Time Travel: Not for the Faint of Heart

Florence. Just like I pictured it.

Ponte Vecchio Florence
Florence, Italy

It’s a timeless scene. Or so we imagine. What if you were traveling there from Washington, D.C. in 2014 — but your vacation destination was 1492?

Anyone serious about travel knows there’s preparation involved. Google Maps, Trip Advisor recommendations, knowing where there are ATMs compatible with your bank’s….maybe even a finding a good Groupon.

But what if the travel you were about to embark on had none of the conveniences of modern life. In fact, what if it was not modern at all?

time travelers guide to survival
Credit: Topatoco

For the time traveler, this poses added challenges. After all, one can hardly Google Leonardo da Vinci’s atelier in Florence–when no one in this century knows where it was. It’s difficult to plan how much money to carry with you when you couldn’t even find that currency anymore — florins? ducats? Try getting that out of the ATM before you go! And then the question: what not to wear? Think of the scandal of showing up in the court of the Duke of Florence wearing short-shorts, flip-flops, and a tube top!

Charley Morton, the protagonist in Out of Time and time-traveler to-be, has been doing her homework. After exhaustive research on the life and the times of Leonardo da Vinci, pouring over his notebooks, and studying everything she can get her hands  on about Renaissance Italy, she feels prepared.

Still, reading about 15th century Florence and the early Renaissance is not quite the same as experiencing it. Charley’s ideas about society are rooted in modern society’s notions of equal opportunity, gender equality, formal education, and careers. In our world, literacy is a given. For the people of the late 1400s–not so much.

Ideas about the world can change radically in 500 years. So the smart time traveler — if she is able to choose the exact time and destination — needs to be resilient and conscious of her surroundings. And grapple with some serious questions to determine how — or whether — to try to fit into the norms of the society she aims to experience. Or suffer the consequences.

Imagine then, a young woman who shows up with the entire history of the future digitally recorded in a tablet. And who can read, write, and produce her own video games. Who sees photographic evidence in the news about undiscovered oceans in the moons of Saturn. Where drones wage war, not people.

In a world where the printing press has barely been invented and Columbus hasn’t set foot in the New World, what kind of reception might she expect? And what does she need to know to survive?

These are questions I’ve been grappling with as Charley begins to navigate a time and place far distant from her own. Manners, mores, even what and how (and when!) to eat become challenges.

To explore them, we’re launching two new sections of the Web site: What’s Cookin’  for the Renaissance foodie, where it’s not a question of which fork to use at a Florentine banquet, but why aren’t there forks?  Morton’s Manners offers timeless teen-to-teen advice about the trials and tribulations of growing up sane, smart, and successful in this world.

As always, we want to hear from you. What’s on the “must-know/must-have” list for your time travel adventure? Tell us in comments below.

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