Stepping outside my comfort zone!

Helen O’Reilly, a Leader with Stillorgan Guides, was one of 12 IGG Leaders who took part in the Explorer Belt challenge in Belgium. Here she writes about her experience:

I always enjoy a new challenge outside of my comfort zone so when the Explorer Belt challenge opened to the over 30s age group with a special Centenary Belt this year it seemed like a perfect opportunity.

We walked for about six hours each day and were thankful that the heatwave from earlier in the summer had passed; it was a more manageable 25 degrees.  We passed through plenty of beautiful sleepy villages and were surrounded by farmland each day.

The projects that we had to complete gave plenty of focus to the 10 days and were a great conversation starter with the local people.  We really enjoyed the projects in the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Mesen, the witches’ parade in Beselare and finding out about Guiding and Scouting in West Flanders.

As the Explorer Belt allows you to pick your own route to cover the required 180km, our team opted to cross the border and spent a night camping in France.  That night we shared our camping field with an ageing horse but it was by no means the most unusual place that we pitched our tent.  We also spent nights in a restaurant garden, on a pig farm and in a large-scale commercial garden centre.

Each day we were amazed by the hospitality of the local people; they were so welcoming, were so generous with their time to help with our projects and were so genuinely friendly.

I was delighted to have been awarded my Centenary Belt*. It was a surreal moment to hear our names read out and it was an amazing end to the months of training and the few challenging moments along the way.

I am hugely grateful to IGG for opening the event to the over 30s category this year and the support that we got from so many of you was amazing – thank you!  When you see the application form for the next Explorer Belt in four years’ time, fill it in and take on the challenge – it will be one of the best experiences you could ever wish for!

*Successful participants aged 18-30 receive an Explorer Belt. The Centenary Belt was a special one-off belt awarded to participants aged 30+ in this year’s event to mark the Senior Branch Centenary.