By now, you probably know that history is my thing. I love going to places where significant events took place in a distant past. However, reading a blog I wrote in 2011 on current events made me realize that history repeats itself. It also affects me as a traveller.
Today, seven years later, I can’t help but notice the similarities to what happened then. The events I wrote about have somehow played into my travels and affected my experience. Each one in a very different way.
Royal weddings have fascinated people for centuries. In the past, they offered the regular folk a chance to see their monarch and be in their presence, even if it was from afar. It was quite a significant event, almost like a rite of passage. Let’s remember that in those days, without TV, Internet and photos, most people had a limited knowledge of what their monarch looked like. Royal weddings were not a frequent thing, unless you were Henry VIII.
While the role of monarchy has evolved largely to that of a figurehead, the pomp and circumstance that go hand in hand with any royal affair are still a remarkable sight. You definitely don’t see that every day. This was the first royal wedding for me as I was still in diapers when Charles and Diana exchanged their “I do’s.” As such, the wedding off Will and Kate was definitely one of those historical moments that I needed to see.
Will and Kate
It wasn’t the wedding itself that sparked my need for seeing it happen. The historical nature of the affair was more to my liking. As a history major with a fascination for British monarchy, I saw this as a chance to witness a ritual that probably changed very little from centuries past. In my book, it was definitely one of those things to see in my lifetime.
The wedding was significant for many reasons. Kate was definitely a different type of a royal bride. As a commoner, she was just like the rest of us. Just a girl marrying her prince. Quite literally. In the past, royals didn’t really marry independent, educated and non-aristocratic women. Especially not for love and with no consequences. Ladies like that didn’t fare well in those days. Kate was like a breath of fresh air, bringing progress and change. Plus, who could resist the images of London in all its finery
Harry and Meghan
If the marriage of Will and Kate represented change, the nuptials of Harry and Meghan took that a step further. Not only was Meghan an independent, strong and accomplished woman, she was also an actor, a divorcee and of bi-racial heritage. Once again, we witnessed history in the making and that felt amazing. Historically, a woman like her would not be able to marry a man like Harry. Oh how times have changed.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit London last year. I always felt that London seemed familiar despite the fact I’ve never been there before. Standing in front of the Westminster Abbey was just one of those experiences. After all, I saw the whole area in such detail on TV during the wedding broadcast. It felt surreal and gave me context to what I witnessed. I still would have gone there even if there was no wedding, but now I had an idea of what the area looked like a lot more than before.
I have not been to Windsor Castle, but now I have a very good idea of what it looks like, especially the St. George’s Chapel. All thanks to the extensive coverage of the wedding. It makes me excited to go back and visit one day. After all, who says you can’t plan a trip based on a broadcast of a wedding?
A first for Canada
Back in 2011, there was a lot going on. Just like the royal weddings, change was in the making. Today, there is another first about to happen.
2011 – Legalization of a sporting event
Toronto hosted its first ever sanctioned UFC fight. While it might not seem like a big deal, this was a significant event. Before that, UFC was prohibited in Ontario despite the fact that it was a hugely popular sport. You were able to watch it on TV, usually as a paid feature.
I’m not a huge fan of the sport, but I felt it was worth mentioning at the time, because it was momentous. Over 55,000 people came to watch Canada’s golden boy George St. Pierre validate his fighting prowess. It was a huge boost to the local economy and it brought an air of change to Canada’s laws.
We attended a fight in Las Vegas once and it was definitely an experience. Attending one at home brought back those memories and it was fun to compare the two. Same type of an event, different location and different experience.
2018 – Legalization of a substance
Today, there is a different history in the making. The Canadian government is officially legalizing recreational marijuana, making it the second country in the world to do so. Uruguay was the first to do so in 2013. The law comes in effect in October and everyone from industry to the public is waiting for it to unroll.
For some time now, different levels of government have been working out the details, arguing amongst each other and dealing with opposing views. The historic bill, now passed by the Senate, marks the beginning of a new Canada. We have yet to see what this will look like.
There is a lot of interest in the cannabis industry from our neighbours in the U.S. It has definitely sparked many interesting conversations, especially with businesses looking at the Canadian market. Not conversations I imagined ever having, but it happened.
Federal elections 2011
In 2011, a federal election changed the Canadian political landscape. This was the first time in Canadian history that the Green Party got a seat in parliament. It gave us a Conservative majority and marked a crushing defeat for the Liberals. The Bloc Québécois was almost obliterated while the NDP soared in popularity. This probably doesn’t make sense to you if you’re not a Canadian, but trust me it was significant.
The full outcome of that wasn’t significant to me until I started travelling for work. While the governments here change, quite dramatically sometimes, there are no riots in the streets. The system doesn’t collapse and everyone moves on. You don’t really think about that until you go to a place that is very different.
Provincial elections 2018
Sometimes it seems like we are always going to the polls. If not for one level of the government then for another. This year was no different. Ontario voted and the results were equally dramatic. The decade or so of Liberal rule ended with a crushing defeat to the Conservatives. See the parallel to the election in 2011. Enough said.
While people here still complain no matter who is in charge, many of them don’t realize just how different life can be in other countries. In some places, it might be dangerous to vote. In others, you might not have that opportunity at all. The more I travel the more politically astute I become. Often going away teaches you about things at home and I think that’s a good thing.
The Pope is dead, long live the Pope
I am not a religious person. Very far from it. However, I watched in fascination the ritual of electing a new pope after the death of John Paul II. That doesn’t happen very often. John Paul II was pope for so long that many people didn’t know any other in their lifetime. The year 2011 marked his beatification, which is also a very rare event. For various reasons, the church decided to canonize him in record time. It’s rare to become a saint, so this was again a significant event.
Now, if you’ve read The Da Vinci Code and had a chance to visit the Vatican, you must admit this was extremely interesting. I remember walking inside St. Peter’s with various feelings, wondering what secrets lie hidden from the public. When we returned to Rome last year, we visited Castel Sant’Angelo. I won’t lie, I kept thinking of the secret passage that leads to the Vatican and all the things it bore witness to over time.
Rome has always been a fascinating place with the history of the Roman Catholic Church closely tied to its past. It’s an odd feeling to watch something monumental happen on TV knowing that you’ve been there. Even better is watching is and planning your next trip around it. On the other hand, maybe it’s just me.
Current events – bringing it together
I don’t really have a current comparison to the beatification of the pope, but I am planning a trip to Rome. That makes it comparable in my mind. Kind of. Maybe?
The older I get my perspective becomes more diverse. Current events, especially ones of importance, become an interesting highlight in my travels. After all, I do visit places where things happened in the past so why not tie in current ones too. I have also learned that sometimes the way you see things on TV are not always how they are once you get there. Sometimes they are even better.
Are you the kind of person that looks at current events and uses that for planning your trip? Do you think significant events affect you as a traveller? Let me know!