July 29, 2023
It is hard to believe that this is already our last trip update. The past couple of weeks have gone by much too quickly, but I guess it always does when you are having fun! Our last days in Greece have been jam-packed with adventure and laughter as we soak up this time together.
On our last morning in Plakias, we had the opportunity to do a morning of discovery scuba. The group absolutely loved this activity. Even for those that are scuba certified, they were so thrilled to explore the ocean floor. Caroline is one of our certified students and is absolutely fearless! From the moment she was underwater she was exploring it all and showing us all her tricks. We saw lion fish, eels, barracudas, and more sea life and vegetation. Carter and Mercer were obsessed with this experience and both remarked that they were going to go home to get their scuba certification immediately.
We returned our wetsuits and headed to lunch! We went to a taverna that sat right next to Plakias beach. The Greeks eat family style and we have absolutely loved sharing so many new foods together: fresh vegetables, savory pastries and amazing lamb and fish.
We loaded up the van to head off to our next adventure on Crete. The group was excited, but confused about where we would be headed next. After a short drive, we arrived to a boat- our next mode of transportation! We would take the boat to Loutro, a coastal town in Crete that is accessible only by boat or by foot. The boat ride was absolutely stunning… the steep and powerful mountains that cut right into the sea, contrasted by the quaint white churches. Loutro took our breath away! The town looks like Greece out of a movie and we couldn’t drop our bags fast enough to walk around! The girls did a little shopping and Jack bought half a watermelon that the boys all shared.
We enjoyed an amazing dinner right on the water, trying brand new Greek dishes. As soon as dinner had finished, half of the group was running to jump into the ocean. We certainly do not waste any opportunity for a swim!!
The next morning, we fueled up with a quick breakfast before heading out on our hike. We had to go up and over (about 2,100 feet in elevation gain in a mile) to reach the town of Anapolis. We had amazing views of the coast and our new favorite town Loutro, the whole way up. We were guided by mountain goats throughout the duration of our trek. Mercer often ran off to try and pet one (sadly never successfully). Once we reached the top of the pass, we explored and learned the history of Agia Ekaterini’s church, also known as St. Catherine’s Church. This was a sweet moment (and perfect for a photo) for our favorite St. Catherine’s School grad, Grace! Callie absolutely loved (and crushed) this day of trekking. We can definitely see her leading a trek-heavy trip one day!!
Once we arrived in Anapolis we headed to a local bakery, a recommendation from our beloved guides Kostas and George. We tried a plethora of Greek treats. A group favorite was a flaky pita with feta inside and fresh honey drizzled on top called Sfakia Pie. Feeling full and refreshed, we continued on our way to Mar Mara beach. While the day was hot, the group had the most positive outlook and just soaked up the views of the coast and the rocky terrain. We had the most amazing lunch sitting right over the beach. We all leaned in close as Lilly shared stories of her previous travels- there is nothing more this group loves than Lilly stories.
After lunch, we decided to split up the group- half wanted to continue hiking while the other half wished to swim in the bright blue waters of Mar Mara. Eli took Lilly and Rose to explore caves along the rocks of the beach; the girls shared that this time was some of their favorite of the entire trip! Jack, Mercer, Phillip, and Carter continued to hike back to Loutro with Browning- stopping at another beautiful white church overlooking the sea and ruins from the Ottomans. The rest of the group would be taking a water taxi back; since we beat them back, we quickly scarfed down ice cream… hoping that if we had consumed it all before they got back we might luck into a second ice cream later in the evening. (We did!)
It was an absolutely perfect day in Greece. Our bodies and muscles were tired from our long trek, but we couldn’t stop laughing as we shared stories from the day. The cherry on top was a very special Moonup! Our LODs Jack and Rose emerged from the water to “My Heart Will Go On” from the Titanic. It was an absolutely breathtaking performance and the rest of their Moonup was just as great – helping the group dive in deeper and deeper in our last few days together.
Our next morning was an early one; we would be catching a ferry at sunrise to leave Loutro. Although the group was as quiet as they’ve ever been, we took in the pink-orange sky and the calm seas as we said goodbye to this charming little town. The group was very curious to know our activity today; we had been trying to give little hints that would mislead them. They had settled on sea kayaking when we pulled up to the port in Chania and saw the amazing two boats that we would be spending the day on!!!
We spent the next 7 hours boating around the Libyan Sea, south of Crete. We stopped at so many incredible beaches, caves, and swimming spots. It was a perfect last day of activities and the group could not have been happier. For lunch, our captains grilled fresh chicken and pork with vegetables on the back of our boat. As we were finishing up lunch, our guide suggested he cook us a fresh lion fish. Mercer and Rose snorkeled down with him and Mercer spearfished the lion fish we all ate! It was truly amazing. As we boated back to the port, our captain let Jordan take charge for a bit. Lilly took a nap on the back of the boat in the sun. It was one of those days where every moment was just perfect and we will all remember it forever. We had a delicious dinner in Heraklion and rested up for a full day ahead of us in ATHENS!
We had another early morning as we watched the sunrise en route to the Heraklion airport. We flew to Athens, dropped our bags, and hit the ground running! We started with a lunch of the most amazing gyros- a request from many in the group. With our bellies full, we started to explore the city. We explored some of the main squares and walked through a flea market. The boys spent the afternoon adventuring from one vintage store to the next, while the girls enjoyed a bit of time shopping at Zara. Our fashionista SG had the best finds of all- she has such an eye for a fabulous piece and we loved seeing what all she would find. The group reconvened before heading to a delicious banquet dinner. The restaurant we chose is owned by an older Greek couple and there is no menu; they chose lots of transitional dishes for us all to share and try. It was an amazing last meal and I know we are all going to miss our Mediterranean diet!
Because of our very early morning, we were in need of a caffeine pick-me-up. Despite the fact it was 7 pm, the group enjoyed double shots of espresso alongside Greek pastries that we have come to love. Once we finished these treats, we headed up to the Acropolis to watch the sunset. We had the most perfect view- the sun was setting over the city on one side and the Parthenon sat behind us on the other. We got amazing photos of the group with this perfect backdrop. It was definitely a successful first-ever Athens “town day!” We headed back towards the hostel, but of course with an ice cream stop! We enjoyed the most incredible gelato- easily the best we have had the entire trip.
Our last Moonup was incredible. It was reflective, emotional, and filled with so much love. We went around and opened a nug jug for each member of the group- there is so much love and admiration and respect within this group.
It has been the greatest privilege for us to share the last 21 days with your amazing people. They are empathetic, kind, and adventurous. These 12 students truly make the world a better and more joyful place. We most definitely have some incredibly impactful future Moondance leaders on our hands and we cannot wait to see all that each of these students accomplishes.
The mystery may now be complete, but our hearts are broken as we say our goodbyes in the Atlanta airport. We love you all so very much!!!!! Until we meet again ❤️
Sending love and hugs,
Browning and James
July 25, 2023
OPA! Greetings from magical and sunny GREECE!!!! The last few days have been perfect in every way… but first we must rewind back to how we ended up here!
We had one last breakfast in Albania before we boarded the bus to the Tirana Airport. As we were walking into the airport, a barista at a nearby coffee shop shouted over to the group- “I have clues for you!” Rose ran over to grab the clues… another stack of white papers with letters. It took the group 3 minutes (their longest yet) to unscramble “RETREAT IN CRETE!” We were hoping to throw them off as we had many recent guesses that Greece was our next stop. Although we were so excited to head off to Crete, we had the heaviest of hearts as we had to say goodbye to TJ- our amazing guide for our time in Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania. In just 10 days, he has become like family to this group- it won’t be the same without him in Greece!
Our travel day included two flights and a drive to our accommodation in Crete; however, the group kept the highest of spirits throughout the day. The group especially loved the duty-free stores in the Athens airport, spraying perfume and cologne on each other to counter our sweaty, but delicious only-achieved-on-Moondance scents.
We landed in beautiful Crete- the landing strip runs right along the Mediterranean and is filled with sailboats of all sizes. We took in all the sights, grabbed our bags, and met our new guides: Kostas and George! We drove across the island to our accommodation as we watched the sun set. Just a few hours on this island and we were already in awe of the beauty of this place. After dinner and a wonderful Moonup led by SG and Jack, we headed to bed to rest up for our first full day in Greece!
LODs Mercer and Callie led us courageously through our first activity of river trekking! We would spend the day trekking through the Kourtaliotis Gorge. This was not an activity for the faint of heart. In order to trek down the river, we had to be incredibly dialed in and focused as to stay upright. Although it was hot and tiring, Mercer and Carter kept us entertained as they found a watermelon floating down the river; they picked it up and started to throw chunks at members of the group… starting quite the water and food fight.
After lunch, Callie, SG, Lilly, and Grace went with Browning on the hiking path while the rest of the group continued on the more rapid section of the river. Jordan fearlessly led the group through the rapids and Jack impressed us with his acting skills throughout this section. The gorge spits out into the stunning Preveli Beach. The group took off for the ocean and Eli was the first in! Laughter and joy filled the air as the group was reunited and as we enjoyed our first swim in the Mediterranean.
To refresh from our intense trekking, we of course made an ice cream stop on the way home! We all enjoyed fresh gelato and, for Lilly, a slice of cheesecake! Rose ventured to explore the bakery and found amazing healthy treats we were all eager to try. When we got back, we headed down to the private beach at our accommodation. The group jumped off the cliff adjacent from the beach. Eli showed us his skills as he led the group in all kinds of tricks. We watched the sunset and enjoyed another wonderful dinner and Moonup together.
Today was Day 1 of climbing and it was absolutely amazing! Caroline was the first to scale the wall and impressed us all. Lilly and Grace were having sweet dreams as they rested up for their climbs. Rose amazed us all with her climbing skills and Phillip (who climbs competitively at home) basically become another guide alongside Kostas and George. We were so amazed and proud of what strong climbers we have in this group and their attitudes throughout the heat and sun.
After climbing, we headed to Preveli Monastery. Jordan especially enjoyed this historical and cultural visit. This monastery played a critical role in the Battle of Crete and helped the Allies during WWII. The group’s curiosity and love of learning has made this trip and our exploration of each of these countries so special.
We headed back for a quick swim and soon it was time for dinner. We had a very special Moonup under the stars; suddenly, after we finished Moonup, the whole group followed us back to our room. I (Browning) had just finished handing out Oreos and cookies to the group when Mercer accused me that I had flooded the bathroom. To prove to him I had not, I opened my bathroom door to see a cat sitting in my sink. We are so proud of the groups creativity and ingenuity! We are most proud of Carter (and Jack, his partner in crime). It was certainly a highlight of the trip for many, the GoPro video has been watched on repeat, and not to worry – no cats were harmed in the making of this prank.
Day 2 of climbing was somehow even more special than our first day. We climbed Plakias Beach. The rock was spectacular, and our view of the coast was even more beautiful. We cheered everyone on. Phillip was able to lead climb- the group gathered around as he made this ascent. We are so proud of him and grateful he had the opportunity to accomplish this climbing feat!
After a full morning of climbing, we headed down to Plakias Beach. We all immediately ran down the beach and into the water – it was a truly perfect moment. It was a raw, unfiltered moment of joy that you only ever really get to experience on Moondance… with your friends that suddenly feel like family, living in your perfect little bubble. There were aggressive chicken fights, relay races, and a wonderful performance of Mamma Mia from Jordan. We could’ve stayed in the ocean for the rest of the day, but it was sadly time to head back. We made time for a stop at our new favorite Greek bakery (we can’t get enough!!!) and headed back to the hotel. We hurried them all to get showered and changed as we had a little mystery of our own for them this evening. We had planned a surprise dinner at a local taverna. The group was confused where we were headed, but beside themselves with excitement when we walked in. The views of the mountains and coastline from the restaurant was stunning… we could even see the rock on which we had climbed earlier in the day! We ordered family style… we had lamb, moussaka, tzatziki, faves bean, boiled greens, and topped it off with the delicious dessert of Kadaifi. After finishing dinner, Phillip shared that this has been one of the best days of his life.
After a dinner that sent us all into a food coma, we enjoyed a Moonup laying under the stars, all of our heads circled up next to each other. LODs SG and Phillip asked us to reflect on a song that resonates with us deeply or that has represented a season of our life. This group is so incredibly introspective and reflective – our Moonups have been so rich and filled with conversations that connect us so deeply to one another. We are so grateful for how willing this group has been to become so vulnerable with one another.
Today, our fourth full day in Greece, would include a stunning canyon, our favorite beach, and of course – a stop for gelato and pastries! We spent the morning canyoneering in Kotsifos Gorge. For many in the group, this was their first experience canyoneering. We would complete seven different rappels to go from the top of the canyon to the bottom. We had the best time exploring the canyon and entertaining each other with riddles.
Our guides continued to comment on how kind, polite, and great listeners this group is.
For lunch, we headed to the bakery for sandwiches and more traditional Greek pastries (we are clearly obsessed!). We spent the afternoon in the crystal clear Mediterranean, soaking up the Grecian sun rays. How can life get more perfect than this?!
Feeling so full of life and baklava – this group is just magic. They approach each day with so much excitement and joy and treat each other with such love. It’s been the greatest privilege for us to lead this group and we can’t wait to soak up our last few days together in Greece. More updates to come, but for now, a few words of gratitude from each of us!
Τα λέμε (until next time!!!!)
– Browning and James
SG: Hey Guys! Currently in Loutro, Greece and truly having the time of my life. Thank you thank you thank you for this literal once in a lifetime opportunity and I can’t even begin to express my gratitude. I love you all so much and can’t wait to see and hug you<3
Lilly Bryant: where to begin? It’s too basic to blabber on about how much fun I am having so instead I am going to tell you my battle story. I have had another Kilimanjaro story… so get ready for many more stories when I get back. I love you all. This has truly been the best trip ever so thank you ❤️
Caroline Ku: Hey fam! I truly am having the most incredible time and I am so grateful to be able to go on an experience like this… I am so excited to tell you all the wonderful stories and the new friendships I have made. I love you all dearly and I will see you soon <3
Jordan Loughran: Hey guys! I am having such a blast all over the Balkans and currently exploring Crete! However, I still miss y’all so much and can’t wait to tell you everything and the places we’ve seen. Loved you guys so much and again thank you for giving me this incredible experience!
Callie: Hey everyone!! This trip is truly one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. Crete is so beautiful, and the people in my group and leaders are incredible- I seriously cannot thank you enough! I miss y’all so much and can’t wait to share so many stories!!!!
Grace: Hi!!!! I am so grateful for this amazing experience! I’m having the best time exploring Crete and trying so many new foods and trying new activities! It’s been a dream- Thank you so much!! Can’t wait to tell you all about it!!! I love you!
Rose: Hey momma! I can not explain how truly thankful I am you have allowed me to have these incredible Moondance experiences over the past years, and this trip has been over the moon amazing! I am so sad to leave these amazing people, but I cannot wait share my wonderful memories with you! I love you so much!
Eli Helzberg: What is up guys??? Since the last trip update we have done so many incredible things, including scuba diving for the first time. I have been going to so many incredible and amazing places over the trip and I am so grateful for the opportunity you have given me to embark on this journey. I miss you guys, and I will see you in a few days. Much love
Phillip: Hey y’all, this trip has been really amazing. We’ve gotten to do so many great things and see so many cool places. Thank you so so much for this opportunity, it has been so incredible. I love y’all so much and will see you before long!
Jack: Hi mom and dad,
I am having so much fun and have seen so many cool new places. Thank you so much for letting me come and see you all soon! Love you.
Mercer: hey mom and dad,
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to come on the mystery trip. I had so much fun and met so many nice people I can’t wait to tell you all the cool things I’ve seen and done when I get back.
Carter: hey parents,
Thanks so much for sending me on this trip this is easily the highlight of my summer even more this year than any. So grateful for this opportunity to meet incredible people. See y’all in a few days!
July 19, 2023
Hello Mysterious friends and families! We are missing you all dearly but we are having the most amazing time. Since we talked last, we have gotten closer than you could even imagine, seen two new countries and crossed three borders!
On our last morning in Montenegro, Phillip and Mercer said their goodbyes to this beautiful place with a final cold plunge in the Tara River. We said farewell to our rafting guides and boarded our bus to head off to our next adventure. We of course had to make a stop at a Montenegrin gas station. We had QUITE the sampling of chips, treats, gummies, and soft drinks to get us through our drive. We all rated each of our new snacks and passed them throughout the bus. Carter definitely won the competition with his Kinder treats.
About half way through the drive, we (Browning and James) had an “emergency”- we hopped out of the bus with very serious expressions and “talked to the office”. Unfortunately, the kids noticed that James was on the phone with Apple Maps and saw Browning had white papers in her hand… a dead giveaway. The group was already screaming with excitement as they got off the bus. Caroline was the first to unscramble HIKING and Callie unscrambled ALBANIA! It was a surreal and perfect moment with excitement, energy, and so much joy. We laughed about Browning and James lack of acting skills and couldn’t wait to see what the next few days held for us in Albania.
After a long and windy drive, we arrived in Theth. We spent the afternoon exploring this rustic and picturesque village before an ice cream treat to cool us down. We had a delicious dinner of pasta before a wonderful Moonup led by Rose and Carter. After Moonup, the group gathered around to write in their journals together as they do each evening. This group has been incredible at soaking up each moment and all the details, no matter how big or small.
We woke up so excited for our first full day in Albania! We started our day with fritters and jam that we have absolutely come to love- some of us even hoping to make these at home for you all to try! We packed our daypacks and started our trek to The Blue Eye, which is a swimming spot near our accommodation. We hiked through beautiful spots, seeing wildflowers, lots of cows… all with beautiful mountain views. We made it up to the Blue Eye and began to swim. Jordan was the first into the icy cold water; Eli and Carter were right behind him! After a refreshing dip for many of us, we headed up to lunch. We have been enjoying a surplus of cucumber and tomato salads, olives, and bread! After refueling, we walked down to a bridge over the Blue Eye. It looked like fairy pools everywhere… it was absolutely breathtaking. We took turns jumping into the water and cheering each other on and chatting with the other visitors around us. We could’ve stayed at this picture-perfect spot forever. Feeling refreshed and ready to continue on, we hiked back to Theth. On our first day of trekking we covered about 12 miles- and this group made it look easy!!
We went to a pizza restaurant in town to carbo-load for our next days hike. We absolutely demolished the pizzas and needed some ice cream to wash them down! We did Moonup in front of the most beautiful church: Kisha e Thethit. We took in the silhouettes of the mountains, admired the stars, and reached new depths and vulnerabilities in this Moonup. It’s so incredibly special, the love and trust this group has already reached… at just a week in, these Moonups feel like ones that happen in week three. It was an incredible day and still the best is yet to come! We rested our heads to gear up for our big hike.
On our second full day in Albania, we were led by LODs Jack and Grace. Their optimism and positivity helped guide us through a tough and hot day of trekking! We would be hiking up and over the pass from Theth to Valbonë. It was a 13 mile day with about 4,000 feet of elevation gain; once again, the group crushed it and made it look so easy. We took in the spectacular views and made it up to the top of the pass. Thanks to SG’s artistic vision, the girls looked like they were straight out of the Sound of Music with wildflowers braided into their hair. We enjoyed sandwiches by a small creek and marveled at all we had accomplished before finishing our descent into Valbonë.
After recovering from our very full day, we filled our bellies with an incredible dinner with traditional Albanian food. They kept bringing starter plates- fresh vegetables, cheese, and other local delicacies. We could barely finish all of it! However, once the music turned on, the group was quick to hop up and dance with the locals! Caroline led the way as she was invited to join a dance circle with the Albanian women. At the same time, Rose was teaching the boys how to swing dance! As always, this group can befriend anyone and we were so impressed by their dancing skills!! It was the perfect way to end a very full and wonderful day.
We were able to sleep in a bit and recover from our previous days of hiking before heading to a swimming spot nearby. The boys explored the river and, as always, skipped some rocks on the water. The girls swam and got some vitamin D from the Albanian sun. After our relaxing morning of swimming and exploring, we headed to lunch. This was easily the best meal yet of the trip! The fresh vegetables and the meat and bread were absolutely delicious. Caroline and Grace both tried multiple foods for the first time – like lamb and beets!
After lunch, we trekked back through the town of Valbonë to get to our accommodation. But, of course, we we had to make a stop for ice cream on the way. As we continued on our way, Eli noticed a New York license plate! This has been his favorite game of the trip and has actually led to him uncovering many clues… he was the first to figure out we were headed to Albania as he saw increasingly more AL license plates before we crossed the border.
We enjoyed another amazing Albanian dinner with the most spectacular mountain views. Our hosts even made us a fire to enjoy Moonup around. Our stomachs hurt from laughing as we watched Jordan get chased around the field by a 6-year-old Albanian; the laughter only continued when Lilly shared a personal story during Moonup. Lilly’s stories and her delivery have become quite the crowd-pleasers.
On our last full day of trekking, we began our ascent up a pass to Rosi (Maja e Rosit). Although it was an incredibly steep couple of hours and the sun was blazing down on us, the group was filled with joy and excitement. Once we reached the top of the pass, we took in the views, took some photos, and snacked on our beloved RxBars. Phillip snapped photos on his disposable- we certainly have a future Nat Geo photographer in the group.
We began our descent to Kukaj. Our lunch was absolutely magical. We sat around one large picnic table and sampled more new Albanian foods. Our favorite was certainly Burak- a spinach-filled pastry similar to spanakopita. Jordan especially loved this and our hiking guide Yanny continued to bring him more, and more and more. We also tried fresh sheep’s milk yogurt and pickled veggies! It was an amazing lunch before we headed back down to Valbonë. On our walk back to our hotel – Caroline and Lilly practiced for their future music video debuts by belting Taylor Swift for all to hear, with some dramatic dance movements – this energized us all as well as gave us some great laughs. We spent the rest of our afternoon chatting, playing card games, sampling Albanian Oreos, and comparing our stinky socks and blisters. (Phillip definitely won the stinky sock competition).
Our last full day in Albania would include a drive from Valbonë to Tirana. However, we would be driving through Kosovo to get there! We played a game of contact (one of our favorite riddle games) for the kids to guess where we were headed. As you might guess, we had a few puzzled looks when Jack shouted out Kosovo. Lucky for us, we had a very kind immigration officer who made sure that we all had a stamp to mark our quick journey through this small country! We stopped at a gas station (more fun snacks!) and Carter even tried a Shell brand energy drink. Although it was a longer drive, we had SG to make it so fun and enjoyable. She has been the DJ for the whole trip- queuing up all the best songs for our drives and hikes. Taylor Swift was sung, naps were taken, and we continued to marvel at the landscape of amazing Albania.
We arrived at the capital of Tirana in the afternoon and it was a whopping 115° when we stepped out of the bus! Despite the heat, we took the city by storm. Mercer tried the TikTok famous Turkish ice cream which made all of us laugh. We explored the main square, the remnants of the old castle and peered into a Mosque. Phillip and Mercer continued to explore the city with James while the rest of the group headed back to freshen up and play some more card games. We enjoyed one final dinner in Albania with lots of fresh Mediterranean food. Most of this dinner was spent guessing where on earth we would possibly be headed tomorrow. The guesses were creative and vast; the real question, though, is who has guessed correctly?!
Answers to come on where we are headed next – so stay tuned!!!!! For now, here are some messages from your favorite peeps!!
We miss and love all of you that are reading this, but just giving you a heads up we may not ever want to come home from this Balkan Adventure!! Thank you for sharing your people with us- we are forever grateful for this time and these 12.
Signing off with love, gratitude, and some surprises up our sleeves…Browning and James
Grace-“Hi Mom Dad Catherine and Janie! I hope everything is awesome at home! I miss you but I am having the best time ever! I love everyone in my group and love all the activities. It’s so fun trying to puzzle the next mystery together using all the hints and context clues dad 🙂 #useyourbrain #twowords #accelerateyourmaturity Greece is gonna be a dream; I can’t believe I get to do all this in one summer. I am so grateful! I love you!!!”
Caroline:”Mom, Dad, and Katherine- I am having the most amazing time ever!! I hope everything is going well at home 🙂 I am so excited to be heading to Crete and I cannot wait to share my new adventures with my amazing group and the amazing activities we have done so far. The Mystery Trip is incredible and I love getting to solve the Mystery along the way… I am so grateful to be a part of this experience! I love you lots and miss you all <3″
Lilly: hello family! I don’t have much to say other than I am living my best life. I was recently gifted a chess set which has quickly become my most prized possession. I hope all is well with y’all! Can y’all start dorm shopping for the little things I need? Also break into my computer to see if I have any emails from TCU, my password is “Rigi.” Love y’all lots and give Baba a huge hug from me. Lastly tell Emily to read this trip update so that she knows that I miss her:)
Rose: Hey Momma and fam!! Our trip has been nothing but amazing, and I absolutely adore my group and my awesome leaders! The whole trip is a mystery, but we keep getting clues along the way which has been mg favorite part. Headed to Crete right now which will be our 6 country already!! Mom please check in with Molly (my roomie) and pic out a cool rug or if she is fine with it we can just order everything when I get back. Great news.. Nothing has been hurting my stomach which is so exciting! Also can someone please make sure I have an apt with Dr. Huet before I leave for school? I love you all so much and thank you for allowing me to have this incredible experience!!!!!
Jordan: Hey guys! I am having an amazing time on this trip and experiencing some of the coolest places with some honestly incredible people! Albania and Montenegro were some beautiful experiences I am so glad to see! While both places I may not have gone on my own I am so glad I saw them!
Phillip: Hey y’all! This trip has been amazing so far. We’ve gotten to go to Albania and Montenegro and lots of cool towns. It’s been beautiful and the group has been the best ever. I love y’all tons and can’t wait to see you before long. Thank you for this amazing adventure!
Mercer: hi fam, having fun… 🙂
Callie: Hi everyone!! It’s hard to put into words how incredible and amazing this trip has been!!! Each person in our group is so so awesome. Rafting in Montenegro and trekking in Albania was absolutely stunning. I cannot wait to experience Greece for the very first time! Please take care of Bradford for me- I miss all of you so much and can’t wait to share all about the most amazing mystery trip!!!
Jack: Hi family. Everything is going well. We are having a lot of fun and have done a ton of cool activities. Love you all and thank you! See you all soon!
SG: Hi Guys! Love you all so much and miss you TONSSS (especially you char, can’t wait to hang out w/ you when I get back). So insanely happy with the places and people on this trip:) all my love, SG
Eli: What’s up broskis. I have been traveling to so many incredible places in the past week, and I can’t wait to see you guys back in glosta (except for you sawyer in New Zealand.) Jarnett, I hope your July with no responsibilities has been truly mind blowing and I am sending my best regards. Love you guys, Eli
Carter: Hey guys not much to report on having a blast. Have a great group and everyone gets along well. Miss goose a lot. I’ll meet y’all at the hotel in Rome in a couple days!! Until then living my best life don’t rly want to leave! Love y’all, Carter
July 12, 2023
Trip Update 1
‘‘Twas the morning of mystery trip — our destination would finally be revealed! Or so we all thought…
Hugs were given and we all were so excited to finally meet our 12 new mysterious Moondancers… and figure out where we were headed. It turns out that Mercer, Callie, and Jack all had the clues we needed to figure out our first destination. Unfortunately, Mercer decided this odd bag of letters was unnecessary and pulled this out of his bag at home. Thankfully we were still able to piece together the first clues: “FIRST STOP CROATIA”. We laughed and videoed these excited (but confused) faces before heading through security to begin our adventure together.
Our adventure began with a flight to Amsterdam where the group befriended one of the flight attendants, who became heavily invested in our trip— dropping napkins off that had guesses of where we could be headed next. It is already clear that this Mystery group has never met a stranger!
Once landing in Dubrovnik, we met our fearless leader and outfitter TJ! We drove to our first lunch at Konaviski Dvorak— a beautiful lunch spot in Croatia right by the water. We were all settling in and getting excited about exploring this new country when our outfitter, TJ, pulled out clues for our afternoon. The group started to piece together “next stop” when Grace yelled “MONTENEGRO!” The group was ecstatic as we loaded back on the bus. After the most scenic drive (and a few naps), we arrived in our bungalows for the night. We caught our first glances of the beautiful Tara Canyon and the boys skipped rocks— Eli immediately impressing us with 25 skips on just one rock. We enjoyed our first group dinner and reflected on the day we had—full of laughter and surprises. It’s hard to beat a day with lunch in Croatia and dinner in Montenegro.
Our first LODs, Callie and Jordan, led us fearlessly on our first day of rafting the Tara Canyon— the largest canyon in Europe and the second biggest in the world (after the Grand Canyon!) We had a beautiful drive through Durmitor National Park— we marveled at the mountains that looked out of The Sound of Music! After a quick lunch, it was time to put our wetsuits on and jump into the rafts. We spent the afternoon on the bright turquoise-colored river— excited to enjoy the next few days in this spectacular place!!
We enjoyed the best dinner— fish, steak, and chicken around a large family table. Jordan and Jack kept us laughing with their stories and their accents and things got even more entertaining when Mercer grabbed a frog during dinner that leapt under the table. After enjoying some Montenegrin music and an amazing Moonup, we headed to sleep dreaming of day two of rafting!
Our second day of rafting was highlighted by great rapids, conversations, singing, grunting, a waterfall hike, lunch in Bosnia and lots, and lots, and LOTS of riddles. After our morning rafting, we took a pause and hiked up a waterfall and into a cave. This was definitely a highlight of the rafting section for most of the group!! The views of the canyon were spectacular and the cave was amazing. Even though the water in the cave was FREEZING, our group couldn’t miss this opportunity to get to swim— even Phillip, who isn’t a fan of cold water!
After more rafting, we stopped for lunch… in BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA! Our third country of the trip! SG led the way in gathering firewood and stoking the fire for our lunch. Lilly and Rose worked on prepping our meat for lunch while Jordan and Jack washed the vegetables in the river. Grace said this lunch was some of the best food she has ever had! Although it had cooled down when we headed back out on the raft, spirits stayed high! One of the boats sang and grunted when their paddles touched the water while the other boat began to rack their minds about riddles involving a grandma loving coffee and hating tea.
We arrived at our bungalows for the evening, and the boys immediately headed down to the water to skip rocks (their favorite activity) while the girls chatted about all things college, roommates, and more. We enjoyed stew for dinner…after satisfying our hunger, chaos ensued. Before we knew it, both tables had combined to one table and riddles were inundating the air. We solved the riddle about grandma, black magic, Johnny Woop, but we’re still working on pink elephants.
LODs, Mercer and Lilly led us in an amazing third Moonup. We reflected on the people in our lives that have made an impact on us. Many of you whom are reading this were shared in this conversation— so thankful for those of you that have made this adventure possible! Once Moonup concluded, we immediately returned to our riddles. As the riddles got trickier, we got louder— laughs and shouts of Moondancers filled the Tara Canyon. We brushed our teeth under the stars and headed to bed for our last day of rafting.
Our third and final day of rafting would be our most exciting with our biggest rapids yet. We knew that whichever boat had Carter at the front would be in good hands. He powered us through the largest rapids each day. The group all jumped in and swam one of the rapids— we were simultaneously in shock from the cold water and laughing as we floated down like a little group of otters. We stopped for a snack in Bosnia and then again to explore a waterfall. Legend has it that if you can stand under the waterfall for 30 seconds and make a wish it will come true! The group made their wishes and rushed back out to the sun to warm up before we finished out our rafting section.
It was a sad goodbye to our rafting guides, Luca and George, who have made the last three days so special. We will all certainly look back very fondly on our days and nights spent in the Tara Canyon.
We enjoyed an incredible lunch and fresh watermelon before an afternoon of hackeysack, eyebrow plucking, and a little more swimming! Next, we helped prepare dinner — Caroline took the lead with frying the fresh fish, which ended up being a favorite meal of the group! After a great Moonup led by LODs Caroline and Phillip, we enjoyed an acapella concert put on by the boys— especially the encore of “Silent Night”.
We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to lead this incredible group of the most outstanding Moondancers.
12 new best friends, three new countries for all of us, and memories that will last a lifetime! Thank you all for sharing your special people with us!!!!
More mysteries and surprises to come,
Browning and James