Mystic, CT to Whangarei, New Zealand

If you really think about it, the only thing that prevents of us from being able to travel as often as we might like is the man made construct of time and money. TIME; that we are not able to take off from our jobs and our lives, and MONEY; that we have to spend instead on necessities like rent, food, car repairs, health insurance, electricity, etc. I don’t actually subscribe to the time/money paradigm in my personal belief system and yet it affects me.

I remember the last time I saw my friend Tracy in 1997. It was the day before I was to leave New Zealand after a 4 month trip. I wanted to move there and although I had been offered a job as a producer/writer at TV New Zealand in Wellington, I could not get immigration to grant me the work permit because TVNZ had failed to advertise the position to the local community first. Unconvinced there wasn’t a talented producer lurking about in their very own country, immigration stamped “DENIED” in bright red ink across my application. (I have since heard from Joyce Metz of Preferred Travel in Essex, CT that NZ just started a resettlement program and it is now much easier to immigrate there. Incidentally, Joyce is a great travel agent. If you decide to book a trip with her please give her this code, CBD 0110.)

Tracy and I were walking alongside a tiny brook next to a paddock across the road from her house in Kaikoura ( which is a magnificent place located on a peninsula near the continental shelf.  Sperm whales gather there year round for feeding, while pilot whales, orcas and other marine mammals visit regularly. You can go on whale watching tours and swim with wild dolphin and seals. I chose the later and must say it was a bit intimidating. These large, curious creatures like to swiftly approach you head on. And just as you are literally nose to nose, and think for sure they are going to ram right smack into you, they gracefully turned on a dime without touching you at all.

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As we were walking and talking surrounded by tranquil scenery, we were lamenting my leave of this gentle, sane country which to this day remains so near and dear to my heart.  Tracy and I did not know when and if we would be able to afford the time or money to see each other again. We pondered that this paradox, was the only thing keeping us apart. Certainly it wasn’t from lack of desire. We thought it was crazy! But apparently it wasn’t, because here it is 13 years later and I still haven’t made my way back to see my friend and my godchild, Finnegan, Tracy’s eldest son. This had not been my first trip to New Zealand and hopefully it would not be my last.

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In 1993, I was working at Mystic Seaport (, a maritime museum in Mystic CT, in their Film and Video Archives/Media Resource Division. People often donated historical footage to the museum, and as the Media Specialist, I got to view it all. One day we received a collection from a woman named Electa Search Johnson. (That was really her name, I kid you not, but she was called Exy for short.) She had sailed around the world seven times with her husband Irving, before exploring the inland waterways and canals of Europe, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, the Nile, and the Baltic. In total, they spent 43 years at sea from 1933-1976.

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The Johnson’s understood how unique their endeavors were and had the foresight to document every voyage on 16mm film. They circumnavigated the globe at a time when maritime laws did not restrict where a vessel could go. Some of the islands were so remote that the inhabitants had never seen a white person before. As a result, they experienced cultures, customs and places that have long since vanished due to changes in technology, weather devastation, political turmoil, and increases in development. I felt privileged to have archived this amazing collection.

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The Johnson’s told of real life bungee jumpers in the New Hebrides (now called Vanuatu) with vines wrapped around their bare ankles. These young men flew off 83 foot towers fabricated from sticks to signify their passage into manhood. On the equator where Darwin had once journeyed, they encountered friendly sea lions that had not been encroached upon enough to know to fear man. In Raiatea in French Polynesia, they watched in wide eyed wonder as native firewalkers braved glowing ambers barefoot. In Tonga they made the acquaintance of a 200-year old tortoise that was once fed by the hand of Captain Cook who had made the same passage a century before. On Pitcairn Island they raised the anchor from the HMS Bounty, where Fletcher Christian and his merry band of mutineers had sunk her Majesty’s naval war ship in an attempt to hide from the British Navy.

I never knew there were so many wondrous places on this earth until I saw this collection. My curiosity went wild. I could no longer contain my burning desire to travel. All my waking moments were suddenly consumed by one thought and one thought only: How was I going to do it? I did not make a lot of money working at a non-profit museum and I hadn’t been able to save any either. All I knew was this: I was only 30 years, and Mystic was not going to be my last stop!

I wanted to know more about life than what I had at my disposable in the confines of Connecticut. I wanted to know how people lived and worked in other parts of the world, what customs they practiced, what Gods they prayed to. I wanted to experience beauty. I wanted to explore and to be free. I wanted to answer to no one but myself. I wanted to go. I wanted see. I wanted to do, and I wanted to do it alone. The Johnson’s inspired me because they had done it. They made you believe that anyone could do it. In fact, they encouraged it. I thought: This is for me. This has got to be the way for me.

I had always been endlessly fascinated by the great explorers who braved the elements and gave up everything they knew in exchange for the unknown. What motivates people to do that? Was it purely adventure they sought? Or perhaps a desire to stretch and test themselves beyond what they believed their own limitations were, beyond the comfort and predictability of the place they called home. For me, it was a little of both.

One day, while I was working in the bowels of the basement of the Stillman Building, a dark musty space with only one window that I shared with my co-workers, I came across a very small classified advertisement while thumbing through a copy of WoodenBoat that read, “Looking for brave souls to sail around the world”. And I thought: That’s me!

This was the opportunity I was waiting for. I immediately rang the number listed in the ad. Hans, a doctor of some sort answered the phone. We talked for a while and came to an arrangement that I would go along as unpaid crew in exchange for room and board. And, with my newly purchased video camera, we agreed that I would give him a promotional video at the end of the voyage that he could use to solicit paying passengers which is how he was funding this trip around the world. Because I would need time away from my crewing duties to gather footage, I would not be subject to a 10 hour day like the rest of the crew. Instead, I would work an 8 hour day, using the remaining two hours for shooting. With this settled, I quit my job of three and a half years, sold what meager possessions I owned, put the sentimental stuff in storage, liquidated my bank account, purchased an obscene amount of Hi8 videotape, and said good-bye to all my friends and family. I boarded a plane for Whangarei, New Zealand to work on a 127 foot old cargo ship that had since been converted into a magnificent sailing vessel, or so I thought.

I am going to leave you all with that little cliffhanger until next month where my story will continue with my arrival in New Zealand, also known in the Maori language as “Aotearoa” The Land of the Long White Cloud.

THIS MONTH’S TRAVEL TIP: How to Survive the Airport and a Long Flight

I always get a bit nervous before flying, especially if I have connections to make, though I have only missed one in all the places I have journeyed and in all the flights I have taken. None-the-less, I am not the greatest traveler.  I don’t like waiting in the airport, landing or taking off, turbulence, or being confined to a chair with little leg room as I tend to get claustrophobic, so I have invented little ways to make the whole waiting/flying experience more enjoyable.

When I first book my flight I consult where I can view the aircraft’s configuration and get the low down on which seats are good, which are bad, which ones don’t recline, which have more leg, etc. I also call exactly 24 hours ahead when the airlines will release the emergency exit seats because they have more leg room.

Whenever possible I fly out of Newark International because I can take Amtrak from Old Saybrook right into Newark Station. This saves me the parking fees at the airport and lots of stress by not having to sit in traffic on 95 worrying if I am going to miss my plane.  Also, the flights out of Newark are frequently non-stop on Continental, and I like Continental as an airline in terms of on-time performance, comfort and service. (A lot of airlines are doing away with free food and movies, like American, where you now have to purchase these “luxuries” onboard.) Continental also has individual movie screens so you can watch whatever you’d like. That alone makes the trip go faster.

I board the train in Old Saybrook and get a friend to drop me off. That way I do not have to concern myself with leaving my car at the station for a lengthy period. I bring a brown bag lunch because the food on the train, if you can call it that, is absolutely hideous.  I also purchase meaningless celebrity gossip magazines that I have affectingly nicknamed the “Rag Papers”, and small nips to make the ride go faster. Once I reach the stop for Amtrak station in Newark, a free monorail takes me right into the airport terminal.

Because most of the places I seem to go have flights scheduled around suppertime, I usually arrive at the airport much earlier because of the train schedule  and sit outside as long as possible,  drinking my store bought nips, enjoying the sun, and people watching. This helps to pass the time and save money on bar drinks. Once it gets close to boarding, I peruse the gift shops and book stores near the gate to occupy more time.

Once onboard, I pull out my book, earplugs, an inflatable neck pillow which really saves your neck and enables you to sleep with a limited recline, and yes, 2 sleeping pills. I never used to take them but I do now. Sleeping soundly really makes the trip go faster and then you wake up at your destination refreshed and ready for fun. I then stay up until my usual bedtime, completely avoiding jet lag!

Until next time, safe travels. Enjoy the journey.

Caryn B. Davis

Next Month: My sojourn to New Zealand continues with landfall on Norfolk Island.

Caryn B. Davis is a commercial, editorial, architectural, marine and portrait photographer, and a published writer, with a studio in Chester, CT. Her images and articles have appeared in over 60 leading national and international publications. She is a member of the American Society of Media Photographers and teaches photography to adults and children. As an avid world traveler, Caryn enthusiastically and artistically photographs people, places and things at home and abroad. For more information log onto and

A love inspects the distorted promise.

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