Kate Middleton: How Duchess’ gap year travels prepared her for life with Prince William

Kate Middleton goes on Chile expedition in 2001

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Kate Middleton has travelled all over the world beside her husband Prince William. Much is expected of the royal pair on state visits and the trips are very much for business not pleasure, despite the broad smiles for the cameras. The Duchess of Cambridge’s travels haven’t always been thus.

The mother-of-three took a gap year ahead of university and was forced “out of her comfort zone” when she joined Operation Raleigh and travelled to South America.

However, it’s likely these early travels helped her with the many skills she has put to use on royal trips in her regal role.

Author Marcia Moody shared insight into Kate’s teenage travels in her 2013 book Kate, A Biography.

The 2001 trip to Chile was far from an easy ride.

“Kate and her team then set out for three weeks of trekking in Patagonia, where she and the rest of the group tackled river crossings, climbed peaks and pitched their tents at night, learning about their surroundings and survival techniques from the group leaders as they went along,” wrote Moody.

“They all slept in two-person tents and, as well as carrying their own rucksacks, would split the camping equipment and cooking supplies to carry between them.

“As they were constantly on the move in a remote area, the food was basic and easy to prepare, with no meat or dairy and very little fresh food. It was porridge for breakfast and a lot of rice, pasta and dehydrated packet food in the evenings, when all they needed to do was to add hot water.

“They cooked and ate as a group, and there was a no-alcohol policy, so there were lots of early nights after an exhausting day of exploring.”

Kate proved herself to be a good team leader – a talent she needs as a key figure in the Royal Family.

“Each day, they would take turns to be in charge of different responsibilities, so one day Kate was the team leader, another she was in charge of the cooking and another she was in charge of communications back to the field base,” wrote Moody.

“‘She was a quietly strong person,’ Malcolm Sutherland [the expedition leader] recalls. ‘She wasn’t extrovert, she wasn’t trying to be anything, she was just strong and she got on with it without any fussing. She was a good team-member and good at working with other people rather than being the one who would jump up and try to take over.'”

Kate’s visits abroad these days require much meeting and greeting with locals – but she was doing this long before her relationship with William.

“For the final leg of the trip, Kate headed back to the mainland to spend three weeks working on a community project, which for her meant helping to build a fire station,” explained Moody. “It was another remote area, with just around 200 people living nearby, one school and one shop.

“This time she stayed in a big communal building with all the other volunteers, sleeping in one huge room in their sleeping bags. They were given an allowance to spend on fresh food and would buy meat from the local farmer.

“In the evenings they would play cards and other games. Kate particularly responded to a short trip she made.

“’We had a relationship with the local school,’ Malcolm Sutherland recalls. ‘We would encourage the volunteers to go down there with one of our staff as translator, so they could meet the kids and the teachers, and I know that Kate absolutely loved that.

“‘It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I remember she loved interacting with the local people and the children.'”

Gap years are often a time for romantic exploration but Kate was well behaved – again, a trait that has served her well in being accepted into the Royal Family.

“Rachel Humphrey, who was one of the group leaders on the trip, said, ‘Kate had a certain presence. She was a very attractive girl, she was a very popular girl,” penned Moody.

“Particularly popular with the boys, and she was a great member of the expedition. But she was always very in control of herself and impeccably behaved.'”

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