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Published: June 29th 2018
I'm a history nerd. It was my major in college and obsession as a kid.
I don't believe in the idea that "history repeats itself." It's an assertion that implies that things are meant to be. Nothing that has ever happened HAD to. There didn't have to be a World War 2. The Roman Empire didn't have to exist. British imperialism wasn't "destined to fail." Things happen because people are independent and make decisions based off of their needs and desires. History is unpredictable because history is the study of people, not events.
Thus the reason I love history: it's people-centric. Studying people and their motivations interest me. The same holds true when I travel.
I look at a place's historical significance and the people when I go somewhere. I want to know where the people of a certain location developed their ideals, culture, and tastes. There are three places that are currently on my travel bucket list, also known as places I want to go people watching. Rwanda
In 1994, the fastest act of genocide
in history happened when a civil war broke out in Rwanda. In just 100 days, the Tutsi minority murdered between 500,000 and one million Hutus. The international response was painfully slow, and in the years after, President Bill Clinton called his lack of action one of the greatest regrets of his administration. The lack of international help and destruction leftover from the civil war shaped the Rwandan identity into what it is today.
What is that identity? Most countries would emerge from a bloody massacre hardened, even broken. Rwanda went the opposite direction, however; they emerged with their spirit intact and a desire to reconcile their nation. They're now held up as an example of how to deal with division and terror.
I want to visit Rwanda to experience the strength of their people. I want to know what makes them different. Was it pure necessity or is something ingrained in them from birth? Morocco
Marrakesh. Tangier. These two cities have always filled me with awe. The Almoravids founded Marrakesh in 1062, building beautiful mosques and madrasas in the city. It quickly became a pivotal trading center and saw numerous civilizations, including the Ottomans, hold the reigns of power.
Tangier is another impressive trading center founded in the 5th Century B.C. by the Carthaginians
. Like Marrakesh, it too saw numerous rulers yet maintained its sense of self. Travelers experience history in Morocco in a way that is difficult to rival. The best historical cities (in the United States, Charleston is the best example) should leave you feeling embraced by the past. You should feel as if you are walking in the footsteps of those before you. In Morocco, it's possible to get lost in time while experiencing a new culture and way to see the world. Italy
Speaking of the past embracing the traveler, does any country exemplify that better than Italy? From Naples to Turin and everywhere in between, you are walking in the shadow of the greatest empire the world has ever known. The Roman empire might be gone, but their influence lives on to this day.
At one point, Russia and the Ottoman Empire both claimed that they were the successors to the Roman Empire. The spread of Christianity was in part due to the reach of the empire. Their structures still stand today, filling observers with awe and imposing a sober reminder that nothing lasts forever. Hollywood and the television networks still produce movies and shows based on Rome. Our obsession with Rome will never die.
What interest me about Italy is discovering how much their people are still influenced by their Roman roots. Do they feel the weight of history and the responsibility it bears down on them? The only way to discover this is to get out there, speak to anyone willing to give away conversation for coffee, and observe. I plan on visiting Rome for a week, then making my way to Venice, and closing it out with a trip to Matera. Matera is a 9000-year-old city that at one point in the recent past was the shame of Italy due to poor living conditions. It's easily one of the must see places in Italy
. Many say that it's now or never for Matera; soon it will be another hot tourist destination filled with selfie sticks, unattended children, and brochures littering the streets. Such is the way of humanity; we visit, we consume, and we erode. Lower Mesopotamia, Iraq
The desire to go here is, in my opinion, self-evident. It's where the Sumerians started organized civilizations. It's where Hammurabi organized the first known code of laws in Babylon and Sargon expanded the reach of the Akkadian empire across the fertile crescent. 11,400 years ago, humans began planting fig trees, going on to develop advanced irrigation and planting methods. It's where we began the great leap forward and began the human march to modern times.
The region has also faced numerous wars, floods, and invasions. Despite long odds, the people have somehow managed to make it work. Are there problems in southern Iraq? Of course. It's important to remember that for all of the talk about Iraq on the news, it's not just a war-torn country. It's not oil. It's a collection of people that have hope, fear, desperation, strength, resiliency, and determination. There's optimism inside of the Iraqi people that tomorrow has to be better than today.
Iraq isn't perfect, but nowhere on the planet is. The people, however, have everything that makes humanity amazing. For all of our flaws as a species, and there are quite a few, we still hope and fight for a future that none of us will see.
I'm not sure how safe Iraq is at this time, but I hope that in the future it's safe enough for everyone can travel there fear free if they choose to. Not because I and other Americans think it would be cool, but for the people. They deserve some peace. They've earned the right to see their children prosper in a way that they haven't been able to under brutal dictatorships and poverty.
That's it for now. Enjoy your travels, I'm going to write another post about what potential trends I see developing in regards to travel. Sneak peak....Mideast travel is one of those trends.
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