TCC Member Spotlight: George and Frances Chittenden, Helsingborg, Sweden

George and Frances Chittenden on their travels

Frances and I met in 2012, and realized almost immediately that we both had an enthusiastic appetite for extensive and far- reaching travel.

I’m an organist and choral director, and Frances and I met at a choral festival in Wellington Cathedral, during the time that I worked as Cathedral Organist in southerly Dunedin. I’d already discovered the Travelers’ Century Club via David Horne, New Zealand’s most well-travelled man, whom I met following a travel talk that I’d given in Dunedin.Through David,I found out the ex- citing news about the Club, its structure and purpose. Frances, through both her work as a government lawyer and through language scholarships, had already travelled widely overseas. I, before meeting Frances or discovering the Club, had also totaled around forty countries through a combination of concert work and inquisitive travel destinations.

Within the first year of meeting each other, Frances and I had begun planning a trip from New Zealand to the UK (to visit my parents), and to Sweden to see my relatives (I’m half-Swedish, and most of my living relations are based there). At the time of first meeting Frances in 2012, my travel budget was very limited—although my desire to have an exciting and enriching trip was relatively undeterred by this.

George preparing for a concert in Sweden.

Some weeks prior to meeting Frances, I’d already undertaken a solo trip back to the UK, under extreme budgetary restrictions. I undertook the journey from Dunedin to Folkestone entirely by means of low-cost airlines (or those offering advantageous open-jaw deals). Over the course of five days, I used Jetstar, Scoot, Indigo, Egypt Airways and Ryanair in order to undertake a somewhat un- comfortable journey that involved a capsule hotel in Singapore, a quite harrowing night in Mumbai Airport where I’d had to surrender my passport due to transit problems, some hours in Cairo whilst Egypt was rather politically animated, a night at a budget beach hotel in Larnaca, and a day exploring the churches and cafes of Thessaloniki. On the way back: a hot evening in Doha (including money-saving walk to and from the old air- port), a morning exploring Sharjah, a quick zoom around Kuala Lumpur, and an eight- hour sleep on the benches in Sydney Airport.

A proportion of Frances’ travel had been as a result of work trips to the Middle East and Australia, and in connection with this, a series of comfortable journeys on reputable airlines such as Oman Airways and Emirates. When we decided to do the first of our large-scale overseas trips together, we combined financial prudence with a desire both to avoid unnecessary jet lag and to discover many interesting locations. I’d already apprised Frances of my aim to enrich my travel plans with reference to the TCC’s list. At that time, it saved signif- icantly in cost by piecing together all sorts of unlikely stopovers between New Zealand and Europe, and ensuring a really interesting way of getting from A to B, without too much fatigue from the drastic change of time zones.

On the first of these joint trips, Frances and I met up in Bangkok Airport, ate a belly full of street food downtown, and then returned to the airport for a middle-of-the-night flight to Oslo on Norwegian. We often combined these big trips with the opportunity for me to play solo concerts, and as a result spent some time in Norway and Sweden, be- fore heading to England, France, then Scot- land, Germany, Austria, Italy, Malta, Cyprus (both south and north), Turkey (both sides of the strait), Dubai, Vietnam, Singapore and Australia—all in the same trip. Whilst in Dubai, we splashed out on a driver to take us on a tour of the entire UAE. The driver was a fine chap from Pakistan, who sadly hadn’t been home to see his fam- ily in Karachi for over seven years. Whilst on this drive, the driver questioned my route planning a couple of times (“But this is the quickest way back to Dubai, Sir”), though after some explanation he then appreciated the purpose of the mission: to take in all seven emirates in one trip. As a result—and follow- ing a good laugh from the driver—we en- sured that we’d squeezed in Ajman and Umm Al Quwain. It wasn’t entirely possible to do the entire trip back to New Zealand without a little tiredness now and then: Frances slept through out the entirety of Ra sal-Khaimah, and some days later, I missed much of our car jaunt along Australia’s Gold Coast.

In subsequent years, we expanded and developed this travel concept, combining concert work for me in, for example, Pales- tine, the USA, Hong Kong and Scandinavia, alongside holiday in, amongst others, Bali, Sicily, the Maldives, Spain, Israel, Cambodia, Tahiti, Macau, Java and Belgium, and doing so with better budget, more reliable airlines and an ever-improving standard of hotels. In a comparable vein to our car tour in the UAE, we undertook a similar journey through- out the Balkans. This was significantly more difficult to organize, and involved having to telephone quite a few different drivers whilst based in Montenegro. In particular, it was a challenge to find a driver who, for political reasons, was willing to undertake Albania and Kosovo in one day, finishing up in Skopje.

In relation to my work, in 2016 we moved to Helsingborg, Sweden (the nearest point between Sweden and Denmark, with Danish soil only 4 kms away), and as a result we now plan our trips in the “opposite direction.” We love train travel, and accordingly decided to undertake the mammoth journey from Hong Kong to Helsingborg entirely by train. Somewhat to the detriment of my receding hairline, I organized all the visas for this journey without the help of any agency—the Russian Consulate in Gothenburg actually lost my passport once, and made things rather trickier for me (as a Brit) than for Frances (as a New Zealander). The trip itself went extremely smoothly; the Trans-Mongolian portion of the journey took place during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which added an extra atmosphere of festivity to the entire trip.

Nine months ago, our darling daughter Eostre turned up, and as a result we’ve now begun factoring in her schedule into trips, and finding a way of enjoying an adventurous travel existence in a way that will work with an inquisitive, accompanying youth. Thanks to her parentage, Eostre has both a British and a New Zealand passport (although can’t get Swedish citizenship just yet). She’s man- aged a city break in Oslo, as well as a night in Munich whilst en route to our favorite Italian city—sun-kissed Siracusa in Sicily.

On this very day of writing, we’d planned to be in Japan, on the return leg of a trip that would have taken in visiting family in New Zealand, exploring California and a return to our much-loved honeymoon hotel in Fiji. Due to the virus, we’re now looking at replanning that trip for January next year, in the hope that things might be on the way back to “normality”—whatever that new form of “normality” is.

The club’s newest traveler, Eostre Chittenden with proud mom and dad.

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