July 26, 2019
Good morning Croatia! With a later morning everyone took advantage of sleeping in but most of everyone woke up early! For breakfast we had some eggs, cereal, and toast. We were all very excited for our morning filled with sea kayaking, snorkeling, and cliff jumping. We jumped in the vans and headed to the coast! After splitting up into groups of two, we ventured out into the water. We were the American crusaders of the Croatia coast but golly, the day was hot! Everyone was smiling to be enjoying the sun and splashing in the water. About halfway through, we stopped and pulled out kayaks up onto a small rock island and did some cave exploring/snorkeling. We then ate a banana and leaped off into the crystal-clear turquoise water from a rock ledge. Back on the kayaks, we padded to an island to do some more snorkeling, see some dinosaur footprints imprinted into the rock beach, and nap. The morning sun had made us very hungry, so we headed back to meet up with the Lukas.
For lunch we had a delicious seafood plate consisting of jumbo shrimp, sea bass, calamari, squid, mussels, and sautéed spinach. Our guides taught us how to properly filet s fish and remove the bones. It is amazing that kids never seem to fill up because right afterwards we ate some tasty gelato. In the afternoon, we played some very competitive basketball games, did suicide sprints, beach chilled, and swam in the ocean. It was a great way of spending our second to last day in the company of everyone. Dinner was a highlight for sure; we had a group cookout with students helping to prepare the meal! We had a typical Slovenian/Croatian BBQ with meats, grilled vegetables, and a salad. After dinner, we surprised Foard with a birthday cake, birthday hats, and kazoos! Everyone was completely surprised, and Foard was so thankful for celebrating his birthday two days early! Today was such a great day!! At the end of the day, we reminisced on the trip, and we were all amazed that we went from the mountains to the Slovenian river valleys and ending at the coast. We are all so thankful for our time together and cannot wait to go see Venice!
On our final day we woke up pretty early in order to make it on time to our ferry, which transported us to Venice. After expressing our gratitude and appreciation to the Luka’s (our guides) for everything they had done for us within the last two weeks, we said our goodbyes. Although the ferry was a long 3 hours, we fortunately were able to catch up on some rest. Upon arriving to Venice, we took a water bus to our hostel, set our luggage aside and grabbed some local Italian food for lunch. We then headed towards St. Marco’s Square where we shopped until we dropped! Students found all sorts of gifts to bring home. We ate gelato and heard people playing music on the streets. It was a very hot afternoon, but one well spent. We ate a delicious pasta meal for dinner and took a gondola ride in the evening once it had cooled down. For Moonup we sat outside near a small church on the water. We all reflected on our experiences with one another and how we will apply lessons learned to our routines back home. And with that, one final nug to our incredible students:
Ben: Thank you for your insightfulness as well as your ability and desire to carry intellectually stimulating conversations. Foard: Thank you for your willingness to open up with others.
Jack: Thank you for your quite yet thoughtful voice, kindness and infectious smile.
Katherine: Thank you for your contagious energy and natural manner of being a friend to all.
Braden: Thank you for your cooperation and courageous ness to step outside of your comfort zone.
Stefanie: Thank you for your eagerness to challenge yourself and desire to be a leader.
Samantha: Thank you for calming, reassuring and comforting presence.
Carlie: Thank you for your willingness to try new things and face new situations with confidence.
Spencer: Thank you for your hilarious humor, love of naps, and always informing us of today’s lingo.
James: Thank you for your adventurous spirit, go with the flow attitude, and great smile.
Carter: Thank you for your goofiness, curiosity about everything, and great basketball skillz.
Charlotte: Thank you for your genuine love of life, inquisitive nature, and thoughtfulness.
Eliza: Thank you for your musical knowledge and singing, for being the one and only LA girl, and determination during trekking.
Love to you all!
Henry and Oakes
July 24, 2019
We awoke later than we have the entire trip in order to restore our aching bodies. We were feeling rejuvenated and excited for the next portion of our trip. For breakfast Henry and Oakes made breakfast potatoes and scrambled eggs, we also enjoyed toast, cereal, and Nutella! Today we ventured down the Soča River in rafts and in order to get pumped up we listened to some rock and roll on the way to the drop in. We split into two teams to conquer the river. Our adrenaline was pumping and it was not long until we reached our first rapid. Carter and Ben led the boat into the rapids with fury and confidence that we would not flip. All down the river we were chilled by the cold water and towards the end of the river, Catherine and Carlie “jumped” into the water. They convinced everyone to get in and foot down the last bit. The Soča River had no idea that ya Americans were going to be able to navigate it so well!
For lunch, we feasted on some scrumptious burgers and home fries. We talked about music and some of the best concerts we’ve ever been to. Afterwards, we went down to the river to skip some rocks and to mentally prepare for our introduction to canyoning. Contrary to belief, we had to do one last short hike up to the canyon. By the time we reached the drop in we were sweating, huffing and puffing, and ready to get wet! Going down the canyon was so incredibly beautiful! Braden, Charlotte, and Eliza were so courageous and brave with each jump! There was one slide where we entered at the mouth of a small cave! Everyone was so encouraging which made for an even more fun afternoon! We ended with an eight meter repel before being released down the rest of the waterfall! For dinner Henry and Oakes made some Asian styled stir-fried rice! Everyone loved it and graciously helped clean up. Everyone is exhibiting EB (exhibition behavior) at its finest! After dinner we all played a friendly but competitive game of volleyball. Jack and Spencer proved their worth on the front lines of the net. After an exhausting match and overall day we had Moonup and went to bed.
Day 2 of canyoning and we couldn’t be more excited! After lots of adrenaline from yesterday, our group was ready to jump and repel off rocks again today. After a short van ride to the trail head, we slipped on our wet suits and began our adventure! Spencer didn’t hesitate when he realized the first task at hand was jumping off a big rock into a deep pool of water and following behind was the rest of our group. Advanced canyoning involves more jumps and longer repels, and it was really impressive to see everyone take on these challenges with positivity. We were so proud of Braden for taking a leap of faith and overcoming her fear of heights during this activity. When our time had come to an end in the canyon, there was a massive waterfall with a spot to jump. The students in the group, and locals, sat and cheered on everyone as we jumped off one by one. It was such a fun, unique and unforgettable experience for all.
Afterwards, we went to a delicious restaurant for lunch. We were served family style and ate some of the most delicious foods thus far on our trip. We then drove back downtown and prepared for zip lining. Our guides drove us up the mountain, overlooking the city. We were able to go down five separate lines, all different lengths and speeds. On one of the lines we were able to ride tandem, meaning with another person. Samantha and Stefanie had the best time doing this together, as did Foard and Spencer when they took off first…..surprise surprise! When we finished, we cruised back down to the zip lining office, returned our gear and drove back to our campsite. James, Jack and others got a crew together to play more volleyball until it was dinner time. After watching a beautiful sunset, we walked down towards the river for Moonup and then happily went to our tents to rest up for the next day!
While it seemed like we could live happily forever in our little eco lodge, it was time to head to Croatia! Today was our last day in Slovenia but we are very excited to head to the Croatian coast! An early morning meant long naps in the car on our way to the Skocjan Caves. The caves are in the northern most part of the geographically karst area of Eastern Europe and are some of the largest caves in Europe! The tour lasted about two hours and everyone was amazed by the geological history that the caves underwent during its formation. It is just as cool that the caves are continuing to form through present day. The river at the bottom can sometimes completely flood the pathways, making it impossible to pass! With our brief geology lesson it was time for lunch!
We munched on some yummy Slovenian pizza (truffles!) and then headed to the southern most coastal town in Slovenia before crossing over to Croatia. There we ate some delicious ice cream and walked up to an old church for an amazing viewpoint of the Adriatic Sea. From there we could see Italy and Croatia!! Everyone posed for some pictures and we made our way down to the beach for a swim to cool off before heading back to the vans. Two hours later we were in Croatia at our home for the next two days! We played some pickup basketball and then ate dinner. Fried cheese, French fries, grilled vegetables, and salad filled our bellies and fueled us for another game of basketball. We ended the day with a longer Moonup where we discussed a point in our lives that we felt powerless. Everyone opened up a lot and contributed thoughtful responses. We are so proud of everyone for taking a step to become vulnerable and share themselves with the group! We are very excited for our day of sea kayaking tomorrow!
Henry and Oakes
(Parent shoutouts are below!)
Hey mom and dad, having a great time here in Slovenia. Had lots of soup and some pretty good food. Cool group of people too. See you guys soon-Ben
Hey having fun pizza is good. Soup is not so good. Thanks – Spencer
Hey mom, dad and Ella I’m having a great time. Thanks for letting me go! -Jack
Hey mom and dad I am having a great time. Good food and good group of people. Thank you for this trip -James
Hey Dad and Christen, I’m having a great time! I’ve made so many good memories that I can’t wait to tell you all about. See y’all in a few days. Love y’all! -Foard
Dober dan mom and dad. I’m having a great time and I’m eating mainly soups and brats, with the occasional pizza. See you in a few days, I miss you! -Carter
Hi mom and dad. I miss y’all Slovenia is fun. Say hi to Bailey -Carlie
Hey mom and dad! I’m having a great time in Slovenia and Croatia. I love you and I’ll see y’all soon- Catherine
Hey guys I’m have an incredible time and trying a lot of new things. Can’t wait to see you and tell you all about it! Love you – Eliza
Hi mom and dad! Slovenia and Croatia are amazing. All the activities we did were so fun! Can’t wait to see you soon and tell you all about it. Love Samantha
Hey Dad, Mom, and Priyanka! I’m having the best time on this trip and can’t wait to tell you everything. It’s so beautiful here! I miss y’all so much! Love Stef 🙂
Greetings from Croatia! I’m having such a blast and the views are unreal! Can’t wait to tell you all about it and I’ll see you soon! Miss y’all!-char
Hi Mom and Dad! Thank you for sending me on this trip! I am having so much fun and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! See you guys soon! – Braden
July 21, 2019
Day 5 was significant not only because it was the day office staff member Mike Lackey joined our group for a quick visit, but also because it was time to embark on our incredible trekking journey! We left our hostel after carbo-loading and drove towards our trailhead. After gearing up and our morning huddle, we began walking. The first day consisted of over a 3,000 foot elevation change, meaning lots of ups and a few downs. We quickly learned the definition of “Slovenian flat” as it is not exactly like the terrain to back home. Our day consisted of many riddles, the game “contact” and “would you rather”. We kept in mind that our biggest push was reaching the saddle. And once we knew we were close, our motivation skyrocketing. We walked through rocks and snow, and eventually made it! Once we got there, we sat down to enjoy lunch with a view. Ben, Jack, Spencer and others had saved their leftover pizza to feast on while the rest ate PB and Js. Although we could see our campsite from the saddle, we still had some trekking. Our spirits were high despite the soreness of our feet. But once we came over that final incline, everyone immediately popped off their boots, enjoyed a cold coke and ate chocolate pancakes (aka crepes)! The right way to celebrate our first day in the backcountry. Following, the students rested in our cabin and explored the beautiful mountainous area surrounding us. For dinner, we ate soup outside and had Moonup pretty early so everyone could get a good night’s rest after our long day.
Our next day came bright and early. We woke up, packed our gear and walked over for a warm egg and toast breakfast with hot mountain tea. The terrain is beautiful, we were surrounded by huge limestone rocks and blue green lakes. This day was long and many students, like Braden, kept the time moving by having interesting conversations and motivating others. For a snack, we stopped at a hostel where Catherine tried to show off her best trekking pole foot dance. Eventually we arrived at our campsite for the evening where we all ordered soup for lunch and had the opportunity to even shower! Before we ate, Henry and Oakes taught lessons on LNT (Leave No Trace), emphasizing the importance of taking care and bettering our environment, and the NOLS Grid Game, teaching individuals about their individual leadership styles. Afterwards everyone had a massive workout session. As we jammed to some “Sally Ups” we laughed at our attempts of holding planks. Eliza showed us up with her yoga poses and many splits. By this point we had built up an appetite for dinner, which consisted of a little more soup and sauerkraut with meat. We had Moonup on a helicopter pad overlooking a beautiful lake. Not only did this make it memorable, but also all eating ice cream and having a cat crawl in our circle during a meditation on better caring for others and yourself. Our day was long, and we definitely were ready to sleep well before beginning the next day of trekking.
Our third day of trekking began with waking up to the song “Good Morning” by Kanye West. For breakfast we had delicious scrambled eggs, toast, elder flower tea, and peanut butter. We did not have a super challenging day but as Foard put it, we have a day of slightly harder uphill than the day before. We left the second mountain hut and began our third day of trekking with positive attitudes to conquer the day. On the trail everyone encouraged each other to the top of the small saddle. At the top, we had lots of photo shoots of all our different snacks and with our friends. Catherine and Carlie specifically enjoyed taking pictures of their Slovenian snacks. We also learned about the World War I ruins there that served as an outpost for the Italian side. The history all throughout the area we were trekking in is so fascinating. We continued on but this time we had no uphill – Eliza was very happy! We arrived to our second hut early in the afternoon but right before, we stopped at a mountain cheese maker. We had the chance to buy some local cheese and Catherine even got to inscribe “Moondance – USA” onto a young aging cheese! For lunch we filled our bellies with pasta. Stefanie, Charlotte, Jack and James all were brave enough to try the Slovenian dessert of cottage cheese wrapped in bread. It was more of a savory dessert than a sweet one, but still interesting to try!We spent the rest of the afternoon there lounging on the grass and listening to Mike, Charlotte, Ben, and Eliza play the guitar while others sang along and it was so beautiful! We cannot think of a better way to spend an afternoon in the summer mountains. After soaking up some rays, we walked over to a nearby lake to unwind. I think it’s safe to say James was the best rock skipper and Samantha was quite an adventurer. For dinner we had pasta and pancakes! We were all quite exhausted from all the sun and decided to do Moonup early. Foard and Braden posed the question “What are you grateful for?”. Everyone spoke about their family and friends! Today was a great day!
The Slovenia group awoke ready to tackle the last day of trekking! With plenty of eggs, toast, and tea to fuel us, we headed out to conquer the last saddle. Everyone pushed hard the first two and a half hours to the top. Ben, Charlotte, Eliza, carter, Carlie, Catherine, and Samantha stayed entertained by playing the incredible word game Contact. The last bit of the ascent was very tough, but everyone stayed positive and encouraged each other to the top. Once we reached the saddle, we all ate the delicious cheese we bought the day before to celebrate and took photos! After a satisfying and chilly time at the top, we began our long descent down. We walked down over 4,000 feet and it was almost as challenging as the hike up! Hours later we reached the vans exhausted but very proud of ourselves. After a short can ride, we arrived at our first front country restaurant. We deserved to each have a full Slovenian styled pizza after our dedication to finish the strenuous trek.
With our bellies stuffed, our bodies smelly, tired, and aching, we made our way to our new home for the next three days at a cozy eco lodge. Sadly, our time with Mike had come to an end and while we would continue in our trip, Mike would return to the office in Nashville to keep things running smoothly. With our parting goodbyes, the only way to heighten our spirits was a friendly game of volleyball. On the court Spencer and Jack proved as the most powerful players. For dinner we enjoyed guess what?! Soup! After dinner we played more volleyball, ping pong, and even slack lined. With all we accomplished over the last four days, our bodies finally needed a break. We will sleep like Slovenian Kings and Queens and are so incredibly excited for our next few days of water activities!
Until next time,
Henry and Oakes
July 17, 2019
Friends and family, our time has finally arrived! Your students have safely made it to Slovenia and our motion is in full swing!
After a full travel day, we all hopped in a car to eat lunch and site see in Ljubljana. After filling our stomachs and walking around, we then went to one of the best ice cream shops in the country. It was so delicious! Then we drove to our hostel and unloaded the gear. We walked to a nearby field and played a game of YeeHaw and Ultimate Frisbee. Then walked back towards the hotel for a BBQ dinner and had our first Moonup. We played “two truths and a lie”, talked about what brought us to Moondance and our strangest food combinations. After the LODS (leaders of the day) were announced, Carlie and Carter, we all went to sleep.
The following day began our true adventure by going zip lining and hiking! We ate breakfast and drove towards one of the biggest zip lines in Europe. Although some were a bit hesitant at first, like Braden, Catherine and Charlotte, they all overcame their fears and jumped with excitement. Afterwards, we drove towards our trailhead for the day hike. Right before starting, we ran into Mike who arrived from Nashville, home of Moondance HQ, and is partaking in our trekking section. Huge shout out to Mike, we are so thrilled!
On our hike up we encountered two beautiful waterfalls and a new team member joined for the afternoon, a very playful dog. After a few hours up, we began going down towards lunch where we ate traditional Slovenian soups. We then hiked back towards the cars and drove to exchange money and buy a few snacks. Afterwards, we drove to another area for a quick hike up to a grassy field where Spencer found the most beautiful area to rest and enjoy the scenery. The group also attempted to create a human pyramid. Ben was on the bottom, along with several others, but was determined to master the pose. The picture was captured and can’t wait for you all to see it! We climbed back down and regrouped in our rooms back at the hotel. For dinner we ate delicious gnocchi and strudel. Elizabeth said this was one of the best meals she’s ever had! We ended the day talking about our A and B+ superpowers and got some sleep for an exciting day of paddling.
With our bodies adjusted to the time difference and a great night’s sleep, students were ready for an exciting day ahead. We enjoyed a typical Slovenian breakfast consisting of toast, cheese, Nutella, fruits, yogurt, cereal, and tea. During breakfast, Eliza told us about her ability to cook when she sleep walks and Stefanie let us know that she is fully capable of controlling her own dreams. Full and prepared, we loaded up the vans to head towards river kayaking!
With our wetsuits stretched over our bodies and neoprene booties strapped up, we pretty much looked like professional kayakers. While we all looked legit, our technical abilities did not match up at first when we began paddling. Sharing tandem boats and a few people in singles, we had to learn to work together to successfully move forward. Before going down any rapids, we pulled over for a final paddling lesson and some swimming. Foard, Carter, Jack and James loved swimming the most! Back on the boats, we began going down small rapids that propelled us into a beautiful side canyon. Some people still had not figured out the whole paddling straight thing yet but remained positive! After a series of small rapids, we came upon an awesome cliff jumping spot. Everyone jumped in fearlessly! The rest of kayaking included lots of people swimming and lots of laughing.
We had worked up quite an appetite and were fully satisfied with some delicious and large pizzas! After lunch we went swimming while our guides set up rock climbing routes. We were determined to shoot an awesome video of us all peeling off into a human formed tunnel and jumping into the water. Samantha was a key component to our success! We then headed to the rock wall and each person took a step out of their comfort zones to either experience their first time climbing outside or tackling a really challenging route. Everyone was so encouraging of each other and helped push them to the top! We did some carb loading for dinner to prepare for a four day trek ahead and learned how to properly pack a pack.
Everyone is super stoked about our challenging next section of trekking, but we are all looking forward to quality time with each other on the trail. With four days of being in the company of our group, everyone is breaking out of their shells and getting to know others! Now, time to get some crucial rest before our big day of hiking!!
Henry and Oakes
July 14, 2019
All students have safely arrived and this Slovenia trip has officially begun!
Stay tuned for more updates to come!