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Croatia 1 • June 12-June 25, 2018

Down by the (Zaton) Bay...

June 29, 2018

Dorbor dan! We cannot believe this trip has come to an end and we feel so blessed to have had each and every one of your children with us in Croatia. We have so much pride and joy in having had the opportunity to lead such and amazing group. It was hands down the best trip either of us have ever led and we owe that to the positivity and courage that went above and beyond our expectations. We already miss this crew and cannot wait to rendezvous very soon.


Our last few days were filled with smiles and soaking up the last moments together. On Friday we took a boat to the island of Lopud. Its beauty was astounding, and we were able to hike up to a family farm where we were served a luxurious meal of chicken, potatoes, beans, and fried zucchini. Maggie had so much she had to lie down and claimed she wouldn’t need another meal the whole rest of the trip. (Disclaimer: she did have ice cream about two hours later) Cammie filled up on the chicken noodle soup appetizer but couldn’t resist indulging as more food came. She didn’t think she would be able to make the hike down either but the salt water was calling everyone’s name. After a short swim we took the ferry back. Grace took a little cat nap on the way and was transformed into a captain (photos to come). A restful afternoon at our campsite led to a game of ultimate frisbee where Clay took the W and most improved award. We surprised the kids with a Mac and cheese dinner and they were so excited tears came from both Emma and Anna’s eyes. An incredible Moonup ensued, but ominous thunder turned into a downpour in which we “passed the pulse” in record time and sprinted to our tents where we slept like babies to the sound of rain on a tin roof.


We awoke to sunshine and warmth as we prepared to take the seas in our open water kayaks. Once again Marisa killed it in the all-girls kayak. (This one has a much-improved start). We headed out into Zaton Bay, the salt water in our hair, and enjoyed the incredible scenery from a new view. We got to a rope swing and Johnny was the first to give it a try. Jumping in the clear blue water off of picturesque rocks was something out of a movie. We then found a quiet beach and the girls relaxed why James and the guys tried to swim as far out into the water as they could go. The calm ride back was much needed before we ventured into the beautiful old town of Dubrovnik.


This crew took the city by storm and ventured into this historic old town ready for some ice cream and souvenirs. Johnston found himself stuck in the candy store, but we would be shocked if any of this said candy made its way back to the US. Our last pizza dinner was filled with so many laughs and memories from the last two weeks. After completing her entire pizza, Alex rapped some Fergie for us and that is a memory we will all cherish. We lived in the moment not wanting to think about what lay ahead and soaked up every moment together we could.


We once again want to extend our sincerest gratitude for sending each and every one of your kids to Croatia with us. They are all inspiring individuals who will take any challenge thrown at them with grace. They brought so much light into our lives and we are beyond excited to see where this life takes them.


-MK and Gray

Rafting Rocks!

June 23, 2018

It is hard to believe we have already spent ten days in this incredible country! This past week we have truly come together as a group and we cannot wait to see where the last few days take us. After descending from the mountain and getting a good night sleep in the quiet town of Starigrad, we awoke for a morning of rock climbing. We put our harnesses on to get a new view of the national park in which we had spent the last four days. Johnny was especially excited and was the first one up the jagged cliffs. He along with Clay and Johnston completed the final challenging rock climb with the grade B6 (Very difficult in rock climbing terms). We then returned to our campsite for a relaxing afternoon and lunch at the “cool climbing place”, Dinko’s. We discussed leadership styles and completed the NOLS leadership grid where the kids discovered what type of leader they are. It was an eye opening experience for all and Grace really took it to heart, asking many questions. Following a transfer to the Zrmanja river, we set up camp for the next two days, taking in our surroundings and preparing for a wonderful day on the river. What a place! We really lucked out here with such a neat campsite. Picture this—a rolling grass meadow interrupted only by an enormous roaring campfire in the middle. To the left, the most incredible turquoise blue water flowing by in the Zrmanja river. Then, right by the campsite is an unbelievable 10 ft waterfall! Don’t worry folks, pictures to come. For now, you’ll just have to take our word on how exciting it was to plunge off the edge into the refreshing waters of the Zrmanja. The jump may have looked steep, but Alex was the first one in to show us just how much fun the waterfall plunge could be. Now, with the scene set, where were we? Ah, yes. It’s kayaking day. No day can properly begin without a solid breakfast, and today was no exception. We filled our bellies with pancakes, sausage, ham, eggs, toast, Nutella, and juice. Most impressive appetites go to Grace and Maggie, each devouring no fewer than 6 pancakes. Next up, suit up, it’s time to get on the river! The excitement started early on with mischievous James Kinard launching sabotage attacks on the other boats, yanking several people into the river and unleashing a wet and wild battle on the open waters. Soon enough we had a truce established and the splashing warfare was abated. Most improved no doubt goes to the dynamic duo Anna and Marisa. Once they got their sea-legs, their paddling technique was nothing short of exemplary. The rapids were cool and the rapids were fun, but imagine our surprise when our crew turns the corner and discovers that same waterfall…but this time we were going down it on kayaks! Simpler souls may have been intimidated, but not this courageous lot. With barely a blink of the eye, Cammie charged the waterfall and proved nothing unconquerable. The rest were soon to follow, and before we knew it the day was done. White-water kayaking: check. Naturally, after such a long day, our gang settled in for some much-deserved downtime. Books came out (Emma is making some serious progress in hers, Mrs. M!) and hammocks were set up as everybody settled in to catch some zzz’s. Still on the edge of your seats? Stay tuned, fans, because this story is far from over. Our next chapter begins soon as we strap in for a ride down the Dalmatian Coast in search of warmer seas, salty air, and our next home in Zaton Bay. Dubrovnik, here we come!

Hiking in Beautiful Paklenica National Park!

June 20, 2018

Wow! We cannot believe we are already on day eight of our trip. The past five days have been a whirlwind of fun and we cannot wait to share more about them.


We began our backpacking adventure in the coastal town of Starigrad where everyone learned how to pack a pack and geared up for the next four nights. After a beautiful hike up the mountain we made it to Marjio’s cabin – our humble abode for our stay on the mountain (pronounced Mario). There are no words to describe the beauty of this wonderful family home. The view was astounding and completely worth the trek up. We spent the afternoon picking cherries and it took lots of convincing to remove Maggie from the tree. She has a new favorite hobby not to mention favorite food. We ended the day with a meal made by Marjio himself and with full stomachs and happy hearts we went to sleep ready for another big day.


Our second day on the mountain our destination was Black Peak. This 4500ft peak is one of the highest in Croatia, but everyone did an incredible job pushing their limits and making it to the top. On her first time backpacking, Alex led the the group to the top and was queen of the camera, wanting to show off her accomplishments to everyone when she arrives back home. On the way down, James began a trail game where you try to name celebrities with same letter in the beginning of their first and last name. This was a hit and kept us entertained the whole way down. Emma put her map skills to the test, and even though she didn’t believe it possible, got the whole crew back to Marjio’s cabin. Cook crew, headed up by Grace, then cooked a well-deserved polenta dinner while getting to know our local guide, Marin, better. We are amazed how well the group is already getting along and cannot wait to see how the next couple of days bring us even closer.


Next up, Johnny Silver takes the reins as Leader of the Day. His ability to effortlessly lead others shone through immediately and clearly as we started forward on our second summit of the trip. He juggled with ease the responsibility of steering the crew in the right direction while continuously keeping everybody’s stoke meter at an all time high. The hike was difficult and we were entertained the entire way by Anna and her stories. Once she got started, everyone within earshot remained captivated and entertained until all of a sudden we had made it to the top! What a view it was. With the Adriatic Sea to our right and the Paklenica National Park to our left, it truly felt as if we were “On Top of the World!” All in all, this hike was one for the books. The weary souls we were made it back down for camp and hit the sack early for a well-earned rest day.


Rest day, rest day, hear all about it!! Surprise! No wake up call for the team! Everybody got to sleep in and wake up to a lovely breakfast of porridge and jam (yum). Today’s activities included a short hike to yet another beautifully scenic view, followed by a big eventful afternoon of games. Congratulations goes to Johnston for his “Big Booty” prowess, which for you unaware folks, is a highly active and intellectually stimulating game consisting of wit, focus, and nerves of steel. Most improved goes to Cammie, finishing second on several occasions and winning unanimous approval for “Best Sport and Best Laugh.” What a great day we have had.


No good day is complete without a great meal, and this day was no exception. Marjio treated us to a traditional Croatian meal of peka. Words cannot describe the happiness that flowed through our bodies with every bite we took. Fresh air, secret recipe, and good company combined to create what most of us have decided to be the best meal of our lives. Thanks again to our dear Clay Crawford for putting the team on his back and making sure no leftover potato, carrot, veal or chicken was spared. With full stomachs, it was nearly time for our last night at Marjio’s to come to a close. However, the night was not quite yet finished.


The biggest surprise may have been that night when Marjio whips out a guitar seemingly out of thin air. But wait, there’s more! Emma treated us to some gorgeous music and Marisa came out of nowhere with a beautiful singing voice that left us all asking for encore, encore. Couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a difficult and rewarding backpacking section.


As for now, this motley crew is getting ready for a big day on the Zrmanja river as we raft down the most incredible turquoise blue water any of us have ever said. Stay tuned folks, going to have lots more to come from this pioneering team tackling the first ever Moondance trip to Croatia!



Anna: Hey mom and dad! I am having an amazing time in Croatia. I’ve learned to like tuna and I somehow made it to the top of the mountain. My legs hurt….just a little but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I gotta go take my first shower in 5 days!! I love y’all so much can’t wait to see y’all!!


James: Hey, this is awesome. Thanks!


Emma: hola padres! Hope Charlotte is as great as Croatia. I’m having an awesome time here! The views and the activities have been incredible. I can’t wait to tell y’all about the amazing adventures and show you guys some sweet pictures! Lots of love!


Alex: heyyy mom and dad. I’m having a really fun time in Croatia and I miss y’all. We just got back from backpacking and it was tiring. First shower after 6 days is today so yayyy! I’ve been praying for  y’all and the fam. Thank you I love y’all so much 🙂 ps… chick fil a in the airport mom? lol xoxo


Maggie: Hi mom and dad! Croatia has been so much fun. I hope y’all are having a fun time on your vacation too! I actually was able to make it to the top of the mountain. Thank you and love y’all sm! Ps mom can you schedule me a hair appointment and cut when I get back lol 🙂


Cammie: hey mom and dad!! I miss y’all!!!! Hope sea islands a blast and the house and everything’s working out! I’m having so much fun and can’t wait to tell y’all all about it! We just finished backpacking lol I survived. Now Sus on the other hand would have died. Can’t wait to see y’all!! Love y’all so much!


Johnny – Croatia’s a blast. Lots of fun. Love all of you. Have fun on island. Except meatheads when I’m back. Brian stay safe.


Clay – Having fun in Croatia. Jack, I hope Ireland was fun. Thanks so much for letting me come on this trip. Can’t wait to see y’all.


Johnston – Hey, hope everything in Charlotte is going well. Croatia is so beautiful and a blast. Can’t wait to see y’all and show y’all the pictures. William, I hope you aren’t too lonely at home without Carter and I. Thank y’all so much for sending me on this amazing trip! Love y’all!


Marisa- Having so so so much fun in Croatia! Can’t wait to tell y’all about the trip and see you when I get home!


Grace- I’m having so much fun!! I hope rose is having fun in Boston & have so much fun in Chicago! Can’t wait to show you pictures! Love you

Starry Nights in Starigrad!

June 15, 2018


We have made it to Croatia! After two long travel days, we landed in this incredible country and have not stopped admiring its beauty. Our first stop was a little town called Korana. The village welcomed us into their homes and we had two delicious meals prepared by locals. We had our first Moonup by a lake that flows out of the Plitvice National Park. Needless to say, it was crystal clear and astonished us all. Maggie and Johnston were selected as LODs (leaders of the day) for our first real adventure in Plitvice. They helped lead us through what turned out to be an unbelievably gorgeous, albeit a bit damp, journey through the clearest and bluest lakes we have ever seen. The rain was persistent, but not as resonating as the good vibes pouring out of all our students. Anna kept a cheery smile on everyone’s faces neither her contagious laugh, while Clay’s stories kept everybody entertained. After waiting out the rain, we were off for sunnier days and headed south to the booming metropolis of Starigrad, Croatia. Once the sun came out, we pulled over for lunch at one of this land’s stellar up-and-coming public parks.

In an innovative solution to warm up everybody’s souls and bodies, Emma and Grace led the charge on sunbathing on the parking lot asphalt. Don’t worry folks, this was a car-free zone. With tuna salad fueling our hearts, this squad was off for our next campsite. Big thanks go out to Cammie and Alex who after learning their knots, helped the group set up tents. Johnny, noticing everyone was tired after a long day, boosted the morale of the group by sharing his Twix with everyone. After preparing for our next four days with a lesson on packing a backpack, Marisa used her Iron Chef skills to lead the cook crew, while James whipped the rest of the group in ERS. He crowns himself the reigning campion, but we will see if he can keep this title. We are beyond excited for our next few days, as we begin the backpacking section in the mountains of Croatia and cannot wait to see what lies ahead!

  • Mary Kate and Gray

Safe and Sound in Zagreb!

June 13, 2018

Hey Croatia families!

All students have arrived safely in Zagreb and the trip is underway! Be on the lookout for more updates to come.

-Moondance HQ


  • Alex
  • Maggie
  • Clay
  • Cammie
  • Marisa
  • James
  • Grace
  • Johnston
  • Emma
  • Anna
  • Johnny