Today’s Dance: If I had a Time Machine I would Time Travel to…


Echo Park Time Travel Mart

Echo Park Time Travel Mart (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

Many of us, especially fans of science fiction, fantasy, and historical romance, have fantasized about going back in time to an earlier era and living our lives in that very different world. Some of us imagine ourselves explorers, or great lords and ladies, or soldiers in a just war, or hardy pioneers making a go of it in a new land.

We imagine ourselves armed with our advanced knowledge and our prescience about world events that give us a welcome unfair advantage among those whose time we have invaded. We ignore details such as lack of vaccinations, indoor plumbing, and rapid communication and transportation options, and prefer to think of ourselves as living among those who had servants to mitigate the most crushing of the burdens of the time.

I wish I had one of those brains that could just turn off the critical thinking button and imagine myself, if time traveling, landing in the best possible financial and social situation in any given era, but given my brain, I tend to think in odds, and the odds are that 1) I would be of the working or peasant class, and 2) I would still be a woman. Which means, in almost every culture in almost every time, I would have had very limited opportunities to live a life I would find to my liking.

Dying in childbirth does not appeal to me, nor does being worked to death sewing in a nineteenth century factory or dragging a plow behind a team of oxen. Wearing hot, heavy skirts with a corset on hot summer days sounds like my idea of hell.

All that said, if I were to go back in time armed with a fortune in that time and place's currency and with the credentials to give myself freedoms unusual for a woman of that time (perhaps evidence that I was a widow in charge of my own fortune, for instance), there are several historical eras I would like to visit. I would like to meet Jane Austen at Bath, for instance, or watch the events in Jerusalem with the three Marys that fateful Passover two eons ago, or march with Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Antony. It might even be fun to watch all of the Bard's plays during his lifetime. But I would want to come home to my 21st century comforts and the home and family I love.

Enough about me, though. Today's dance explores your ideas about time travel and what you would do if you had a device that would drop you back in time in a specified location with enough resources to live a 'life of means' for a year, and then deliver you home automatically:

  • Where would you go, and why?
  • Who would you want to meet in your time travels? How would you go about getting an introduction?
  • What experiences are you most looking forward to in your chosen time period(s)? Why?
  • What will you miss most from your life today?
  • How will you prepare for your year? What will your back story be? Will you have to learn a new language?
  • Are you looking forward to living in period fashion, or are you dreading it in hopes that your other experiences will make the sacrifice worth it?
  • If you could take three 21st century items with you, what would they be, and how would you explain them if they were discovered?
  • If you could time travel to two more times and places after your first, where would you go and why?
  • What historical periods would you avoid 'like the plague'? (How's that for an awful pun? Wait for it...)
  • In your chosen period(s), what hazards are you aware of and prepared for? What do you expect might take you by surprise?

Don't forget to share your answers and pass this around to family and friends to open up the discussion to more people. Looking forward to dancing with you!

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About odanu

Maureen O'Danu is the webmistress of Am I the Only One Dancing? where there is a new discussion every day on any one of dozens of topics and ideas, as well as reviews, geekery, family, fun, and enough politics to season the pot.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/andreas.schaefer.cologne Andreas Schaefer

    Before I decide if I want to run the riscs of other times , my first question is "can one change history?".

    I am not thinking of the big stuff actually , I am thinking of making someone see a doctor about a week earlier. Or half a year.
    Then the persons might be well and alive now.
    I probably would not dare to prevent 9/11 or kill Hitler (see Steven Fry Making History ) I have read too many alternate histories not to be weary.

    Second worry about kicking my younger selfs ass to improve my lot. Maybe investing a bit in his name. Possible?

    And only when I have considered and decided about those do I want to travel for fun and curiosity. I suspect hearing the Bards plays for the first time is risky. Can one get inoculations for the ills of that time ? What money do I take? How to I look after my personal safety?

    Would it not be wiser to get a copy of one of the lost plays and hide it somewhere safe so one can discover it in the here and now?

    ( or other rare manuscripts : Aristoteles on Comedy? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_books ) There knowing enough of mores and language of the time those maniscripts were still existing is a challenge - how to dress and behave so one is not considered a spy and thrown into jail. Even something seeming harmless like going back to the 50s and watching myself ( and maybe investing a bit ) might be dangerous - during the cold war people with no explanation for having no ID-papers and slightly strange clothing and accent could run into problems. ( at least getting money of that time would be easier , cheaper )

    • http://amnottheonlyone.com odanu

      Your accent might be even more problematic in the 40s than the fifties, if you were to go to my neighborhood.

      I think if I were to travel back, I'd get a full raft of updated vaccinations, and (being a woman of childbearing age) a form of birth control that lasts over a year. Fortunately for me, I am now a middle aged woman who is no longer slender. I could blend into the background (no one looks at middle aged or elderly women closely).

      I don't know about going back and encountering your younger self. That's a question for Heinlein or Wells.