Side note: Life on the other side of the road in New Zealand


In this Journey to Psychology we have now traveled about 7,000 miles/11,000 kilometres  in the United States and Canada, another 7,000mi/11,000km to get to Sydney,  Australia, and then another 1300mi/2200km to get to Aukland NZ with an additional 150 mi/250km north from Aukland towards Whangarei Falls (pronounced Fang-err-ai).  All told, our personal odometer for this Journey reads approximately 15,450 mi/25,000 km.

See the map above in which I tried to  demarcate key places we’ve stopped so far.

We’ve reached about the halfway mark.

The  second half of this journey will take us through the South Island of New Zealand to reach Christchurch. We’ll fly back to Melbourne and then make our way up to Sydney for a return flight to California (a flight that, remarkably enough, will have us land just about two hours before our departure time because…time zones). From California I’ll have some more conversations at Stanford and  Berkeley with amazing people in northern California, and then we’ll make our way down the coast to southern California. We will move from So Cal across the deserts in Arizona and New Mexico and into Texas. From Texas we’ll hop a plane to London and travel around the UK, with a couple of week’s departure from this Psychology journey to a more personal journey in Israel. Then we’ll turn back to the UK from where we can take our return flight to Texas. Starting in Texas  we will begin the final leg of the journey through the southeastern parts of the US and then up the east coast towards our home in New Jersey.

At times along this journey I’ve felt that this is what I need to do. I’ve felt moments of driving passion about the project and inspiration from  the people I have been meeting and chronicling as part of my journey to Psychology’s stories and history. Our field is so rich with brilliant people, amazing stories, and, always, a deep-seeded commitment to using science to help improve our lives. The breadth of our findings and the changes that we’ve borne witness to in the last 50 years of Psychology is astounding.   Awe-inspiring. I am swept into a stream of ideas and of practices that I can’t begin to  describe. It is life-changing.

At other times I’ve felt road  weary and exhausted. I’ve wondered whether I’ve missed some critical person, some key stone at the center of Psychology’s arch holding us all together and  upright. I’ve wondered whether I could ever do justice to our field and the chaotic tapestry of visions and experiments that have built our discipline.  And I’ve felt the weight from the thousands of miles of distance and more than a dozen hours of time-zone changes on my body. Home has been where we find ourselves at any given time. We are always home but we are always in transit.

There are some notable moments of the last few days. We wrapped up our time in Aukland where I wrote about Dr. Bryant and who seemed so deeply integrated in the Gestalt of Australia. Days before I had spoken with Dr. Michael Corballis whose work drew me into the grand spectrum of cognitive science and its origins, and the whose stories were both heartfelt and, in one case, tragic. We visited on the Pop-up Globe Theatre in Aukland and its raucous modern-day perspective on Shakespeare’s comedy the Taming of the Shrew. From Aukland we drove up into the Northlands and for the natural beauty of Wharangei Falls and soon after into the intimate luminescence of thousands of hunting glow worms in the dark cave of the Kawiti  family. The soft, aqua light of their tails creates a  virtual starry night constellation across the ceiling of the cavern. This emergent pattern is critical as it can lure newborn, unsuspecting moths to fly up into their entrapments who confuse it for the night sky.   That trek across the Northlands ended at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and a ceremonial ritual of peace that simulated the start of the New Zealand nation. The indigenous peoples were represented in costume, dance, warrior displays, and song, communicated in both Maori and English.

Through this most recent segment of our journey we’ve needed to rely on a car and so I’ve made one more major adjustment: driving on the left-side of the road.

These new things: staying left, new beds, new smells in each house, new foods, new  birds and flowers, new landscape, new people, new wifi connectivity, new days of wonder to anticipate. These new things sensitize me to parts of my phenomenology that are so often hidden by their common routine.

I need to do this. My eyes are stretched wide open by this. Still I can feel the signs that I am also weary from this.


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