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If you could go back in time

Here are the ground rules, my friends, and no nit-picking ninnies, please. OK some nitpicking but be a good sport and play along.

Three months somewhere in Europe. You cannot return until the time is up, and you will have the option of one 3-month extension.

Any century or location

You will have all of your dental and medical needs addressed prior to departure. You can take medications to sustain you for that time period, such a blood pressure meds, etc., within reason. Keep in mind there may be no electricity.

You can take no food and you will have no ability to communicate with the present. At a specified time and location, you will be transported back to the present. If you miss it, you're screwed until three months later at the same time/location.

A plausible backstory, job training, adequate currency, history lessons, and period clothing will be provided. Your teeth will be discolored if necessary and every other practicable physical change will be made so you can blend in as much as possible. You will arrive in town with a needed skill allowing you some form of employment, which could be banking, cook, servant, buggy whip manufacturing, physician, teacher, attorney, coal mining, street lamp lighter, etc. This would all be negotiated and arranged with the time travel team. Training will last at least six months or until the team director deems you ready to proceed.

OK, so now the time has come to submit three options for your time travel destination. When, where, and why? What occupation have you chosen?

Posted by
2898 posts

This social isolation starting to get to you, Big Mike, 😀?

Posted by
20553 posts

OK, I will bite. I am bored also -- Writer, Paris, 1920s. Do I really need to explain why? The cafe culture of Paris in that time period has always been a fantasy.

Posted by
627 posts
  1. My choice - perhaps an odd one - would be in an Eastern Bloc post WW II country - Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria. My "preference" would be Romania. This would not be a "fun" adventure but it would certainly allow me an opportunity to better understand the tyrannical events of those impossibly difficult times. My employment: well, I don't really have much in the way of a skills set - but I would prefer not to be associated with Nicolae Ceaușescu if that can be arranged by the ministry of employment.
  2. Late 16th - early 17th century Toledo, Spain. I'd like to work in the studio of El Greco.
  3. Starting around the 12th century, I'd like to learn how to build a stave church somewhere in southern Norway.
Posted by
891 posts
  1. Ever since I read A Tale of Two Cities in high school a hundred or so years ago I've been fascinated by the French Revolution. Occupation-definitely not King. Probably not a wise time period but it's the first that came to mind.
  2. November 1558, show up in time for Elizabeth 1st Coronation. Always been fascinated with her. Occupation-something important so I can take part or observe the decision making processes of the time.
  3. Ancient Rome. Occupation-Senator. Just to wander around the Forum as it used to be in its glory.
Posted by
70 posts

When--20 years ago or longer, before tourism was big there.


Why--Because it is such a beautiful country and very few people.

Occupation--Farmer. I would love to learn how to grow food in such a unique area where it is not easy.

Posted by
1084 posts

Although there are many places in which I would like to go back in time, probably personal and public hygiene would make me have second thoughts about going further back than the 20th century. I think I would like to go back to 1940 before we entered WWII. I would go back to the little town in NE Iowa where my Mom and Dad met in high school and all 4 of my grandparents were living. I could be a bookkeeper at my paternal grandparents' small hospital. I think this was a critical time for my parents and as I sit here in isolation I'd like to know what their world in crisis was like. My parents would be completing high school. My dad would be dreaming of becoming a pilot. My mom would be trying to find a way to go to college. Dad got to fly B17s in England and Mom had to settle for nursing school. They married in 1943 and I came along 2 years later.
Option 2 would be England during the fight for suffrage. I would be a society lady with time to devote to the cause (most of them were.) However, I wouldn't want to be arrested and force fed.
Option 3 would be Tudor England if I could be guaranteed to be someone on the outskirts of the court, but of high enough rank to at least have a bath once in awhile. Maybe I could be a governess. That would mean I had at least some education.
As you can tell, I am a student of history, but want to be sure I have some chance of being in a clean, healthy environment (1st World problem, I know.)

Posted by
885 posts
  1. Pompeii prior to Vesuvius eruption
  2. Rome in the time of Julius Caesar
  3. England in the time of Dickens I find these time periods fascinating. As far as occupation, probably a merchant of some needed commodity.
Posted by
4149 posts

Question for Big Mike: Do I know what I now know about the history to come? Like, if I were Frank in 1920s Paris, would I know there would be a depression, war, occupation, etc.?

I won't even try to ask whether I'd be allowed to make investments with knowledge of future events. I guess if this is just a three-month gig I wouldn't be able to take it back here with me anyway. ;-)

Posted by
6001 posts
  1. Vienna, late 19th century, an unmarried woman of means, maybe a cafe owner; observing but not part of the cafe culture of the time. Definitely not a servant and not married to an authoritative man.

  2. Paris, early 20th century, living on the West Bank or Montmartre. Again, an independent woman, maybe a widow owning a boarding house catering to artists, writers, or musicians. Can't imagine a better place to be at the turn of the century, with so much happening and so many advances in science and the arts.

  3. 18th Century England, living on an estate in the countryside, but not the owner. Maybe a housekeeper, nanny, or governess to a wealthy family.

As you can see I don't like severe discomfort and, while I don't mind working, I don't want to be a low level domestic drudge. I also wouldn't want to give up my independence.

Posted by
882 posts

Number one problem: Language. Going back to 1910 Paris sounds great but I don't speak French.

Number two problem: Sickness. Spanish Flu. The Renaissance sounds great until I remember the Plague.

Third: As a women and with chronic health issues, the fact that I would be seen as a second class citizen or an invalid for most of history would be horrible.

I'd much rather travel with the Doctor in the Tardis to different time periods.

Posted by
20553 posts

Kill-joy !! It is only a mental exercise. If I could be transported back, solving the language problem is peanuts.

Posted by
570 posts

Here’s my list, thanks BigMike for the moment of escapism:

•Code breaker Bletchley Park

•Investing my inheritance in art in 1900-1908 Paris

•Distant relative arriving June 1944 to help out in the family vineyards in the Cluny area of Burgundy. If I can’t make it to the extraction point, don’t wait for me. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Posted by
1062 posts

I've been doing my genealogy and now have no romantic ideas of the past except my own lifetime. In Genealogy you have to be careful so the birth and death dates work for each generation. In Tudor Times it was common to be married and a parent in your teens. They often had a dozen children.
Not all of them lived and they sometimes kept using the same name of the dead child for the next born. I have cried when I realized that the child's birth date was the mother's death date. I noticed that few widows and widower's remained single for long which kept society working for the better good. I also had no idea that I'm 60% English...not from recent immigrants but from the Great Migration in 1620s of the 20,000 from England. In New England they inhabited lands that had been vacated by the Natives because a large number of the Coastals had died from an European introduced disease.
The Native Survivors eventually got irate with the Newcomers taking over all best fishing and hunting areas with no regard for their homeland and tried to sometimes violently to stop them.
In 1692 one of my ancestors was accused of being a witch. She died in prison. She was accused by an Inlaw that envied the house she had inherited from her father for caring for her parents in their old age. It was a dangerous time. Hopefully we will survive to enjoy a Better Life for All.

Posted by
882 posts

Ok, in the spirit of fun. I'd go back to Moorish Spain-Cordoba, just to see what it looked like as it had paved roads outdoor lamps and was the gathering for knowledge and learning.

Either that or Ancient Ephasus to see the city and squares I only saw in ruins.

Posted by
1839 posts

Choice #1: Berlin April 1, 1949. See the recovery of the post-war city. Watch the Berlin Airlift in action. Watch kids catch chocolate bars dropped by pilots. Be there for the Soviets opening the land routes to Berlin on May 12.

Choice #2: Warsaw 1937. See the city as it was prior to being razed by the Germans.

Posted by
984 posts

Carol: Yes, ma'am.

People, it would be of interest if you could state not only where you are going and when, but what you would do for a living, where you would live, and your major concerns.

Remember no antibiotics until the 1940s. Don't get me started on hygiene (whew) or dentistry.

Posted by
64 posts

A journalist/writer, March-May 1916 in Dublin, Ireland during the Easter Uprising. I realize it was a violent and bloody period in their history but something about it pulls at me.

My big concern would be getting killed during the riots, or getting swept up in the arrests and killed by firing squad, of course, before I would’ve had a chance to write about it for my descendants.

Posted by
107 posts

Naah. If we're "going back in time" then we get every vaccine known plus if time travel => bunch more tech I'm going to invoke before allowing the mental escape.

I want to go back and meet this guy. Or at least be around enough to know if he's all that was reported. Tales of his life are hard to believe. (I'm not sure he'd think I was fit to associate with. :) ),_seigneur_de_Bayard

Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard (1473 – 30 April 1524) was a French knight at the transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, generally known as the Chevalier de Bayard. Throughout the centuries since his death, he has been known as "the knight without fear and beyond reproach" (le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche). He himself preferred the name given him by his contemporaries for his gaiety and kindness, "le bon chevalier", or "the good knight".

I want to go back to the Library of Alexandria to copy the missing Greek Masterpieces that were lost to history. I think this was considered part of the "European World" then.

Posted by
2080 posts

Ooh, my favorite thing is to imagine living in another time and place, great idea for a bit of distraction during this unusual time we're in just now...

Nearly all of my interests lie in the WWII years, so--

Resistance worker in France or Germany--
England--a WREN, Land Girl or maybe an assistant to Mr Churchill in his war rooms...maybe even a code breaker at Bletchley Park
I would have loved to be a pilot with Jacqueline Cochran's WASPs in the US
Poland, Latvia or Lithuania--an ordinary woman leading her ordinary life in extraordinary times

Then there's Budapest in 1956 during the Uprising...something militant and passionate for sure

Vienna during the Secession artist's model for Klimt

Posted by
29 posts

This is great, I’m ready to time travel!

  1. Berlin, November 1989, of course you can guess why! Job: anything that allowed me to be there at that time. To live that moment when the wall came down would be exhilarating especially having grown up with the threat of nuclear war including drills in school (under our desks 😱)

  2. Late 1400’s Florence/Rome, the Renaissance of course! Job: whatever assistant jobs might have been, oh to witness the greatness of that time.

  3. The first two came to mind without a moments hesitation. For the third, I’d say maybe sometime in England in the 1500’s. Job: something that allowed travel to France and Spain ... lady in waiting perhaps? Again, to observe the history of that time.

Posted by
1024 posts

1962 Liverpool. I doubt I need to explain more.

44 BC in Rome to observe the assassination of Julius Caesar and the civil war.

1066 to observe the Norman conquest

Posted by
891 posts

Big Mike, does your Time Machine have a time jumping option yet? I wouldn't mind jumping from generation to generation on a daily basis to keep meeting ancestors and see how far back I can go.

Posted by
984 posts

Allan, three month intervals that requires people to gut it out if things aren't going well.

Medieval Italy or anywhere? Let's hope you could get vaccinated against the plague before travelling. I'm no epidemiologist. You couldn't even drink the water. The food is safe? I don't know. Hi min and Dale.

Dick, yes, you would know everything you do now, although you might want to be very careful what you say as to not draw suspicion.

Just about everyone posting is rather adventurous.

Posted by
1757 posts

Whenever I go back in time, I like to live like a temporary local.

Posted by
3313 posts

I would choose to live in southern France, near Nice, living as a successful painter at a time period when others would have been great company.

Just asked my hubby, and he would like to be a Champagne vintner in France, early 20th century. Chosen because he would be everybody’s friend - loved by commoners and kings.

The two of us (back in time) are planning to meet in a secret place this weekend in France!

Posted by
6 posts

OK - Big Mike - this is a good one.

When - Aug 1944
Where - Liberation of Paris
Occupation - Photographer for Life Magazine - Partnership with Robert Capa

When - 1945 Ending of WW2
Where - Poland - Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Occupation - Photographer for Life Magazine

When - September 1945
Where - Switzerland
Occupation - Photographer for National Geographic

I love photography and history.

Posted by
328 posts

I can think of a few options.
1). Paris or London 1889 Visiting, Architectureal Professor. To see the Eiffel Tower under construction..
Making trips to visit Tower Bridge Under Construction. Or live in London and visit Paris.

2) Is a variation on 1). Just going in the 20s Live in France but travel around writing a book on the great architecture of Europe. You could see a LOT of the famous structures in 3 months but 6 would be better. This is probably my favorite but 1) is very close.

3). London during the blitz as a US observer to Great Britain (high level). Historically this is probably the most interesting.

Posted by
680 posts
  1. When: 1603
    Where: Istanbul
    Occupation: Mother of Ahmed I. (Can a time machine do that?) Would like to see what running a Harem would be like. I am
    probably not cut throat enough.

  2. When: 200
    Where: Turkey, Rome
    Occupation: Assistant to Galen. It would be great to watch a great mind at work regarding medicinal arts

  3. When: 1888
    Where: London
    Occupation: forensic scientist/pathologist at the time of Jack the Ripper.

These are just some first thoughts. The hardest problem that I had with this exercise is that other than my first choice, I wouldn't want to go back in time as a woman. Too vulnerable a position. This thought almost ruined the fantasy for me.

Posted by
329 posts
  • The British Foreign Office, Westminster, London, 3rd floor; Monday August 3, 1914, 8:30pm: Summer is shortly ending and with it, the long and easy carefree days; now is twilight. Two men stand next to each other, looking out the open window at the growing darkness. While electricity is becoming more common, the streets of London are still lit by gas lamps as they have since Queen Victoria ruled the Empire. They wait to be lit. The two men stand in silence, the last light of that day reflecting off their gray suits. They are Sir Edward Grey, perhaps one the most able Foreign Secretaries the nation has ever known, and John Alfred Spender, the editor of The Westminster Gazette. These two men represent the apex of their civilization. Behind them lies decades of unimaginable innovation and centuries of history, all leading to this moment.

A lamplighter, a simple Briton, enters the square below them, then raises his pole and lights a gas lamp.

Grey turns to Spender and says, "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."

Grey knows the German army crossed into Belgium that morning. The desperate last attempts at peace have failed. Does Grey know now that he's standing in the very last twilight of his world? Does he understand that the era of kings and princes, the very way that things have always been, will not survive this night? Can he foresee a glimmer of what this war -- feverishly feared and ardently desired -- will cost? For that one, brief moment, does he know that he's standing at the absolute peak of his civilzation?

I want to stand there with those two men, looking out that window, and watch the final trace of light vanish from the horizon; their world dying and mine being born.

  • Berlin, Germany, Führerbunker; April 30, 1945, 3:29pm: He is alone. Eva Braun lies dead on the sofa next to him. The smelled of burned almonds pervades the claustrophobic room. The man who commanded and condemned millions is living his last seconds on Earth. He presses the cold barrel of the Walther PPK to his right temple. His finger rests on the trigger; slowly he squeezes.

I want to look into his eyes in the millisecond before he's consigned to oblivion. What do I see? Fear? Anger? Spite? Does he look lost? At that final second, are the ghosts of Auschwitz lingering at the periphery of his vision? At long last, does he fully comprehend the weight of his crimes and the verdict that history will pass on him?

When the focus leaves his eyes, what does he see next?

  • Hamelin, Lower Saxony, June 26, 1284: A century from now, an unknown scribe will begin to record the history of Hamelin. He will start with this line: "It is 100 years since our children left."; thus will be born the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. What happened to the children, 'tho? Whatever happened must have been traumatic enough that it was written down and etched into stained glass as well, but no actual accounts -- save one, now lost to history -- exist. It's an absolute mystery to this day where the children of Hamelin vanished to.

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
904 posts

As of today I''m currently 532 years back in time from my present. Wait, I've said too much.

Posted by
74 posts

June 1968 LA, I'm an FBI agent who knows what's coming. I will contain and arrest Sirhan Sirhan before he is able to kill one of the greatest men in history. After which I'd request an audience with RFK, and explain where the country will go without his leadership and the need to stay safe...and in 3 months I'll come back to a different world.

Posted by
329 posts

"Mike Beebe, I just want to say, "WOW!""

Thanks, Laurie Beth!

There's a few others I liked to do, too.

One in the past:

  • Kelly, Kentucky, August 21, 1955: The Kelly Farmhouse Encounter. What happened that night? What did those people see that scared the hell out of them? I don't think it was a hoax, and if it wasn't, what visited a lonely farmhouse on an empty road in the middle of nowhere -- and why?

One in the future:

  • (unknown date): Humanity either finds an alien artifact on Mars/receives a confirmed alien signal/is visited by aliens OR a true, sentient AI has its "I think, therefor I am" moment: either of these would fundamentally change the entire intellectual underpinnings of the human race unlike anything since Galileo realized Jupiter has moons and all that followed. How would we view ourselves now that we knew weren't the only sentient species in the universe, or even on Earth?


  • (unknown date): A galactic survey comes up empty. We've looked everywhere in our galaxy, and we're it. No other life exists outside of our little blue marble. We are truly alone. Now what? Do we try to colonize the universe, even if we knew we'd just be expanding human monoculture, or do we turn inward and hope to find some deeper meaning to our incredibly-unlikely existence?

One theoretical:

  • The Fulda Gap; June 1, 1988, 4:00am and an unknown location in the North Sea; June 5, 1988, 6:00am: Soviet armor breaches the Fulda Gap. The experiment of liberalizing the Soviet Union has failed. Bellicose rhetoric from the US and the USSR reaches a fevered pitch. Soviet leadership, knowing that sanctions and unrest will soon take down the union, make a last-ditch attempt to change their fortunes by launching an all-out attack against western Europe. The mass of Soviet armor quickly and completely overwhelms the NATO defenders. The US and NATO must now make an unthinkable choice. What happens in the Kremlin and the Oval Office? Each side must know what the next step could potentially bring. Do cooler heads prevail? Do riskier bets start compounding? Write off Europe or risk the end of the world?

Four days later, the HMS Revenge surfaces under leaden skies somewhere in the North Sea. It's a risky move, but one necessitated by the sudden cessation of communications some six hours earlier. The whole bridge is on edge as the radio operator scans for any broadcasts. The number stations have all gone quiet, as have the continuous UK Naval signals. As a last resort, he tries to tune in the BBC World Service. A minute passes, then he shakes his head no. No words are spoken as the captain leaves the bridge and closes the door to his cabin. There, he opens a safe and takes out a white envelope. Inside are his final orders, written by Thatcher when she took office, and to be executed only if he was was certain the UK was no longer a functional entity: this is The Letter of Last Resort.

What were Thatcher's orders? Launch his missiles? Retire the sub to Australia to fight another day? Join forces with the Americans? Come back to whatever is left of home? We'll never know since the letter is always destroyed unopened when the new Prime Minister takes over, but it would be fascinating to know what was going through the Iron Lady's mind during the height of the Cold War.

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
984 posts

daggone this is an enjoyable read.

These may come across as odd but here I go:

Berlin Olympics, 1936: I'd be with the American delegation prior to and during the Olympics, something to fulfill my 3-month requirement. Perhaps on some sort of advance team to work with German Olympic officials.

Yorktown, 1781: An assistant or "runner" for General Washington and his staff. An errand boy involved in maintaining communications. Probably be quite dangerous. Maybe I need to think that one through a bit more.

Working at Abbey Road Studios and Apple Records as a recording/engineering assistant for a 3-6 month period (per my "rules") from 1966-1969. Checking out the London scene during that time. Wearing hip clothing.