July 12, 2018
Hello family and friends! Thank you for allowing your sons and daughters to join us on our second session of Spain + Morocco, they truly made our job easy. From our first few days of trekking in the Picos de Europa of Spain to the summit of Mt. Toubkal in Morocco, the group had continued to get closer and closer and were clicking as a unit at the right time as our summit was a challenging one. We loved watching them all hang out as one big group as we relaxed by and played in the pool at our luxurious guest house, where we spent our last two nights in Morocco and began to wind down. Owen and Hunter were able to showcase their soccer skills during a pick-up game of soccer with the workers in the backyard. On our last day in Morocco, we enjoyed a visit to the Marrakech Souks, where the kids learned and practiced the art of bartering and we learned all about the famous oils and cosmetics of Morocco. Our market visit began in the town square filled with snake charmers and live performers. Emma and Sydney showed how brave they could be when they decided to take a picture with one of the snakes around their necks. We then visited a shop to receive a lesson on Moroccan oils and cosmetics, which are very well known around the world. Carlo stuffed his shopping bag full of Moroccan spices that he couldn’t wait to take home for his dad to use in the kitchen, and Clare had to resist from buying every perfume in the shop before she finally settled on her favorite one. Wilson displayed his bargaining skills throughout the market that morning and was able to get a pair of Moroccan national team soccer shorts for free because he bought the matching jersey. Later that evening, we dressed in our traditional Moroccan clothing and rode camels as the sun began to set with views of Mt. Toubkal off in the distance. The group was very excited to have Duke and Parker join us for the camel ride since they were now feeling much better. It was a fun activity to cap off a wonderful trip. That night, as the group enjoyed our traditional Moroccan dessert of watermelon and honeydew, the head of our Moroccan outfitter, Mohammed, asked the students to share Arabic words and traditions they had learned and experienced while in Morocco. It was a great way to reflect on our time in Morocco, and Mohammed shared more about the Moroccan culture with us as we enjoyed the wonderful fruits they have in Morocco.On our final night of the trip in Madrid, we allowed the kids to talk us into having our final banquet dinner at the Madrid Steak ‘n Shake and it turned out to be a crowd pleasure. We enjoyed a long dinner that night, sharing stories and memories from the past two weeks over our burgers and massive milkshakes. It was hard for us to say goodbye to such a good group this morning in the airport. We loved seeing Folger emerge as a group leader and her efforts to bring the whole group together as one and will miss Campbell and Ellison’s constant positive attitudes and laughs. We strongly encourage everyone in the group to keep in contact with us and to use us as a resource in the future.
Safe travels and happy trails!Marshall & Lizzie
July 9, 2018
Family, friends, lovers of Moondance, and general readers of the updates: WE’VE REACHED THE TOP! We are typing this update to you after a long three days on Mount Toubkal, where we have learned a lot about how far we can challenge our bodies and just how rewarding it is to be a part of this group. Hang tight, we have a lot to share!
The minute our plane touched down in Marrakech and we walked off with our backpacks, we could feel the Moroccan heat breezing across our faces. Our LODs Campbell and Hunter helped us to get through the airport smoothly before we exited and met our guide, Ahmed. Once with Ahmed, we threw our packs in the back of the mini-bus and cruised through the streets away from the airport for about 30 minutes before pulling over to a shady lunch spot under a quiet bridge. We had some tuna sandwiches and oranges before we packed back into the mini-bus and strolled over to the Atlas Mountains and up to Imlil, a backcountry town at the base of Mount Toubkal.
The food in Imlil did not upset. Once we got to our Riad for the night, we ran to the roof where there was a panoramic view of the mountains and a colorful table set up for us to enjoy a scenic family dinner. After dinner, we stayed on the roof for Moonup. Once the sun fully set, we could see bright stars all around us; the perfect backdrop for our first Moroccan Moonup. Mid-Moonup, the locals began their call to prayer over their speakers, and we could hear dozens of locals singing their Arabic prayers. It was such a pure moment for us, so we put a hold on Moonup and laid down to take in the various voices all around us. This lasted for about 3 minutes, and after it ended we all sat back up and finished Moonup, until Hunter and Campbell passed their LOD titles to Emma and Carlo.
The next morning, Carlo and Emma woke us up early for some toast and yogurt before packing our backpacks to hand over to the mules. Carlo took the front of the pack and Emma swept the rear, both keeping up strong communication with one another and maintaining a slow and steady pace for our commute.
Once we got to base camp, we immediately threw our packs on our beds and ran around to snap some pictures of the castle in the sky. Ellison and Sydney were quick to run to the snack bar at the reception to buy some well-deserved candy before relaxing. We munched down on yet another diverse Moroccan dinner before snapping on our headlamps and heading outside for Moonup, where Emma and Carlo had everyone go around and say his/her role model. We’ll spill the beans – many family members were mentioned! Afterwards, Carlo and Emma passed on the LODship to Owen and Parker.
The next morning, Parker and Owen woke us up at 5am (yep, you read that right) to brush our teeth, finish packing our day packs, eat some cereal, and head out for a true alpine start. Though Ellison and Campbell hung back at basecamp with Marshall, their positive attitudes and perseverance inspired us all to take on this challenge. Once we could see the top, there was no turning back. Folger and Clare kept the group in high spirits, which trickled through the rest of our hikers, and eventually we were all screaming through the valleys: “WE CAN DO IT! THERES NO TURNING BACK!” Our rockstar LODs Owen and Parker did an amazing job of communicating, individually helping members of the group, and rallying us to the top. As a Moondance leader, I absolutely love to see this kind of morale.
That night we decided to do an earlier Moonup so that we could watch the sunset over the rocky African peaks. We sat with our headlamps around our necks while mules screeched behind us. Owen and Parker opened up Moonup with the quote “Look momma I made it!” We all got a chuckle and Parker and Owen gave us a deeper connection to the quote: if you put your mind to your goals, regardless if it’s a hard hike or an everyday experience, you can make it with some positivity and optimism. After some group reflection on our accomplishment on Toubkal, Parker and Owen had everyone go around and say another accomplishment that he/she wishes to do in life. Wilson expressed his desire to do another challenging hike one day! After an incredibly scenic Moonup, the sun set behind the rocky peaks around us and then we clicked on our headlamps and trekked back into our sky castle.
The next morning we slept in until 8am until our new LODs, Duke and Folger, rallied us for one last meal at base camp before beginning our descent. Although we all have a layer (or two) of orange dirt all over our bodies, we still have 14 smiles and many feelings of accomplishment.
After a two hour bus ride from Imlil to Marrakesh, we have now arrived to our Riad in the city for the next two nights. This place is amazing: a bright blue pool, green grass, and large, spacious rooms. Not a bad way to ride out the rest of the trip!
We will send out another update after everyone boards their flight back to the states to share our experiences in the city and in Madrid. Until then, here are some shout outs from our mountaineers!
Lizzie & Marshal aka “mom n’ Marsh”
Campbell – hey mom and dad!!! I’m having the most amazing time in Morocco!! This is by far the coolest place I have ever been! I can’t thank y’all enough for letting me come on this trip, I am having the most amazing time and I have met the most amazing people in the entire world!! I love y’all so much and I can’t wait to see y’all in a couple of days! Please give Sadie and Blue a pat on the head and a kiss!! ❤️❤️
Hunter – hey mom and dad! Writing you from the base camp of Toubkal, which we summited earlier today. About to go down to the markets of Marrakesh, I can’t wait to see what I can get. Love and see you soon!
Carlo – hey parents who love me and that i love back!. Today I summited Mt. Toubkal, it was definitely an awesome experience and I hope we do something like this to!. I miss you a lot! Welp I gotta go and hope to see you soon. Love Carlo. P.S: I’m sorry if I don’t bring you anything… just packing problems.
Emma – I summited a mountain mom and dad! Thanks for sending me here! Tell Georgia that the views are great and I am bringing her candy back:)))))) PS Georgia can u bring me something back from Mexico (sweatshirt or shoes) tell ginger bean and Ava I said hi
Parker – hey mom and dad it’s me again reporting from Morocco!!! Today I summited the tallest mountain in Northern Africa…feeling pretty cool. This trip is absolutely amazing! See y’all in a few days! Love you!
Owen – Hey mom and dad, summit day went well, it was super cool! Morocco is amazing and I’m having lots of fun. Love you guys!
Ellison – Hey mom and dad! Having the best time ever in Morocco. I have met the most amazing people! I can’t wait to see y’all soon!! Love and miss y’all!! Hope y’all are having fun in Arizona!
Sydney – I SUMMITTED!!! having the best time with the best people, thank you so so much for sending me here. Morocco is by far the coolest place I have ever been and I don’t want to leave! miss my cats so much… see you soon!! 143 <3
Folger – hey mom and dad im having the best time in morocco. it’s the coolest place ever, we summitted a mountain today and the view was amazing. can’t wait to see y’all in a few days love you all.
Wilson – Hi mom and dad. Morocco is super cool and very different. We summitted the mountain today which was fun. Love you guys, see you In a few days.
Duke – hey mom and dad. Today we summitted Mount Toubkal and tomorrow we are going down to Marrakech. Thanks for sending me on this trip, it’s amazing!
Clare – dear family. I summited a mountain today and don’t think I will ever be the same . Dad I have no idea how you could have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro because I was on my death bed the whole time!!!!! Hahahhahaha its good tho I took a longggg nap after waking up a new woman! yes! I miss everyone so much and will actually be home very soon ! Please make sure that there is vanilla almond butter and dried mangos in the pantry when I get home . Miss those ???? anyways y’all are the best best best ppl ever and get ready for all my stories ❤❤❤ xoxo Clare
July 4, 2018
Hello from the Madrid airport! We are waking up early in the morning to fly to Morocco! We’ve listened to the song “Morocco” many many times in the past 24 hours in preparation for the second half of the trip.
Ellison and Wilson were the perfect LODs for our day of kayaking and surfing. Once we got to the river we hopped in boats of twos and started paddling down the chilly, clear river. Everyone decided to play a game of “who can flip Lizzie’s kayak first” and through all of the sneaky efforts—filled with many laughs—no one flipped Lizzie’s kayak, but Owen and Hunter sure did come close. We ate our lunch along a rocky river beach where Duke, Parker, and Campbell decided to test out the paddle boards. The paddle boards were a little shaky on the drifting river, but we all cheered them on as they jumped on and off of them.
After our morning of laughter on the river, we drove over to the beach for our afternoon surfing in Llanes. Our local guides surprised us by taking us to a cliff overlook of the beach before descending down to it. The view was AMAZING! The Asturian coast is blue and shiny and sprinkled with giant rocks. The waves are white as they splash into the granite arches, making an impressive backdrop of the ocean.
Once we got to the beach we threw on some wet suits and geared up for the surf lesson, where Sydney and Clare kept us giggling the whole time. This group hasn’t stopped laughing since they got here! Before running into the water, Carlo spelled out “Moondance” on the beach, which we pretty much had to ourselves. Folger and Emma were quick to pick up on surfing and each rode waves all the way to shore!
After dinner we enjoyed one final Moonup in Asturias. Ellison and Wilson facilitated a deep, meaningful Moonup that lasted an hour and a half. The group got even closer and it’s incredible to see how mature they are to be so new to the adult world, yet so full of youth and adventure. After Moonup Wilson and Ellison passed on the LOD titles to Clare and Duke.
Early this morning the leaders woke the group up with PARTY IN THE USA and some surprise July 4th swag. Duke and Clare prepared us for a morning of surfing, and once again the group absolutes crushed it out there in the waves. Every single person has stood up on a board! We are very impressed by how eager everyone was to learn how to surf.
After surfing we ate lunch at a local pizzeria and had a long, sad goodbye with our Spanish guides. After packing the bus—and many hugs with the guides—we started to head south toward Madrid. Carlo introduced everyone to a new card game and kept the rest of the guys entertained while the girls braided hair.
We arrived to our airport hotel here in Madrid and to the group’s surprise, we met up with Hayes, the owner and founder of Moondance! We enjoyed a July 4th dinner with Hayes and showed him who we truly are: a rambunctious, loving group. After Hayes left we had Moonup in the hotel parking lot, surrounded by planes coming and leaving. The sound of the planes got everyone excited for the flight to Morocco in the morning. Clare and Duke continued the streak of having a long, deep, and meaningful Moonup before passing on the LOD titles to Campbell and Hunter.
We will wake up early tomorrow morning for our hop and a skip over to Africa—no big deal. We are excited to see how this group likes Morocco. Although they’ve fallen in love with Spain, we think they’ll love the transition over to a new culture!
Catch ya on the flip side aka continent #2!!
Xoxo Lizzie and Marshall
July 3, 2018
We have spent the past week soaking up the beautiful views of Picos de Europa and we are now transitioning into our next couple of days on the coast of northern Spain.
Everyone arrived safely in Madrid after the flight from Atlanta. Once we threw our luggage under our bus and settled into our seats, everyone immediately fell asleep to fuel up for the three day adventure to come. The rest lasted only a couple of hours until we traversed into the Picos de Europa National Park, where the roads are curvy and the views are spectacular. After unloading the bus at our hostel in Caín, we ate a yummy dinner of nuggets, fries, and pasta. We had an early first Moonup so that we could catch some Z’s before our first long hike. Marshall and Lizzie had everyone go around and say why he/she is here before passing the Leader of the Day (LOD) titles to Carlo and Folger. Although everyone comes from different backgrounds, there is one thing in common: everyone is here for a challenge and to make lifelong friends. Bring it on!
The next morning Carlo and Folger met with our local guides, who showed them our plan on the map and taught them how to orient it. After leading the group in some stretches, the LODs continued to guide us west on the Ruta del Cares along the Río Cares. The route is one long, jaw-dropping view of the Cares River and its beauty did not leave our weary travelers disappointed. Hunter said it best: “…at first, looking around me, there might be an ‘eh’ view, or really no significant view at all- this being a metaphor for the present day/moment. However, once further ahead, standing in a new present, the past became the most beautiful sight around. Apply this to life, and you learn to love the past, present and future all the same, even in the moments where it seems like it couldn’t possible get harder.” We were all in awe that night when he shared this with the group, because it spoke to us all to live in the moment and appreciate where we are. Safe to say, that night in our alpine hostel in Sotres, Carlo and Folger passed on their leadership to Hunter and Parker.
The next morning Parker and Hunter woke us up bright and early for a hearty breakfast before heading outside to catch some sunshine before some summer storm clouds breezed in to our little nook in the corner of the National Park. The group hiked for about three hours before descending back to the hostel to avoid the afternoon showers. The weather didn’t get us down, especially because our guides surprised us with tapas and refreshments at a local cafe! After our afternoon rest at the cafe we drove back to the National Park to our secluded hostel high above the clouds. The views here were incredible. The hostel is settled in the corner of an alpine field spotted with mossy rocks and huge cows. The group took full advantage of this site and hiked around the fields before enjoying dinner together. That night at Moonup the leaders surprised everyone with some Moondance swag to wear on our final day of hiking in Picos de Europa. Parker and Hunter had everyone go around and say a hidden talent. We learned that Clare is an all star cheerleader! Before we went to bed Parker and Hunter passed on their LOD titles to Sydney and Owen.
Owen and Sydney woke us up the next morning and motivated us for a full day of exercise and amazing views. They both did a great job of orienting the map; so great that they led us to the summit of a mountain overlooking snow-capped mountain AND the ocean at the same time! It was the perfect spot for a lunch break. The view of the ocean from a distance got everyone excited to head back down the mountain and make way to the beach for the night. Once we got to our coastal hotel in Llanes, Duke immediately whipped out the frisbee and soccer ball and rallied everyone to play out in the spacious green yard at the base of the Picos de Europa mountain range. We drove into town for dinner and then walked along the pier before grabbing some dessert at a local ice cream shop where Campbell, Emma, and Clare chowed down on giant ice cream cones. After dessert we headed back to our hotel for Moonup and Owen and Sydney had everyone go around and say their biggest fear before passing on the leadership to Ellison and Wilson.
Ellison and Wilson woke us up bright and early this morning and hyped us up for a full day of river kayaking and afternoon surfing. To be continued!
In the meantime, scroll down for some shout outs from the group!
Xoxo Lizzie & Marshall
Emma – hey mom and dad I love ya! I’m having so much fun and the views are gorgeous! I love everyone!
Wilson – hey mom and dad. Spain is super cool and fun. Have fun at the beach. Love u.
Duke – hey mom and dad, Spain is super fun and the hikes are great,hope Kiswahili is fun. Love you.
Carlo – Hey guys it’s me your son… I miss y’all so much and when I get back I’m going to hop right into that boat with you and float away!.
Campbell – hey mom and dad!! I love y’all so much and I am having an amazing time. I have met the most amazing people!! I love y’all and miss y’all so much see you soon!
Ellison – hey mom and dad. the people here are awesome. I love and miss y’all!
Owen – Spain is good. Hiking is fun. People are cool. All good. Love you guys.
Sydney – hey fam (and cat) miss y’all so much but I’m having the time of my life… see y’all soon! love and miss ya so much! 143
Hunter – hey mom and dad, having so much fun. Love everyone here, and the photos are amazing. Have fun in Chicago, love you and see you soon.
Parker – hello mother and father… your favorite child here!!!! Thank you for everything, I’m having such a good time! Love y’all!
Folger – hey mom and dad it’s me folger here. im having a great time here. thank you so much love y’all!
Clare – hey family! Right now I am sitting at dinner in Spain and just ate an amazing meal … all the meals have been amazing ! We are surfing tomorrow and have hiked soooo much but y’all would love the views . Please tell Hamps and Lucy I love them a lot and miss them . Please text Liliana, Lela , Emma Kate, and coco and say that I miss them a lot and that I can’t wait to see them when I get home…lots or hiking .love y’all so much and thank y’all for letting me come on this trip! XOXO Clare
June 29, 2018
Hi Spain + Morocco Families,
All students have arrived safely in Madrid and the trip is on its way. We can’t wait to hear more from them!