Changing Planet

Voyaging Reflection: Sources of Strength

The night sky in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
The night sky in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the stars have a way of turning even the simplest of men into philosophers. There are more visible stars out here than any place I’ve ever been to and rightly so, since there are no man-made lights to be seen for hundreds of miles. In voyaging, we are taught to use the stars for navigation. They are our guiding lights as well as our teachers and they’ve spoken to our ancestors for as long as humans have been on Earth. Tonight, those same stars are speaking to me and, in my weary state of mind, the echo of the night sky is louder than ever. Here is what I’ve garnered from the past few hours of staring into space.

Hōkūle'a captain, Nainoa Thompson, navigating using the rising sun and the swells.  (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Hōkūle’a captain, Nainoa Thompson, navigating using the rising sun and the swells. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

There are times in every voyage, literal and metaphorical, where your will is tested. When the squalls hit one after another and you are soaked from head to toe, or during the late night watches where every ounce of your body wants to shut down, that’s when the universe shines a spotlight on you to see what kind of person you choose to be. It was during the challenging times on this voyage where I witnessed firsthand what it meant to be truly strong, brave, and enduring.

(Photo by Daniel Lin)
(Photo by Daniel Lin)

I witnessed my captains lead with a quiet confidence and teach with great patience. I witnessed my fellow young crewmembers rise up to become leaders. I witnessed global leaders commit to a common cause and challenge other leaders to follow suit. I witnessed communities who had the least give the most in hopes that the rest of the world would listen and follow.

Lastly, I witnessed my own personal growth accelerated by the power of the Worldwide Voyage. When my own limits were tested, I drew upon the strength of the strong individuals around me and, in doing so, found a part of myself that I didn’t know existed before—a stronger, grittier, more resilient version of me.



Crewmembers, Saki and Senio, pull in the halyard lines on Hikianalia. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Crewmembers Saki and Senio pull in the halyard lines on Hikianalia. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Perhaps that’s what the Worldwide Voyage was meant to do all along. Whether you’ve sailed multiple legs or you’re seeing the canoes for the first time, this voyage allows for you and me to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. It provides a chance to bear witness to the hard work and dedication of amazing individuals from all walks of life. Furthermore, it challenges us to dig deeper than we thought possible and, in doing so, find a piece of ourselves that we’ve either lost touch with or didn’t know existed. 

So, as I sit and bask in the brilliant glow of starlight, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for the experience to learn, grow, and voyage with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Most of all, I’m grateful for the “space” to work on being a better version of myself as we all collectively navigate towards a better future for the Earth.

Master navigator, Kālepa, and watch captain, Timi, share stories and laughs while watching the sun rise. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Hōkūle'a sailing on the horizon at sunrise.  (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Hōkūle’a sailing on the horizon at sunrise. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

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Read More by Daniel Lin

A photographer and National Geographic Young Explorer, Dan has spent his career trying to better understand the nexus between people in remote regions of the Asia/Pacific and their rapidly changing environment. Dan is a regular contributor to National Geographic, the Associated Press, and the Guardian. He believes firmly in the power of visual storytelling as a vessel for advocacy and awareness, which helps to better inform policy makers. In 2016, Dan started the Pacific Storytellers Cooperative seeking to empower the next generation of storytellers from the Pacific Islands. Additionally, Dan is a crewmember for the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a Fellow of The Explorers Club, and a member of the IUCN Specialist Group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas. He received his Masters Degree from Harvard University

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