Location Spotlight: NOLS

Last week, we highlighted the YMCA of the Rockies for you. Now, our groups have moved on to Lander, Wyoming, where they spend 11 days with our partner NOLS: the National Outdoor Leadership School.

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Photos by: Meagan Kindrat

NOLS was founded in Sinks Canyon, Wyoming in 1965 by Paul Petzoldt, whose dream was to train leaders who could live sustainably in the wilderness and pass on their knowledge to others.

This leadership theme is still prominent. Today, NOLS prides itself on teaching the core curriculum of leadership, wilderness skills, risk management, and environmental studies. Just a few of the things our students learn include how to sleep outside and stay warm, cooking over a single burner stove, navigation, and bonding under adversity, all led by the highly qualified instructors.

Of course, another perk of NOLS is the breathtaking location. Wyoming is proof that beauty is everywhere in nature; you don’t need to be on a beach to get a great view.

Meagan Kindrat NOLS

The beautiful mountains of the Northwest.

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Snow already? Not so unusual for Wyoming.

Blue Cohort goofing around in some free time.

Meagan Kindrat NOLS

NOLS teaches our students how to stay safe in the woods when the sun goes down.

 

NOLS has plenty of opportunities for both teens and adults, including programs that offer college and continuing education credits. Check it out for yourself!

 

 

*all photos by Meagan Kindrat

Backpacking on a Budget

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Cost can often be the most stressful part of traveling. Often bucket lists and bank accounts become worst enemies. However, credit cards can make travel more accessible with points and miles. Credit card points are earned when you spend money, and can be redeemed for items such as merchandise, cash back, or travel expenses.

One company has made their mission to help dreamers become actual travelers with these rewards. In March 2016, Alex Miller created Upgraded Points help people with low disposable income have the world experiences they might otherwise be unable to have. 

Upgraded Points offers guidelines and resources that help many people reach their dream destinations. The numbers don’t lie: in the months of 2016 after Upgraded Points’ launch, over one million people visited the site.

Recently, Miller shared a guide to maximizing student travel, and we’re highlighting some of his words of wisdom for you. 

  1. Know when to book a flight for the best price. Prices are likely to be highest around times of high travel concentration, like the holidays. Prices may be lowest on Tuesdays after airlines evaluate how well seats sold over the weekend.
  2. Have a specific goal in mind, and do your homework to reach that goal.
  3. Sign up for a student card to receive travel discounts, and visit sites for discount flights and housing. Miller outlines some great options in the guide.
  4. Know why going abroad matters. Whether you get college credits, learn a foreign language, or help someone who needs it, your travel has a bigger purpose. Take advantage of some of the student volunteer organizations that Miller mentions, like
  5. Build credit! This is a huge focus of Upgraded Points, and their website has an immense amount of helpful knowledge and information for both first-time and current credit card users.

Financial responsibility is always a good attribute to have, so we recommend checking out the rest of the Upgraded Points site to learn more about seeing the world without breaking the bank.

Location Spotlight: Estes Park, Colorado

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Blue Cohort having fun at Orientation | Photo by: Dini Vermaat

Our Gap Year program kicks off with orientation at YMCA of the Rockies located in Estes Park, Colorado. We begin our adventure by introducing students to Winterline while laying the foundation for the rest of the year.

It’s amazing that we get to learn and play in such a beautiful place. Surrounded on three sides by Rocky Mountain National Park, YMCA of the Rockies offers an environment inspired by nature where friends and family can grow closer together while enjoying the natural beauty of the world around them. During their stay in Estes Park our students participate in group discussion, games, and team building activities to strengthen their bond before they embark on their 9 month trip.

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Green Cohort playing morning games
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Anna and Lex during team-building
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Green cohort working as a team
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Elk hanging out at YMCA of the Rockies

 

Do you want to learn more about Estes Park and YMCA of the Rockies?
Check out our fast facts listed below.

  • YMCA of the Rockies has more than 860 acres of Colorado beauty.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park are home to around 3,000 elk.
  • The national park covers 415 square miles of wildflowers and mountain views.
  • The town of Estes Park is one of the highest-rated family destinations in the United States.
  • While staying at the YMCA our students have the opportunity to hike, roller skate, do yoga, observe wildlife, build campfires, and play miniature golf and other outdoor sports.
  • There are over 300 miles of trails to be hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Elk, big horn sheep, marmots, squeaking pikas, and the iridescent broad-tailed hummingbird all find their home in Estes Park.
  • The national park is great for climbing with peaks ranging from 12,000-14,000 feet above sea level.
  • YMCA of the Rockies sits at an elevation of 8,010 feet.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park has more than 265,000 of acres ready to be explored.

Meet the Field Advisors: Sarah & Ed

We introduced you to Erica and Patrick; now it’s time to meet our other pair of field advisors! Sarah and Ed will be working with our second group of gap year students (our green cohort), who start orientation tomorrow! Sarah and Ed are passionate about both travel and interpersonal development, and they’re excited to spend the next nine months leading students on an adventure around the world.

 

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Meet Sarah Rasmussen

Sarah’s love for adventure has brought her all over the world: from California and Seattle to China, Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, and Kyrgyzstan! Her passion for working with and helping both people and animals is apparent: Sarah is an equestrian trainer and has worked as a dog handler. Additionally, she’s an advocate for victims of domestic and sexual assault, as well as homeless and runaway youth, not to mention she has spent time in the Peace Corps. Sarah can’t wait to bond with our gap year students and experience new countries and adventures with Winterline!

Q: What are you most excited for when it comes to this program?

SR: Typically I work climbing, backpacking, and kayaking trips in backcountry settings so I am excited to travel to new places and do new things. I am also keen to catch up with friends of long standing along the way.

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

SR: I am an FA because I enjoy traveling and working witih young people. My favorite parts of these trips is watching students grow as they move down their own path of self-discovery.

Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten while travelling?

SR: I was backpacking in the Boundary Waters between the US and Canada and we had run out of food. So we mixed together some left over ingredients from previous meals. We made a stew of sorts from dehyrdated refried beans, mashed potato flakes, and Texture Vegetable Protein. It was about 3/4 bad.

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

SR: For nearly two years I insisted that I be called Sassy and would not answer to the name Sarah.

 

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Meet Ed Thompson

Ed honed his skills as an outdoor educator, mentor, and manager during 15 years of service at a non-profit in New Hampshire before packing up to travel. Recently, Ed has set his focus on youth- and community-focused jobs in new lands: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Peru, Kuwait, and Haiti, to name a few! This background has brought Ed to us at Winterline and we couldn’t be more excited! Ed is eager to help young people experience the world and develop new skills along the way!

Q: What are you most excited for?

ET: On a professional level, I’m most excited to get to know the students and witness their personal growth over the course of the trip as they confront (and overcome!) the many diverse challenges they’re sure to encounter along the way.  Personally, I’m always excited for the opportunity to travel and to get to know new places/people/cultures around the world.

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

ET: I became a field advisor because it combines my interest in working with young people, my love of travel, and my sincere belief in the value of the sorts of skills Winterline strives to teach.

Q: What is your favorite place you have travelled to & why?

ET: Guatemala was one of my first extended independent travel destinations and set the tone for all my future travel.  It was a nice blend of structured learning (I spent a couple of weeks studying Spanish) balanced with a period of unstructured free travel (I wandered around the country using the local “chicken buses”, trekking to waterfalls in the northern highlands, swimming in the rivers along the Caribbean coast, and relaxing by a lake in the central lowlands).

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

ET: I attended kindergarten twice!

To find out more about all of our amazing field advisors and the rest of our staff, be sure to check out our Winterline Team here.

I Didn’t Take a Gap Year – and I Regret It

Among students considering a gap year, there’s one common hesitation that stands out: students worry that by postponing college, they’ll fall behind their peers. For some teens, the thought of being older than the other students when they return and go to college is anxiety-causing. For others, there may be a more extreme fear; a concern that taking one year off will significantly prevent them from achieving success later in life. In my case, the latter was true.

 

I went straight to college after graduating high school, and while I’ve enjoyed it so far, I regret not taking advantage of the opportunity to spend time traveling before committing myself to university. I toyed with the idea of a gap year for a long time, but what it came down to was this: I didn’t want to go to college, but I felt as though that was just what I had to do. College to me is, essentially, just what people do.

I was terrified of being in a different spot than my friends from high school, and feared that taking a year off would reflect poorly on my work ethic, especially when I began applying to jobs. However, I know now that that concern was unwarranted. Many successful people take gap years, and a great amount of these people actually credit that year to their success. Taking a gap year is obviously not the norm in America, so taking a year off to explore both the world and yourself does not set you up for failure, but rather sets you apart from your peers in a positive way. It shows a commitment to learning about other cultures, religions, and people. It shows courage, and insight, and curiosity. No respectable college or job would turn you down because you took the time to discover the world and all that it has to offer.

 

Additionally, in taking a gap year, you get to experience more of the world than you might’ve thought possible. The skills you learn and experiences you have will be ones you can’t have at school, and not only will they help set you up to be an adult, but will help you discover your strengths and passions. It’s unfair to expect that an 18 year old will know what field they want to go into with little world experience, but a gap year means you might have a better idea of what you want to do with the rest of your life – or at least the foreseeable future.

Meet The Field Advisors: Erica & Patrick

We are gearing up for our Gap Year orientation and we’re so excited to introduce you to two of our four field advisors. Erica and Patrick will be heading to Colorado to meet with one of our two groups of gap year students.We are so proud to have such strong leaders and experienced travelers as field advisors for the upcoming Gap Year program. For the next nine months Patrick and Erica will be leading our students around the globe for the adventure of a lifetime.

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Meet Erica Schultz

Since 2013, Erica has dedicated her time and talents to leading experiential education student groups through travel across the globe. She has worked with programs in Costa Rica, Ghana, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Through her work in the Peace Corps and her degree in Spanish writing and literature, she has found her passion of creating strong connections with other cultures through their languages. With over four years of leading programs and about 50 student trips under her belt she’s beyond excited for the next nine months with Winterline.

Q: What are you most excited for when it comes to this program?

ES: I’m excited to share my stoke of visiting each country as we move through the trimesters! We are LITERALLY going around the world on this program! That’s a traveler’s dream.

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

ES: For the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time working with high school students in different countries. Being a Field Advisor for Winterline, I’m given the opportunity to work and create impactful relationships with students that are a little older and have more independence. This program allows them to better control what they want to get out of the program and how it will shape their future. I’ve always been passionate about experiential education and learning outside of the classroom. As an FA I get to fulfill that passion by seeing students thrive through real life situations, through gaining skills that will potentially help shape their decisions later in life, and by gaining a well-rounded global perspective.

Q: What is your favorite thing about traveling?

ES: The feeling of stepping foot in a new and unknown country. It’s so exhilarating to know almost nothing about the place you’ve landed in and not knowing anyone there. Also, FOOD. Always! Trying everything and anything!

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

ES: I haven’t had a home since 2013 (my mom might argue with this since my stuff is in my childhood room of my parents’ house!) I have been working for travel companies, had a small stint in Peace Corps, and pieced together road trips in between to keep the travel ball rolling. Since then, I’ve hit 16 countries (including new states in America) and I am excited to add two new ones to the list from this program.

 

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Meet Patrick Galvin

A natural born leader, Patrick is happiest when his backpack is on and he’s out exploring new places. He is excited excited to join the Winterline family to combine his passions of travel, mentorship, and the love of life through the gap year program. Patrick found his passion for working with young adults during his travels leading programs in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. With about a dozen student trips under his belt, Patrick is excited about taking his leadership to new heights and places with Winterline.

Q: What are you most excited for?

PG: Anytime I pack my backpack to go on an adventure I get excited! I have a long list (the countries we’re going to, the skills we will learn, etc.) but I’m currently most excited to meet everyone in the group and get to know everyone. Each group is unique and every individual brings something special to the table. I can’t wait to find out what those unique qualities are 😉

Q: Why did you become a field advisor?

PG: This job is one of a kind. It is the most rewarding and inspiring job that I have ever come across. Travel has always been an obsession of mine and I love to work with young adults in a mentorship role.

Q: What’s a place that you’ve never been but really want to visit?

PG: I can’t wait to get to India!!! It’s been #1 on my list to get to for the past two years 🙂

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

PG: The highest elevation I’ve ever hiked to is 5645 meters (18,519 feet).

 

To find out more about all of our amazing field advisors and the rest of our staff, be sure to check out our Winterline Team here.

 

My Dream Gap Year

Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard. Decision Day had arrived and while all my friends were announcing their acceptances into elite colleges, I was buying what my sister calls “grandma sandals” and a 70-litre backpack for what was, and is, supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. I sat there, observing the stream of committed students and proud mothers, attempting to quell my frustrations. Their senior years had been a breeze as soon as winter holidays hit. Applications were done, and their fun could finally begin, but I was in a different boat.

With the decision of taking a gap year comes a few complications, the first being that most all of the colleges I want to apply to don’t accept deferments. Unlike everyone else, whose grades past their application date are to some extent irrelevant, all my grades are taken into account. However, I didn’t have grades until I started taking classes at my local community college. “Why Leela,” you might ask, “What do you mean you didn’t have grades until community college?” Well, my high school is what I lovingly refer to as a “crunchy granola private school,” and I was legally registered as a homeschooler because my three day a week “learning community” didn’t meet the hour requirements for a legitimate school. For someone who wants to go to Stanford, waiting a year has its pros and cons. On one hand I get more of a chance to prove my worth. The extra time means they have more grades to look at when I apply. On the other hand, I have to take summer classes while everyone else is on vacation because I want the best chance of acceptance possible. Admittedly I’m not looking forward to it, but my saving grace is my gap year. Although, it wasn’t always so easy to say that.

It was the end of junior year, and my school had it’s annual college prep class: five days of exploring secondary education and—more pertinently, alternative options to attending university. My dream gap year was exactly that: a dream. Murky and unknown, with only a few concrete details. I wanted to travel, I wanted to learn about the world beyond my front door, and I wanted to come back with a better idea of what I wanted to do with my life so I wasn’t attending college just to say I was. I had minimal resources and poor planning skills. In addition, traversing the globe alone sounded mildly terrifying for the moment, and I wasn’t sure how much I’d learn if I just did the whole “I’m going to Europe!” thing, so I used that five-day course to explore my options. There was a semester at sea, a year in Ireland, and a handful of other eye-catching options, but none of them quite struck me as fulfilling. In fact, by the time that course was done, I wasn’t quite sure I even wanted to take a gap year anymore. I have a habit of giving up when the going gets hard, and boy was it getting hard. But I kept searching, and one day there it was, a small advertisement sitting in the middle of my facebook feed at two o’clock in the morning: Winterline (cue the commercial music).

My parents were more than skeptical when I told them the next morning. They didn’t really believe that I’d go back to school if I stopped, and to be honest, I felt it too. But I stood there in my fleecy plaid pajamas and I told them my truth: I felt silly applying for esteemed colleges that cost immense sums of money without a plan in mind. Yes, straying from the path is scary, but where I was, and where I am currently, with no clue what I’d even want to study, is scarier. I mean, most everyone has at least an idea of what they wanted from life, and me? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. As I am now, I know who I am, I know my flaws and my strengths, and I’ve finally become very confident in myself and my personality. But ask me what I want to do in college or what I like to do in general, and I’ll probably change the subject.

So yes, this gap year idea is strange, and mildly terrifying. In fact, it was so scary I didn’t even send out grad announcements. I didn’t want to give anyone an excuse to ask me what I’m doing this year, because as excited as I am, there’s still so many questions that I have. And of course there’s the ever looming thought of not getting into my dream school afterwards, that all this work will be for naught. Even since beginning to write this, I’ve had a few panic attacks.

Yet, for all the hard work I’ve been sloughing through; for every party I missed because I had an 8AM class in the middle of July the next morning, for every invite to the lake I declined to work on my SAT studies, and for every late night where I was lost in the plethora of existential crises that plagues my brain; for every one of those moments, there is a moment where I picture myself. Past this summer, past the gap year even, right after the most wonderful adventure in the world. When I think about the end of this, I hold one very specific image in my head: I am settled down one evening, a September sunset streaming through my dorm room window, thinking about my road so far; remembering every obstacle I encountered, and how euphoric it felt to overcome each one. And then future me looks up and smiles, she looks me straight in the eyes and says, “It was all worth it, and Paolo Alto is beautiful.”