Time Travel Vacation

After re-rewatching 24 Hour Party People I’ve become obsessed with the idea of being in a place at a particular point in time—the moment that a place, a culture and a people come into sharp focus. So just for exercise, let’s assume that in the next 20 years time travel becomes freely available and cost-effective to the point that we are forced to decide between vacationing to a place now or then. What time and place would you choose to spend your two weeks per year on?

I find that most of my friends choose a moment in history when a particular culture or subculture is on the brink of being recognized. For me it’s Manchester in either the late 70’s or the late 80’s, and for other’s it’s Soho in the 60’s or Athens at the height of the Greek empire. The thing that strikes me about these time-places is that we all seem to be excited by the prospect of visiting a moment that defines us, but we were unable to experience.

The irony of this experiment is that if we really did travel to these historic venues, I’m sure we’d be much more excited about being there than the people involved. Of course they don’t know how important their moment is, and how could they, they’re living in it. I’m sure there’s thousands of moments right now that people of the future would be willing to pay a year’s salary to be a part of, but we won’t know for years exactly what we should be jealous of.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish time travel was ubiquitous and cost-effective so that I can visit all of my favorite places in time. Or maybe all of the most influential pieces of history were actually footnotes in the textbooks until future time travellers went back and made them popular. Damn the time travellers.

19 thoughts on “Time Travel Vacation

  1. while you are visiting all of your favorite places in time it will sure be an experience. time passes either in ancient greek or in 80’s of manchester, so it means experience. is it? or will those time travellers experience anything in “their life”?

    i would like to go to a zone where i don’t know anything about it.

  2. I’ve time travelled to this moment, the moment when mankind (Cameron) stumbled upon the idea of travelling to pivitol moments in time, such as the moment when mankind stumbled upon the idea of travelling to pivitol moments in time, such as…

    I was headed somewhere with that, like as if I were a time traveller from 20 years from now but got caught up in something bizarre, and perhaps too intelligent for even myself. So I’ll take the low road:

    1982. Mrs. Ellis’ Kindergarten Class in Huntington Beach, California. Everyone got to take Willy the Whale puppet home for a weekend, except for me, I missed my turn. The moment defined me, made me angry. If only I could have my turn, I would have studied more in school, cured cancer, and invented time travel.

  3. “To enter a university a year or two after 1968 was like being admitted to the Academie de Saint-Cyr in 1793: you felt your birth date was wrong. Jacopo Belbo, who was almost fifteen years older than I, later convinced me that every generation feels this way. You are always born under the wrong sign, and to live in this world properly you have to rewrite your own horoscope day by day.”
    –from Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco (1988)

    Stephen Hawking, I think, said the best proof of the impossibility of time travel is that we are not inundated by visitors from the future, back for a little bit of “roughing it.”

  4. Damn time travellers… Ever since every nice place and time is full of tourists, history isn’t the same anymore… There’s even no such thing as a nice, casual place and time!

  5. This sounds alarmingly like a thought I had during college, around the time of Terminator 2– back in 1991, I guess. Thinking about time travel in movies, I came to a realization that the act of time travel (witnessing someone going back in time) can truly only be appreciated by the 3rd party observer, the moviegoer, who has seen the future traveled from, and the past traveled into, and waits with excitement for the inevitable line “i’m from the future.”

    For the party encountering the time traveler, the expected reaction would only be disbelief, and nothing about the surroundings would be interesting, being that they are in their own present.

    For the time traveler, explaining that he was from the future would not be nearly as exciting as having actually traveled there, and the actual presence in the past being only slighty more interesting than being in a period theme park. This is debatable, but i truly believe the newness of it would wear off quickly when presented with the reality of it.

    The true excitement is watching the event unfold, seeing both sides of the coin and waiting for the truth to be revealed- everyone seems to love the moment when the truth is revealed- the truth they already knew.

    Well, anyway I thought it was a profound thought at the time but i’ve really never been able to express it well enough in words.

  6. I have been thinking that NYC, just prior to September 11th, 2001 was the greatest place to be at the greatest time in human history. America was seemingly the safest, freest, most opportune country in the world and NYC in particular was the epicenter of that. I moved to NYC in November of 2001 and believe I somewhat just missed out on the feeling. Nevertheless, I still feel as though NYC is currently the city of the world – the best example of a world-wide melting pot where things are buzzing with maximum opportunity, wealth, freedom, influence, etc. It’s great to be alive here and now.

  7. There are a few moments I’d like to visit, things that happened during my lifetime, but in different places. The Challenger and Columbia crashes, the WTC attacks on 9/11, Ronald Reagan and his “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speach, the actual fall of the Wall, Mandela getting out of prison and then becoming president of South Africa, and quite a few more. Not to mention to be able to see all the other choices I might have made in my life. Missed birthdays, dances, Canada Days, christmases, movies and shows. People might end up spending more time in the past… 😛

  8. I recall reading a science fiction novel that dealed precisely with this. Time travel and its side-effects: attempts to change history and time-travel tourism polution (too many tourist in key moments of history, like Jesus’ cruxifiction and so on).

    Anyone remembers the title and author?

  9. why wish that time travel could be cost-effective so that you could visit all of your favorite places in time?

    how much better would it be, if instead of disturbing the balance of universe by time travel, you could actually realize the excitement and importance of our time, here and now?

    like you said, eventually, people will soon wish to be in our here and now… why not take advantage of it while we have it? do we really have to wait 20 years to appreciate what we have NOW?

    rock on.

  10. I would like to travel to 1977 when Star Wars originally came out (yeah, I’m a sci-fi geek..). I think it’d be kind of amazing, in a way. Hard to explain. That, or I’d love to be in New York or London during the ’80s. There’s so many places, things I missed (a trip my third grade class took to a huge science center, I was on vacation and missed out), people I’ve wanted to meet, everything.

  11. Can we bring stuff there and back in our time machine? Because that’s what I’d like to do. I’d want to go and steal a copy of the original, 9 hour cut of Von Stroheim’s Greed before it was destroyed, or maybe “the Turk”, the chess-playing “robot” from the 18th century (which was destroyed in a fire). I’d also like to bring a camcorder to tape the original Shakespeare and Marlowe plays, or the Marx Brothers broadway musicals of the 1920’s.

    It seems like a time machine is the one thing we know will never be invented, because if it will be, we’d have people coming back and telling us.

  12. First thing I’d do is go back to the pre 9/11 World Trade Center, and look around the lobby of the Vista Hotel (this was actually on my NYC travel agenda before 9/11, and I had already done other parts of the WTC). That being done, maybe some rescuing people from 9/11 itself would be in order, and then taking pictures of the disaster. (Yeah, it would take plenty of people to actually stop 9/11 from occurring, and teamwork at that; this was a terrorist act involving about four teams of four or five people each, so I’d stick with rescuing folks.)
    The 9/11 stuff done with, I’d head back to the Victorian Age or Edwardian Age and put myself up at a resort, possibly Coney Island, possibly a British resort, and stay there for a couple of nights. (If at Coney Island, I’d also want to tour NYC as well.) Then I’d go back to Rutgers (my university) and watch the campus evolve and develop over the years. Should be a lotta fun.

  13. If I could time travel, I would jump to Saturday, Dec. 31, 2005 at 8PM. Read the California Lottery winning numbers, print them out, write them down… memorize them… Then I would travel back to Friday, December 30th, 2005 and post the future numbers in my sock drawer.

    then I’d wipe everything down with Listerine and Lysol to kill off the heavily mutated cold virus I’d be likely carrying, as this would be potent enough to wipe out all of humanity in it’s present form 🙂

    Remind me to hide my house key somewhere so “Future Me” can break into “Presnt Me’s” house and plant the numbers…

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