As a child a read many Dennis the Menace comics about family trips — each worse and more disastrous than the last. And it is true that when we set out on a long car ride the litany of misery from the boys, interrupted only by the duration of whatever movie we have loaded in each of their players, is daunting. And yet today, even our younger and more-given-to-complaint son was saying he wanted to come back to Vermont soon. That was not because we are doing such amazing things — though yesterday’s nearly endless sequence of blueberry pancakes provided the wonderful Norwood and Joanna Long certainly soothed the savage beasts. Rather it is just that once we are out of the car and settled in nearly anywhere, the kids begin to realize that there is an elsewhere — there are places that look different, sound different, smell different. Sure the kids hunt for familiar toys — or anything that they can turn into some version of their home games of Star Wars combat. But from the moment when Rafi will ask — is Vermont in America? — to the look of absolute attention and pleasure on Sasha’s face when we took care of the dog we are watching — the benefit of the vacation is that, as Marina say, “you have to take yourself out of your life.”
My blackberry is not working — which I don’t like, but need. We are living a few days of a different life, different rhythm, different assumptions, different geography and that is terrific. That is perhaps the main value of going to historical sites — not whatever details you learn, but that you experience the place — you understand how history unfolded in a specific location, not on a textbook page. Understanding that location — and of course that time — is the translation which makes history come alive, that dislocation of your self, that entry into another space, is real time travel.