The Stars Saved Me


Stargazing in Hawaii has become quite the topic lately. It reminds me of a trip I took to the Sahara before I turned 21. It was fairly close to the southern Italy town I lived in while I was in the Navy, and hopping on a flight to Tunis back then was a lot cheaper than getting bottle service today.

It was exciting to be visiting Africa in a much more seemingly peaceful time to travel — way before 9/11, the USS Cole, the U.S. Embassy bombings and the mass executions of tourists near the Nile. I wonder if people even knew about that last one. I was working with a lot of secrets. I wonder now if that’s why we had so much time off, so we could “forget” things or at least preoccupy our minds. It was a weird cycle — we worked two 12-hour day shifts, and then had a 24-hour break before doing two 12-hour night shifts. After that four-shift cycle, we had four days off. We did that seven times, then had 18 days off. It was very common for us to check out the rest of Europe and beyond with our vacation time.

Tunisia was magical. The hotel was an airy, open, all-white stucco castle in the sky with a pool that wrapped around the resort. We didn’t spend too much time there before loading into large SUVs to travel to the desert, stopping along the way to meet camels and visit local shops.

But the shop owners were sexist, extremely pushy and spoke every Western language to coax you into their store.

“Pretty girl! You speak German? French? Italiano?”

I would smile and wave but keep walking. If you did want to buy something, haggling was a battle on its own. This was not my idea of a good time.

The day trip took a lot out of me. Leaning my head on the window of our SUV as we drove back to the resort, the early night sky took my breath away. Just like that, the long, stressful day vanished.

I saw so many stars. It wasn’t completely dark — it was that beautiful in-between time when the light blue was fading to dark blue, then to black.

Toward the horizon, I spotted the most amazing thing: a huge, bright mass of white sparkling lights with a long sparkling tail. Like a group of 100 shooting stars that weren’t going anywhere, just shining. It was a comet! I remember thinking that the sky is so clear in the Sahara you can even see comets from other galaxies. Living abroad, I hadn’t kept up with TV or the news, so I had no idea I was looking at Hale-Bopp, the most widely observed and brightest comet of the 20th century.

Today, if you can’t escape to somewhere that the skies are as clear as the Sahara, iPads are obviously better than handheld devices for stargazing. Luminos is my favorite for iPad because of its 3D views and massive databank. It has more than 2.5 million stars and many other objects in its catalog.

Still, exploring space from the ground is never the same from a well-lit, densely populated city, and I will never forget that feeling of glancing out the window and seeing that bright anomaly in the sky. The stars saved me that night.


Christa Wittmier is “SUPERCW” on all social media. Find her on Snapchat, SoundCloud, Twitter, Vine and Instagram. By night, she is known as DJ SuperCW. By day, she is known as senior marketing director for Young’s Market Company of Hawaii. Her nightlife blog SuperCity runs every Wednesday on