This is a guest post by Annika Holkeboer, a veteran of two trips with RLT (Wyoming in 2012 and Norway in 2013).
I’ve been hiking in America’s national parks since I was two years old. It’s one of my favorite things – it allows me to escape into the most beautiful places with the best people.
When my parents showed me The Road Less Traveled catalog before my freshman year of high school, I immediately wanted to go on a trip. Unfortunately, I had to wait until the next summer, but it was worth the wait.
I went on Peaks & Valleys: Wyoming in 2012 and Footsteps of Giants: Norway, the following summer. Being adventure trips, they both fit well with my favorite things.
I was really excited to venture to Norway. I had never really thought much about the country before and my only previous knowledge was that Oslo was one of the most expensive cities in the world. I had traveled to five different countries with my family before, but never traveled out of the USA by myself. However, I didn’t need to worry because with RLT trips, I always meet new, amazing people. To me, it’s an amazing opportunity to spend time with new people my age from around the country while spending time away from reality. With RLT I really experienced “the road less traveled” by traveling in remote areas where the typical tourist doesn’t venture.
Traveling to Norway was different than going to Wyoming on an RLT trip, but it was also very similar. Most people we encountered in Norway knew English, or at least they knew how to communicate with us. Norwegians were so welcoming to our group.
One night at a base camp at Galdhøpiggen (the tallest peak in Norway), Hogen, a Norwegian summer mountain guide, approached our group and asked us to sing and dance with them later that evening. We enjoyed a couple hours of Old American tunes and a few traditional Norwegian songs. One of my most memorable moments of that night was singing “Travelin’ Soldier” by the Dixie Chicks with one of my friends to the Norwegians. I had never sung to an audience before, so I was able to experience that with one of my best friends.
One of the most valuable experiences that I gained on my trip was leadership. This was accomplished through many aspects of my experience in Norway. Every participant on the trip is assigned a cook crew, which is responsible for certain meals throughout the trip. With this, I learned how to cook simply and lead my cook crew through a successful, tasty dinner, whether we were on an island with goats or at a campground in the town where Voss water originates.
Additionally, during the backpacking section of our trip, the members of the cook crew were assigned to be the leaders for the day. During this, our leaders let us take the lead and guide the rest of the group by deciphering the map of Jotunheimen National Park, utilizing the compass, scheduling water and food breaks, and checking in with everyone else on how they were feeling. These are simple tasks, but they can be difficult to successfully complete when some people want a break at one time and others at another time. It is hard to sync everyone together, but after a while, my group and I were able to successfully lead.
I have always loved traveling, it is one of my favorite things to do. This past winter break, I had the great gift to travel with my family to France, Kenya, and Tanzania. I was able to visit NGOs that are funded by a non-profit organization in Chicago and go on a safari. It is probably one of my favorite places, as well as Norway. They are both filled with humble people and a bountiful culture.
The Road Less Traveled has been an outstanding opportunity for me and I would never trade it for anything. I have made lifelong connections with the friends I made on the trip. I will always look back on these experiences, positively, as I know they will help me in any field of my life when I am older.
Annika Holkeboer is a veteran of two Road Less Traveled trips and enjoys hiking, traveling, badminton and spending time with family and friends. My favorite places to be are: Washington, D.C., Kenya, Tanzania, and Norway. I love social media and the connections it offers. Follow her on Instagram @aholk13.