The second I heard Moondance was running Spring Break trips for the first time, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I’ve loved all of my past Moondance trips and want to experience Moondance as much as possible. As soon as the dates were announced, I checked my school’s Spring Break dates and realized they didn’t align… I was so disappointed. But, I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask my mom to skip a few days of school for a cathartic and life changing experience. It took a lot of convincing, but reminding her of all the good Moondance has done for me in the past is what finally got her on my side!
I went on California in 2019, Maui in 2021, Kilimanjaro in 2022, and now SB Belize in 2023–and I’ve loved every second of every single trip. I was first introduced to Moondance by my sister, Coleman, who did Kilimanjaro in 2018 and talked so highly of it that she inspired me to fly across the country the next summer as a quiet and shy 13 year old kid, knowing no one, and having never been to sleepaway camp before. I was immediately welcomed by one of my leader’s at the gate since I was an unaccompanied minor and introduced to the rest of my group at baggage claim. It took me a second to become accustomed to this completely new experience, but by the next morning I knew I had just found my new best friends and that I was going to have an amazing two weeks. I am forever grateful for my leaders on my California trip, George Lindner and Maddie White, and everyone in my group and in the other groups we occasionally ran into, for creating such a special two weeks and starting off my Moondance journey with a bang.
After that summer, I was immediately obsessed with Moondance, and couldn’t wait for my next trip. I was signed up for Belize and Costa Rica the summer of 2020, and couldn’t wait. But then Covid-19 unexpectedly swept up the world and Moondance had to cancel all of their trips. I still tried to make the most of that summer, but deep down it wasn’t the same without being able to go on a Moondance trip.
Once again, it was sign up season and I registered for Fiji for the summer of 2021. I went through most of the year constantly hoping that Covid-19 wouldn’t affect any trips that summer. It did. Moondance canceled all international trips, which I was sad about, but fortunately domestic trips were still running. So instead of Fiji, I excitedly and nervously ended up in Maui. I landed in Maui and met my spectacular leaders Owen Roberts, Maggie Masterson, and Mary Clarke Wallace (Mcuvaaaaaa) and my superb group with open arms. Maui ended up being a total blast and it really helped me open up and find my true self.
After Maui, I decided to make a huge leap and sign up for Kilimanjaro. I was so excited after hearing such amazing things from my sister and everyone who has experienced this trip. Everything I heard was true, although all Moondance trips are life changing, this one stands alone and really put a lot of things into perspective for me. When volunteering at the school, it was incredible to see the difference we had on the students’ lives. It was so easy to bond with them. I remember multiple remarkable conversations I had with some of them, including a very long talk about soccer and the upcoming World Cup. It was amazing to see how easily you can become friends with people over simple things, like soccer, even though you have completely different lives. I feel like this embodies Moondance perfectly. Everything that my group went through from volunteering, to mountaineering, to safari, altered my perspective in many ways–and it was all thanks to my incredible leaders, Joe Spear and Elizabeth Oakes. I remember having to say bye to Joe in Arusha and some of our group in Doha during our layover and the tears could not stop flowing. It finally hit me that I wouldn’t be with these people anymore. All the bonding we did was incomparable and I miss them all like crazy.
Finally, onto my newest Moondance experience, Spring Break Belize! I landed in Belize and met my unbelievable leaders Owen Roberts (again!!!!), Sandra Davis, and Zoe Parker and my amazing group. There were a few flight issues and our group of nine students and three leaders turned into six students and two leaders for the night because three students had flight issues and Sandra stayed behind in Belize City to pick them up from the airport the next day. We had about a 3 hour car ride to our hostel which we spent chatting and learning many fun facts about Belize thanks to Zoe! We arrived at our hostel, settled in for a little, and had a Moondance first night dinner classic–pizza. After our first day of diving, we finally met the rest of our group the next afternoon and everyone instantly clicked!
We all knew that we only had a short time together so everyone became pretty open and honest very quickly–which was incredible to see considering how many new Moondancers there were. SB Belize was such an amazing trip and I would 100% do it again. I never would’ve thought I would be doing a Moondance trip in the middle of the school year, but it came at the perfect time for me. Moonups each night were always amazing, whether we did it in the pool or on land, and everyone showed much growth and love for one another. I also want to give a shout out to the Operations Team for how well this trip was planned even though it was run for the first time ever! Besides the inevitable flight issues, everything ran so smoothly. All of our activities could not have been better, our dive and sailing outfitters were so nice and helpful, and our hosts at the hostel couldn’t have been more welcoming. By the end, we were all so sad to leave our new best friends. One more thing that was especially cool about this trip for me was having Owen as a leader again. We had become close in Maui in 2021 and when I found out he was leading Belize, I became ecstatic. We became even closer on this trip and I expect to be lifelong friends with him. Although the length of the trip created some time restrictions, everyone still walked away with the close-knit relationships, incredible memories, and the indescribable feeling of Moondance Magic!
I cannot be more grateful for Moondance and every single person I’ve met because of them. The amount of growth I’ve experienced personally is astonishing. The amount of opportunities Moondance has already provided me have been amazing. Lastly, the amount of traveling I’ve done on Moondance or to visit Moondance friends shows the great lengths Moondance has taken me, literally and figuratively. I can’t wait for my next adventure this summer on Chamonix!
—Holtie Speir, 4x Alum, California, Maui, Kilimanjaro, Belize Spring Break