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Enduring SAS Friendships: The Captain’s Log Crew

As Semester at Sea alumni, we all know voyages can help start any number of relationships: friendships, professional connections, global partnerships, and even, sometimes, long-term relationships and marriages. For one special group of friends from the Spring 2017 Voyage, the ability for SAS to create all kinds of new lifelong connections rings true on so many levels, bringing a group of five prior strangers with vastly different backgrounds together for what is now set to be a lifetime of enduring friendships and – for two of the group members – a lifelong romantic partnership. 

For Cameron Hahn, Chelsea Torres, Josh Collins, Julia (Jules) Laing, and Tom Salaverria, their SAS voyage began like so many do: all five boarded the ship not knowing anyone, but excited to meet like-minded people, see the world, learn how to make a global impact, and earn college credits along the way. What they didn’t know, though, is that they would meet one another and form unbreakable bonds so quickly. Josh and Tom met first as roommates on the ship, and Tom and Jules met in the first days of the voyage – seeing in each other a nearly instant romantic spark. Cameron and Chelsea joined the group of budding friendships soon after, and, by the time the ship made its port in Japan, the group of five had set the foundation for friendship and already solidified plans to travel in port together. “Once we all met, we were all kind of it for each other,” Cameron said. “We just knew it was the end game already – we’d found our people.” For Chelsea, the group connected nearly instantaneously through a similar “energy.” Though the individuals all came from different parts of the United States and had differing hobbies and backgrounds, “It was so obvious that we had the same energy, and we brought out the best in each other,” she said. 

Early on, the friend group established some traditions. They would typically meet by the chessboard on the ship to socialize or plan for their next in-port adventure: after meeting, they would travel together in every port thereafter. On the ship, though, is where the group started their most important and enduring tradition of all: “The Captain’s Log.” When the group traveled together, and often on the ship, they would record a quick one-minute video of themselves – usually once per hour – to record where they were, what they were doing, and how they were feeling. This tradition spanned over the entire voyage, and, in the end, resulted in a nearly 30-minute video of all of their favorite moments together. After the voyage, this special artifact served as a lasting memorialization of their time together: even though this time spent with one another would certainly not end there. 

While the group of five was forming incredible friendship bonds, Tom and Jules were also quickly falling in love. For both, it was a pretty apparent case of love at first sight. For Josh, Tom’s roommate, it was so obvious, in fact, that he wrote down in his travel journal the following: 

“Captain’s Log; January 23rd, 2017: Tom and Jules are officially a thing. I mean, we all saw it coming. At their wedding, I already know what I’m going to say: ‘I think it’s correct to go ahead and say that Tom fell in love with Julia the minute he saw her, as she was absolutely glowing that day. I think Jules fell in love with him moments later, when he made her laugh until she cried.’ It was obvious, of course; was it day 6 or 7 that Jules asked everyone in the group (separately) what they knew about love. ‘Josh,’ she had asked me on the front of the ship, waves crashing against the hull. ‘Do you believe in love at first sight?’ And what was that phrase she used? Le coup de foudre” [translates “to be struck by lightning” – a French phrase to explain love at first sight].

After the two-week portion of the voyage spent crossing the Pacific, Tom and Jules were officially a couple, having had their first and second dates across Asia, with Josh, Chelsea, and Cameron by their sides for so many of their milestones. By the time they all left the voyage, of course, their story together was really only just beginning. 

Upon leaving the voyage, disembarking in Germany after 105 days and over 23,000 nautical miles together, the group decided to extend their time traveling a bit longer, to then travel through Europe for a few weeks as a group of five. “It was clear on disembarkation day that we just did not want to leave one another,” Josh said. Cameron added, “We all had this deep, earth-shattering fear of separating.” So, the group traveled together for several more weeks, extending both their time together and also adding more and more to their “The Captain’s Log” video series. 

Cameron, Chelsea, Josh, Jules, and Tom in Burma

What’s more is that “The Captain’s Log” tradition has lived on in many new iterations, beginning with additional group trips and then, eventually, through Tom and Jules’ growing relationship. In September 2022, Tom proposed to Jules, in part using video clips from “The Captain’s Log,” which projected before the couple and showed their time together on SAS – charting precious moments from their relationship since Day One – as Tom proposed to spend their lives together. Though the couple had had to endure long-distance periods, a global pandemic, and border shutdowns, the relationship endured, and Jules, of course, said yes – the ultimate moment of Josh’s aforementioned le coup de foudre coming full circle for the two. In 2023, Tom and Jules were married, and now reside in Connecticut together. Cameron and Chelsea served as bridesmaids, and Josh even officiated the wedding, reading aloud to all of their family and friends his initial thoughts that Tom and Jules had fallen in love on the ship. And, of course, at the wedding, the group recorded more video clips for “The Captain’s Log” – thus creating more recorded memories together for this unbreakable, everlasting crew. 

Since the voyage, their friend group has expanded to include spouses and partners. When Chelsea was married in 2021, Cameron and Jules were bridesmaids, and, in 2022, Jules and Chelsea were bridesmaids for Cameron. And, though they’ve returned to their homes in the United States since, the close-knit group has not yet gone more than a year without seeing one another – from Tahoe, to Scottsdale, to Cabo, to New York, to New Orleans, to Toronto – the group has gathered at every occasion they can, spanning long flights, restrictions from a global pandemic, and the additions of familial and career obligations to stay constant in one another’s lives. While “The Captain’s Log” crew live scattered across the United States for now, they have no plans of ever stopping their travels together: trips to see one another are all in the works for Boston, as well as possible trips to Tokyo or South America. For Jules, the Semester at Sea program was the start of so much of her life now – lifelong friendships, her husband, and some of the best memories of her life so far. “I knew Semester at Sea would be amazing, but I could have never predicted all of this,” she said.

Certainly, we at Semester at Sea predict that this group will be recording “The Captain’s Log” videos together for the rest of their lives – so many moments they will get to share and memorialize forever, all of which began from each of them taking this one chance on a study abroad program that would change the course of their lives forever.

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