”I (Veronica Wynne-Hughes), a.k.a. Dream Manager want more people to challenge themselves, to achieve their wildest goals, to face their fears and doubts, to question the impossible, and to help save our planet.” This is how Veronica Wynne-Hughes describes her journey around the world. So far, Veronica has sailed on the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and half of the Pacific and is now getting ready for a trip to the Antarctic. To make this dream come true, Veronica used crowd-funding and sponsorships, as well as bartering her sailing skills on small ships in exchange for food and the opportunity to travel for free with the crew. A journey that started in Malta in May, 2014 and that is still ongoing today.
Veronica Wynne-Huges has travelled more than other people ever since she was a child, with her Hungarian mother and her British father (the writer Barry Wynne). She grew up on a ship on the Mediterranean Sea and travelled with a trailer in Europe, during the winters. Due to this lifestyle, she started school in Malta and finished it in France. Having been raised in this community, Veronica knows that, contrary to popular belief, the world of people living on boats and sailors is not a rich man’s world. Most of the boaters are people that invested all their saving into this lifestyle, and many are retired people leading a modest life.
After getting her bachelor’s and a master’s degree in psychology in Liverpool and Budapest, Veronica decided to embark on this journey, although she still loves working as a psychologist. A decision that led Veronica Wynne-Hughes to become in May, 2017, the first Hungarian to cross the Northwest Passage, after travelling over 400 kilometres in 3 weeks. The Northwest Passage is a sea way of over 5800 kilometres that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific via waterways through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. It was here that Veronica faced her biggest challenge so far: „It was probably the polar bears. As much as they prefer seal meat, when you come face to face with them in the wild, it can be…. well…. unsettling. Truth be told, they didn’t seem to want to attack, they were more curious, I think, but then one followed us for 5 hours. It was also very challenging and tiring to have to ski 23 hours straight that day to a place we had on our charts as a little hut/military base. When we got there, the doors were locked and they were made of metal, so we didn’t sleep very well that night.”
And beyond polar bears, Veronica faced other challenges as well along the way, when, for example, Ondine, the ship she boarded stopped working next to Malta so they had to be rescued by the Coast Guard, or when she was homeless for a week before finding a new ship in the French Polynesia, and even when her crew mates’ belongings were stolen right from their ship, during the night. But Veronica managed to raise above these challenges without losing hope. In fact, on this journey, Veronica is almost never alone, and safety measures are important: „Luckily in this day and age, equipment is superb. when sailing boats always carry life-rafts, EPIRBs, satellite phones etc. When on our expedition through the Northwest passage, we had first class gear (thanks to my sponsors) and carried a gun, a bear alarm dog, satellite phones, GPSs, spares of everything, solar panels etc. I will have these in Antarctica too.”
Along the way, Veronica explored caves in Belize and crossed the Panama canal, where she visited the islands that inspired Paul Gaugain. She met Kuna Indians (an ethnic minority group in the Caribbean), she visited Mayan ruins and some of the most isolated islands on the planet. Hence Veronica was, and still is, in a privileged position to witness climate change: „I don’t like to pretend I am a specialist on this. Sure, I’ve seen ice melt. but whether that is melting caused by global warming or simply because summer was on its way, I don’t know. I asked the Inuit people about it, and didn’t get a definite answer. OK, hiking in Greenland and Svalbard 5+ years ago, I definitely saw a lot of melting. Even on my expedition through the Northwest passage, the day after we arrived to the finish line, the temperature warmed up considerably, so we were very lucky, otherwise the cracks in the ice may not have held us in the air, but swallowed us, which would have been fatal.”
What truly worries Veronica Wynne-Hughes is the amount of plastic we use and dispose of: „My focus is on the unnecessary use of plastic. That I see a lot. Everywhere I look, unnecessary plastic bags, bottles, wrapping etc. I saw a lot of it in the sea when I sailed, and a fair amount on the ice. In Antarctica, I will carry my rubbish with me every step of the way. So I have set my aim to be the promotion of environmental mindfulness. I don’t think it’s a good idea to force people to change their habits and lives too much too soon. That will be greeted with resistance, I think. My aim is to simply get people to recognise plastic in their day-to-day decisions – example, (when using) straws.„
So far, this journey also allowed Veronica to make one of her most surprising discoveries: „(…) that I am an animal and a part of the animal kingdom, which was a positive surprise. When we sailed across the Atlantic with no power on the boat due to the failure of the alternator, we realised all we needed to stay alive was food, water and a bed. just like animals. Everything else is extra we add onto that and not necessary for survival. But learning how to swim with sharks in the wild was also quite surprising. After having seen jaws 1 and 2, I thought they were murderers but apparently, they’re not.”
Veronica’s journey will resume with a 60-day expedition to the Antarctic, scheduled for November, 2018, which entails a thorough physical and logistical training. You can still support Veronica right here, and follow her on her journey on the official page, antarctrip.com, where Veronica may well inspire you to become your own #DreamManager.
P.S. One of the most surprising things we learned was that in Greenland, if you breathe too much through your mouth, the Sun can burn you on the inside of your mouth because of the rays reflected on the snow – or on the inside of your nose