Remember that every council has slightly different rules and regulations, and everything you read online that is general for all of USA should always be double checked with your local council rules and regulations.
Journeys were introduced in the new 2011 GSUSA Program. Originally you would buy a Leader Guide that had 9-12 meetings planned out for a leader to simply follow and individual Girl Guides for that journey they could read and follow along on their own at home.
These failed. Miserably. No one wanted to spend that much time on one single subject – leaders or scouts.
The current general purpose doing a Journey instead of a badge is to get the scouts to think a bit deeper on a topic, get invested, and want to apply the skills to make a difference in the world around them.
While no current leader will spend 9-12 meetings from the Leader Guides on a Journey, there are still many troops that will spend 3-4 meetings on a Journey and Take Action Project (TAP) to earn a Journey as a troop still. Many scouts like to get 3 Journeys to earn the Summit Pin that moves up to each level vest.
TAPs do not have to be related to the topic of a Journey. You are supposed to use the topic as a starting point to think of a TAP, but if you are learning about Programming in the Think Like a Programmer Journey and want to Save the Ocean as a TAP – go for it. As long as it is a TAP and not a service project, it counts, regardless of what the TAP is about. But each Journey must have a TAP as that is one of the key purposed – learning how to make a difference in the world around us. Read more about TAPs in the Take Action badge that is earned for the 4 non-traditional Journeys (Outdoor, and 3 Think Like a… Journeys).
How To Do a Journey
Currently, leaders will either look at the individual badges that make up the journey and find something to do on their own or find another leader or council that has made meeting plans that are in a more acceptable timeline than 9-12 meetings in the official books. We recommend you look up the specific journey you want on The Badge Archive for a range of resources, or many leaders prefer to use GSRV (River Valley) council plans as they tend to keep them to 3 meetings.
Leader of Brownies Blog has an interesting view on how Journeys were intended to be and why it failed if you are curious on more of why they failed.
Do I Have To Do a Journey?
No. A lot of troops simply chose to skip the journeys entirely. That’s okay. It’s just an option to do just like all the other badges offered by GSUSA. Individual scouts can also choose to do Journeys on their own if their troop chooses not to do one.
Please note, a lot of communities and councils will offer Journey in a Day (JIAD) events where scouts attend to earn the Journey except the TAP. TAPs are usually meant to do on their own as part of the TAP is the scouts themselves should come up with the project idea. Most JIAD have a possible TAP that they allow the scouts to work on but the scouts would need to finish it on their own or pick a different one.
What About the 5 Badges That Go With the Journey?
There are 3 sets of 5 badges for all levels (except Ambassador) that are “associated” with one of the 3 Traditional Journeys.
These have absolutely nothing to do with the Journey.
You can earn a Journey without ever earning any of those badges. You can earn any of those badges without ever earning the Journey. You do not have to do all 5 of those badges in the set.
It was supposed to be a way to make it convenient for leaders to pick on Journey to do the 9-12 meetings and then have 5 badges they can follow up with to have a complete Girl Scout year of meetings without a lot of thinking needed on what they were supposed to do for troop meetings. Unfortunately, GSUSA is also all about being Girl Led and the scouts like to vote on individual badges rather than a full year plan usually. Leaders had to be far more adaptable than what the intention was.