Swampscott High Travelers Head to Morocco Today

The five young people and two adults got use to roughing it on Thursday night by sleeping on the high school cafeteria floor.


The five young travelers said they were anxious, excited and not knowing what to expect on the eve of their month-long trip in Morocco.

Zach Benson, Robbie Long, Renee Cooper, Max Hanlon and Ben McGrath said they just wanted to get on the plane and get their trip underway.

They were gathered in the cafeteria about 7 pm Thursday.

They gabbed about what they had packed for the trip and cracked the occasional joke. They hope Moroccans do not practice cannibalism.

They ate cheese pizza from Captain Pizza and cookies.

Their travel gear sat atop cafeteria tables. They are traveling light.

In addition to their clothing, walking boots and sleeping bags, the tables held bottles of Advil, tubes of sun screen, water bottles, books and playing cards.

Zach, who just graduated from Swampscott High, packed On the Road by Jack Kerouac. He read half of it as a sophomore for a class but is now finishing it.

On the Road tells of cross-country travel in the US after WW II.

These five young people, four from Swampscott High and one from Beverly, will be in the North African kingdom of Morocco and constant companions over the next month.

Several of the travelers packed Arabic language books.

Swampscott High School math teacher Christopher Ratley is one of two chaperones on the World Challenge Expedition.

The other adult is Aimee Labarre, a group leader with the World Challenge group. She has traveled to Morocco before though not during the summer.

Christopher has chaperoned two other groups on World Challenge trips in the past four years — to Argentina and Madagascar.

This group of students is unique, he said.

They are pensive, not a raucous group.

They are also far fewer than the groups Christopher has traveled with before.

Usually about 15 people make the trip. This time there will be less than half that number.

In Morocco they will immerse themselves in the culture.

They will visit ancient cities including Marrakech. 

They will visit the cities of Casablanca and Tangier.

They will visit rural lands and work shoulder to shoulder with villagers.

They will travel through mountain passes, over red-sand desert and visit the Valley of Roses.

On Thursday night they were confronted with the unknown.

Renee said she was thinking about how this trip was to be the best time in her life but she does not know how it will turn out.

The students and chaperones were to sleep on the hard floor of the cafeteria Thursday.

Swampscott High custodian George Arrington helped with the arrangements.

He is sleeping over, too, on an air mattress at the back of the school. He will check on the group periodically to make sure everything is OK.

They will eat breakfast at 8:30 am Friday morning and then embark on their adventure.

One month in a place unlike any other they have ever visited.


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