GORHAM — Logan Marshall, a standout distance runner at Gorham High, did not run for the Rams track team last spring.

Jackson Marshall also runs, and she loves to play lacrosse. Yet she skipped her first high school lacrosse season.

Logan, 17, and his sister Jackson, 15, still trained together. Their running workouts were irregular. And unforgettable.

 

Logan and Jackson’s runs took them through a rain forest in Costa Rica, where snakes, scorpions and the talk of jaguars kept them on alert.

They moved on to jaunts around organic farms in New Zealand, and to rural Thailand, where Logan and Jackson discovered dirt paths that weaved through the rice paddies.

And India, where the streets became too much, with the hordes of people, cows and cow dung, so the Marshalls climbed atop flat rooftops to get in a run, back-and-forth, back-and-forth

Later, they jogged with the awesomely picturesque Himalayas in the background.

“We ran in some pretty cool places,” Logan said.

Logan and Jackson also have some pretty cool parents, John and Traca Marshall, who always wanted to travel around the world.

The Marshall family took off once before, 10 years ago.

“We sold our house, backpacked in Europe and landed in Portugal,” Traca said. “We found this little fishing village and stopped. Found a school for the kids ” For seven months, Logan and Marsall attended classes, learning Portuguese as they went.

Someday, John and Traca figured, they would take off again, for an around-the-world adventure. But life went on. The Marshalls settled in Gorham — Traca is originally from Kennebunk. John works for New Age Media (WPXT-TV and WPME) in Maine, now as the chief creative officer. The kids grew older.

“We’ve been talking about taking a trip around the world since we’ve met,” John said. “But the timing is never really great.

“The window for something like this was closing. If we ever wanted to do it as a family, we had to go.”

Last Dec. 21, the Marshalls talked it over and decided to go for it. John would take a leave from work, the kids would make up school work, and be back in time for the fall semester.

“I had not planned a thing until then,” John said. “And we were on the road Feb. 20.”

The Marshalls rented out their house and took on a home equity loan to fund the trip. Their itinerary would focus on experiences.

“We did not want to go around the world and look at buildings but, rather, learn from people and offer something back,” Traca said. “There was not a whole lot of planning. A lot of places we didn’t know much about at all. We just went on faith.”

BEWARE THE MONKEYS

The first stop was a one-month stay at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary in Costa Rica. The Marshalls rose early every morning to help clean the grounds and feed animals. They eventually led tours.

The place had no electricity, no roads and a free-rein atmosphere for the inhabitant spider monkeys.

“I loved it,” Jackson said, who admitted to some early bouts of homesickness. But she enjoyed the animals. “The monkeys loved me.”

The monkeys did not love everyone. John suffered bites on three occasions by a monkey named Sweetie.

WWOOF-ING AROUND

In New Zealand, the Marshalls took part in WWOOF — World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms — where volunteers receive housing and food in return for work.

The Marshalls weeded, painted and built “worm farms,” among their chores. They found time to hike and enjoyed scenic Mount Fyffe in Kaikoura. Logan and Jackson discovered Bob Paul, a former national champion runner and coach, now in his 70s.

“Logan and I would go out for a run every day. People said you should go talk to Bob,” Jackson said. “He was a dear old guy. He came running with us. He tweaked our running style. It was awesome.”

Their stay in New Zealand ended with a four-day, 50-mile hike through the wilderness.

“LOGAN-MANIA”

In Nongkha, a tiny village in rural Thailand, the Marshalls taught English at the local school. Americans, specifically American teenagers, are very rare sights.

“It was like they were the Beatles,” Traca said. “Logan is such a low-key guy, and the girls would be screaming (in his presence). Girls came from a neighboring town and had pictures taken with him.”

John called it “Logan-mania.”

“What could I do? I’d just laugh,” he said. “It was just funny more than anything else.”

Jackson was equally popular, although the boys were shy and would “cower” around her, she said. Both posed often for photos and even signed their share of autographs.

INDIANORPHANAGE.COM

The Marshalls had to leave Thailand earlier than expected, so John hit the Internet, and there it was: www.indianorphanage.com

It was the website for the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission, an orphanage in northern India. This last-minute destination made an impact.

“Made us appreciate what we have,” Logan said. “Seeing how some people live. The fact that we have a house and friends and family, makes us feel really lucky. When we were in India, the people there are living on literally nothing.”

In the orphanage, the Marshalls needed no skills, except compassion for the 100 orphans, ranging from newborns to older teenagers.

“My favorite place,” said Logan, echoing other family members. “We’d hang out and play with the kids. We really got connected to them and their stories.”

THE DALAI LAMA

When the Marshalls left the orphanage, they headed north to the region of Ladakh, near Tibet. They contacted Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobzang Ysetan, a Buddhist monk they met on his occasional visits to Maine to teach and raise money for his school in Ladakh (Khen Rinpoche will be in Brunswick on Nov. 6).

He invited the Marshalls to a talk by the Dalai Lama to a crowd of thousands. When the Marshalls arrived, they were directed to seats only 20 yards from the podium.

The Marshalls made one more stop before heading home — Portugal — for a week renewing friendships made 10 years ago.

BACK HOME

When they arrived back in Gorham in August, the Marshall children knew they had changed. Logan would like to look into college majors dealing with international service. Jackson wants to go back to the orphanage.

“The other night I had a dream about the Indian orphanage,” Jackson said. “The next morning I came down the stairs and said, ‘for Christmas, all I want to do is go back to India.’ It definitely left an impression.”

John joked that it was “a bigger present than I was planning.” But you could see the pleased look on his face.

“We were not out to change the world with this trip,” John said. “We were out to change our world. That’s really what we found. We can give and do what we can, but what we get is so much more.”

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or

[email protected]