Most history textbooks are based around politics and wars. This makes sense. Wars and politics generate a lot of documentation, they are dramatic, and they are often tidy ways to break up the grand sweep of history into easy to manage chunks. But by adding the study of regular people to the narrative, we realize that most people's lives do not fit into tidy buckets. Yes there were a lot of people in what Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation" but what most of us forget is that any one individual's life is defined by many different events. A person born in the US in 1840 who lived to be 75, would have lived through The American Civil War, twenty one presidents, and the start of World War one. They also would have witnessed the widespread adoption of electric lights, locomotives, and the transition of African Americans from legal enslavement to freedom and enfranchisement to the injustices of Jim Crow.
When we travel we see monuments and palaces related to political leaders and wars, but we also can see streets, churches, temples, landmarks, houses, and landscapes in which regular people lived--and continue to live their lives. As L.P. Hartley said "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there" travelling to other countries today can remind us of the diversity of human experience, and helps students to develop a more empathetic and global outlook. The leaders of tomorrow--the students of today-- cannot succeed without a perspective which is respectful of the experiences and opinions of people outside the most vocal mainstream. Travel, like history, reminds us of the singularity of our own life experience.
I was privileged to be able to study abroad for a semester in Rome, Italy in 2001. During my time there I was able to travel on weekends to cities in Hungary, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, England and Ireland. That period inspired me to travel more. In the years since, I have returned to some of the same places and I have added several other places to my travel resume. The up to date list of places I have been in the years since then:
-Chesky Kromlov, Czech Republic
-Warsaw, Krakow, and Zacopane, Poland
-Opatia, Split, Dubrovnik and others in Croatia
-Several States in the US: Virginia, Maryland, Arizona, and Utah.
-Gruyere, Montreaux and Locarno, Switzerland
-Vindolanda, and Hadrians Wall, UK
-Mumbai, Udaipur, and Delhi, India
-Tokyo, Kyoto and Hakone, Japan