for adults with disabilities weekly while at college for the past three and a half years and this year was offered a chance to volunteer on a trip with the residents! I’m not going to lie I figured it would be a fun trip to the zoo or something, so you can imagine my shock when I found out they wanted me to go on a cruise to Alaska!! There ended up being 6 residents and 5 other staff members on the trip with me, and I am just so grateful and blessed to have gotten to join them. Now for the recap.. We all met up in Columbus and flew to Chicago for the first leg of our trip. From there we flew to Seattle, and I got to sit in an aisle row seat  since I was hangin with our two guys who are in wheelchairs. It was really interesting for me to see how various places accommodate people in wheelchairs/with disabilities. I have to say, overall I was blown away by the kind words, support, and extra assistance offered by most people we met! Once we got to Seattle we boarded our ship and headed straight to the buffet for some delicious food. Let me tell ya, we did not go hungry..ever! We ate dinner (almost) every night in the formal dining room, and they were so accommodating with our group. I was registered as dairy free, and the head waiter would come to the table every night and show me the menu for the next night and let me make substitutions or special requests if I  needed. It was actually quite funny how attentive he was, but I didn’t hate it! Some of the food highlights of the week included lots of fresh fruit also some yummy seafood and veggies And of course delicious desserts.. We spent most of the sea days just kind of relaxing and exploring the ship. There were tons of things on the schedule on the everyday but we mostly just hung out to not let the guys get too over-stimulated..which still happened kind of inevitably after three port days in a row during which we had crazy awesome excursions. Our first port day we were in Ketchikan, and visited Saxman Native Village to see the native dancers and their totem poles. I brought one of the residents up with me and we got to wear the costumes and perform a dance with the natives! They also had an honor pole for Abe Lincoln..if you didn’t know I have a serious crush on him..I just think Lincoln is a slammin’ hottie, what can I say? But it was really neat to hear their stories and see (and smell the cedar!) where the totem poles are carved now. The following morning we sailed through Tracy’s Arm which wound us through incredible glaciers and stunning scenery. I know it’s July and all but I couldn’t help but be surprised at how green things were..there were a bunch of small waterfalls all over the place too! I kept my eyes peeled for a bear along the shore, but no such luck. That afternoon we docked in Juneau and set about to some shopping before heading to our whale watching tour! Holy moly, talk about incredible. The pictures just can’t do it justice. We got to see some sea lions laying around in the sun, which apparently is about all they like to do! We were even told that the coast guard has to come spray them off the buoy with a fire hose every year just to clean the surface! We even got to see whales bubble feeding, which meant there were about a dozen in a pod all coming up for fish at the same time! I didn’t get a great picture but it was quite the sight to see.

Our final port day was in Skagway, and we got to take an amazing ride on the White Pass Yukon Trail railroad through the mountains. The residents were starting to get pretty exhausted and overstimulates by all the change in the routine and excitement at this point in the week, but we still managed to have a lot of fun and enjoy the stunning scenery.

We went over bridges (fun fact: I used to be petrified of driving over bridges..I’m mostly over it!), through tunnels, and around the mountain to hear all sorts of fun facts and of course see the sights.

We had some fun hanging out between the train cars and catching the breeze…note the sundress- it was a beautiful sunny day and probably at least 75 degrees! I thought this was Alaska?! Not complaining..

Overall it was an unforgettable week and I had so much fun both with the staff and residents. I not only got to experience an incredible cruise, but grew in new ways in terms of working with individuals with disabilities. I feel so blessed and beyond grateful that I got to share in these memories, so a huge thank you goes out to all who helped make it possible!!