By Constance Gibbs | June 21, 2024

To celebrate their 40th birthdays, Kristen Haut and Julie Katz, both AB ’02, planned the trip of a lifetime: a two-week expedition to Antarctica. They eagerly anticipated experiencing the snow-covered landscape and extraordinary wildlife viewing. The friends scheduled the trip for December 2020, but when the pandemic hit, their adventure was postponed indefinitely. 

In addition to their birthdays, the excursion would have marked a shared milestone of visiting all seven continents — most of them together. While not all friends are travel friends, Haut and Katz have similar travel philosophies. And they know each other’s quirks, having met when they were randomly assigned as first-year roommates in Umrath on WashU’s South 40. “Traveling with people can be hard, but if you’ve lived together in a dorm room, you know if you can travel together,” Haut says. “Julie loves planning our travel, and I trust her because she knows me so well.” 

Kristen Haut and Julie Katz, both AB ’02, in front of Brookings Hall
Kristen Haut and Julie Katz, both AB ’02, in front of Brookings Hall at their 15th Reunion, April 2017

The pair have been fast friends since arriving on the Danforth Campus. Haut, who grew up outside of Chicago, advised Miami-born Katz on appropriate cold-weather gear for her first Midwest winter. During meals in the dining halls, Katz picked mushrooms and olives from her plate and gave them to Haut, who gladly ate them. They both majored in psychology, a common thread, although Katz focused on social psychology, while Haut’s specialty was more biological, leading her to a doctorate in clinical science and psychopathology research. 

They also called alumni as student employees for WashU’s phonathon program. While it was Haut who identified the opportunity, it ultimately led to Katz’s decades-long professional career in fundraising and development. “WashU gave me many things, but the most valuable is the friendships I made and still have today,” says Katz, now a community health leader at a children’s hospital. “Everyone at WashU was interesting, smart, and open-minded. We had an amazing group of friends, and those friends are still some of the most important people in my life.” 

“Traveling helps us become better people because we’re immersing ourselves in new cultures and meeting people different from ourselves.”

Julie Katz, AB ’02

Haut and Katz took short domestic trips together in the early years following their graduation. They opened travel rewards credit cards, hoping to redeem points for international travel one day. Their first trip abroad, sparked by an episode of NPR’s Planet Money podcast, was to Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. A few years later, they visited South Africa, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Next, they checked Iceland off the bucket list, followed by visits to Scandinavia. Their catalog of trips taken grew longer until Antarctica was the obvious missing destination. 

In 2022, nearly four years after they put down their deposit, the pair was overjoyed to visit the southernmost continent. In Antarctica, they kayaked past icebergs, mountaineered across a glacier, slept in a snow trench, took a polar plunge in the freezing water, and watched a pod of orca whales hunt. And they saw thousands of penguins.

“It’s a place where no matter how gorgeous the photo is, the camera cannot fully capture the beauty of what it’s like to be there in person,” says Haut, a clinical psychologist. “It felt like we were in an issue of National Geographic magazine.” 

Kristen Haut and Julie Katz, both AB ’02, kayak in Antarctica
Kristen Haut and Julie Katz kayak in Antarctica, December 2022

They started planning their next trip on the boat back through the Drake Passage to South America. Many of their fellow passengers on the 100-person ship were well-traveled and offered wise guidance and advice. Haut and Katz decided on a trip to Japan, which brought the total number of countries they’ve visited together to 22.   

“Traveling helps us become better people because we’re immersing ourselves in new cultures and meeting people different from ourselves,” Katz says. “Our travel theory can be described as a sampler platter. We think we’ll find somewhere we love and want to revisit. But that never actually happens because there are always new places to try. We’re continually seeking out those unique experiences so we can learn from them.”