Trip Finder

Why We Lead: To Grow, To Inspire, To Teach

April 11, 2019
moondance night views

Third year Moondance leader Elizabeth Oakes kicks off our “Why We Lead” series with a heartfelt look at the long lasting affect of leading Moondance trips. She has led both our Colorado Trail and Northern Lights trips with an unbridled passion for kids, adventure, and fun.


This past week included a night class with a professor who took his students outside and encouraged everyone to observe in silence. To listen. To feel. To be present. Afterwards he shared how he enjoys looking up at the stars and thinking about the number of people doing the same in that moment: sitting in nature while appreciating its beauty and the peace.


Moondance eased back into my mind as I looked up at the stars; late night MoonUps, sitting in crazy-creeks, listening to music while most likely eating Oreos. This moment filled me with nostalgia  and brought with it a familiar sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to be a leader. I wanted to immerse myself in the Moondance family after being a student in 2015 on the Kilimanjaro trip, led by two people who changed my life. Not only were they the most selfless, kind-hearted, and positive people one could hope to ever meet, they were also fearless. They were so open about their passion for life and continue to live lives full of zest. It was empowering, and I was in awe. After my fantastic experience, I wanted to do my best to share the wisdom, confidence, and love my leaders had shown me with others.


My last two summers have been spent leading Colorado Trail and Northern Lights. These trips focus on hard skills and are designed for students looking for a challenge. My second session leading Northern Lights this past summer was unforgettable. Due to heavy snow, our first session back country backpacking route was altered. By the time the backpacking section came around during the second session, enough snow had melted which enabled us to trek our original route.


“Pass Day”, a monumental milestone in our journey, was upon us. The students were eager and ambitious. And we did it! We made it to the Pass on a beautiful, sunny day much earlier than anticipated. This prompted our group to seize the moment. After thoughtful consideration, we decided to push forward. The rest of our day consisted of three miles on vertical scree, dipping down into drainages and back up again. It was very challenging physically and mentally. Some members of the group had moments of extreme doubt, but eventually we made it to camp. Although the day was longer than anticipated, I have never seen any student more proud and genuinely amazed by their bodies than our students on Pass Day.


The body is capable of so much as long as we have the mental strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even in moments of doubt. It was the hardest day of the summer with the most reward, and the students loved it. Leading them through moments of hesitation and uncertainty to eventually find laughter and triumph was incredibly rewarding. We created memories and unbreakable bonds that will last a lifetime.


“Why We Lead” is easy for me to answer: to experience unique moments like those created during trips. We lead to encourage others to grow in their confidence, to inspire them, to teach them how to embrace challenges which often result in sweeter rewards. Most importantly, we lead to help others learn how to consciously and continuously seize every day by living in the moment. Carpe Diem baby!


Physically challenging oneself outside while surrounded by unfamiliar faces is a delicious recipe for self growth. Moondance enables students to grow, through individual boldness and bravery. I believe in its magic and its powerful long-lasting impact. Our reasons to lead are not limited by the end of summer; rather, leading opportunities create a deep desire to lead more. Not just as a Moondance leader, but as a friend, daughter, sister, athlete, striving musician, and lifelong learner.


– Elizabeth Oakes