Travel Now – It Might Not Be There Tomorrow

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Glaciers are receding. Ancient ruins are collapsing. Natural disasters are shaking up entire continents. And a global economic crisis is changing how the world works.

You’d better see it all now, before it’s gone.

Who knows what will happen 5, 10, 100 years from now. Perhaps some of the world’s treasures will be gone by then. Maybe the statues on Easter Island will collapse like a row of dominos. Maybe the pillars of the Acropolis will snap in half. Maybe the Great Wall of China will be nothing more than a pile of rubble.

Look at the original Seven Wonders of the World — only one (the Great Pyramid of Giza) still stands. The others have been destroyed or eroded by time, and now only exist in drawings and history books.

Time takes some funny twists and turns, and it’s impossible to anticipate them all. Unless you’ve got a talented fortune-teller at your disposal, it’s impossible to predict the future — yours or the world’s.

So why not just see and experience it all now, while you still can?

Recently, Italy has had some instability in some of its famous ancient ruins. Last spring, a huge segment of Nero’s fabled Golden Palace beneath Rome gave way, raining down pieces of vaulted ceiling in one of the galleries beneath a garden. A couple of months ago, three chunks of mortar broke off the Colosseum. And, at the beginning of November, a frescoed house in Pompeii collapsed into a pile of debris.

Italy prides itself on its number of ancient ruins, churches, monasteries and other artistic and architectural treasures. But less and less is being done to preserve them. Palatine Hill — once home to Rome’s ancient emperors — is said to be at highest risk because of poor upkeep.

But it’s not just happening in Italy. Ruins are crumbling daily all over the world. Even natural wonders are slipping away in this changing world.

It’s a reminder that nothing truly lasts. The years and the pollution and the climate change are constantly taking their tolls.

But, at the same time, we have to remember that most of the crumbling ancient structures we aim to tick off our bucket lists were not built to last for centuries, or millennia. The Romans who built their mansions on Palatine Hill or the Incas who built Machu Picchu did not build with 21st-century tourists in mind. They never planned for archaeologists to discover their ruins, or for national governments to dedicate large sums of money to their preservation.

Put simply, they were not meant to last.

At least, not for as long as they have. Perhaps the pharaohs who designed the pyramids were thinking ahead, considering how imposing their tombs would look to friends and foes alike in the future. But do you think they were thinking thousands of years into the future? Probably not.

It’s fantastic that our world likes history; that we see value in preserving the past.

Because the past is important.

But preservation and restoration of the crumbling castles and amphitheaters and arches takes time. Time, and lots of money. And, in such a sour economy, the latter is increasingly more difficult to come by.

So perhaps we should treat the treasures of the ancient world as if they’ll all turn to dust next week. We should treat these aged feats of architecture and engineering with the appropriate amount of respect, always remembering in the back of our minds that they won’t last forever; there may not be a “next time.”

Most of all, we should travel now. Because who knows what will happen tomorrow.

——

What ancient sites or treasures would you like to see while they're still around? Which have you already seen?

31 Comments

  • Kyle says:

    EEK! You’re scaring me!

    We saw the Doleman I believe it’s called, in Ireland. Basically a tomb from the Neolithic age. And I was hit with a similar feeling of, “This might not be around forever, and I wish everyone I know could see these things before they die!”

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I didn’t mean to scare you!

      But for all those people who are putting off traveling to ancient places for “later,” I just hope they don’t wait too long! It’s difficult to imagine Italy without the Roman Forum of China without the Forbidden City. But who knows how long they’ll really be around?

  • Rebecca says:

    Venice is one of my favorite cities on Earth and I tell everyone, you gotta go now, it’s sinking! I say it sort of, half joking, half serious, as it most likely won’t be going anywhere in our lifetime…but still, you never know:-).
    Rebecca recently posted..New Zealand – Bank

  • Andrew says:

    Isn’t the idea of preserving the past a modern construct? I kind of thought it came around mainly in the industrial revolution. I remember the following story about Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany. It is a small picturesque cutsy tourist town in Bavaria. It apparently is cutsy and old because at the time of modernization the town had no money, so did not modernize. The subtle part of the story is tha tI get the sense that they would have if they could have. Castles and buildings all over Germany were taken as building materials. it is only recently when a society has enough extra money to not need to reuse/reporpose the history for its own current use, and try to preserve it.
    Andrew recently posted..Phototour – Ruins at Delphi

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I think it’s definitely a modern construct, Andrew. Certainly no one in the Middle Ages was concerned with preserving things from the past. They were more concerned with, you know… surviving. I think as we’ve progressed as a modern global society (and found surplus capital), this idea of restoration and preservation has come about simply because we now have the tools, means, and desire to do it. We don’t necessarily need to use blocks of stone from a castle to build our homes. But we can make money off those blocks of stone by restoring them and charging tourists to come and see them…

  • Lauren says:

    When I did a tour of the Colosseum, my guide was very upset about a concert that went on a couple of months ago right next to the Colosseum. According to him, the vibrations were the reason for the damage. He was really angry because he felt that people didn’t take proper care in making sure that such an important part of history was protected. These places won’t last forever and it’s easy to take advantage of them because they have lasted for so long.
    Lauren recently posted..A British-English faux pas

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Your last point there hits the nail on the head, I think, Lauren — that it’s easy to take advantage of ancient ruins simply because they’ve been there for so long already. But we forget that we didn’t always have issues like pollution and sprawling construction to worry about like we do now.

  • Dawn says:

    Now you’ve got me worried! I’ll be booking myself on the next tour available!

    But you’re right – most of these wonders were never built to last. At most, their creators of them surviving a hundred or two years. And if we keep preserving everything, one day we will run out of space for people and our present constructions. As an earlier commenter noted, it was standard practice to tear down old buildings to reuse the material.

  • Kieron says:

    Great post – if only long-term travel wasn’t so expensive, I’d be on the next flight out of here!

    They say here in Australia that the Great Barrief Reef will disappear within 20 years which is very sad, shows that even natural wonders won’t be around forever.
    Kieron recently posted..A List of Australian Group Buying Sites

    • DangerousBiz says:

      20 years?? Oh my gosh, I’d better see it soon! But yes, even natural wonders are at risk. Glaciers especially probably won’t be around for much longer, which is too bad.

  • Andi says:

    Good thing I just went to Easter Island!!! I agree, we should never put traveling off!
    Andi recently posted..Cuba- Day 3 Part 1

    • DangerousBiz says:

      (And I’m still so jealous that you just went to Easter Island!)

      I think the reasons to not put traveling off go even further beyond the ones I touched on here. So many people (Americans mostly, I feel like), say that they’ll find time to travel “later”; maybe once they retire. But who knows if you’ll be healthy enough or have the means to travel “later”? Travel NOW, while you can!

  • Sometimes I want to just travel to all these places quick because it seems with the passing of time, governments put more restrictions on what you can’t see that the magic of many places is lost.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Agreed. With all the fees and rules required to visit certain places now, sometimes it gets to be a hassle! But most of them are still worth it if you can look past all that.

  • Sarah Wu says:

    This is an interesting post. I traveled to Italy in Mid October and visited Pompeii – Place I want to go since I was a kid. And few weeks later I heard there’s a collapse in the Pompeii site. So it’s exactly what you talk about – travel now and see the things you want to see.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Exactly! I mean, obviously not all of Pompeii collapsed. And most if it will probably be around for a while still. But you can never really predict these sorts of things, so it’s so much better to just see it now!

  • Dan Collins says:

    I’m headed to Venice in June – have to see that before it becomes the next Atlantis! Thinking of swinging by the Colosseum while we’re that way also!

    Awesome post 🙂
    Dan Collins recently posted..Sun- Sea and Sadness!

  • I have many reasons to why to travel NOW but never thought about this one! Great!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks! Of course not all of these things are going to collapse or disappear in an instant, or at the same time. But still. It’s worth seeing some of the more ancient sites now, while you still can! I know I personally wouldn’t want to have any regrets about missing something because it toppled over before I got around to seeing it!

  • Holly says:

    Very good point. Places are not going to be there forever, and sometimes they aren’t accessible. I made a last minute decision to go to Egypt in 2009. When I see the regional instability there now, I’m so glad I went then! And it’s not just man-made wonders that fall apart. I drove the Great Ocean Road in Australia in 2009 and one of the famous arches of the Apostles had just collapsed from water erosion. I also went to a night skies lecture in South Dakota and learned how different levels of light pollution compromises the way we see the night sky. A whole “dark skies” and stargazing tourism industry is springing up in response to this problem.

    The tourists stealing pieces of Stonehenge and Machu Picchu to take home as souvenirs aren’t helping the conservation of the monuments much either.
    Holly recently posted..Why I Heart the Planet

    • DangerousBiz says:

      All very, very good points, Holly. The natural sites are definitely at risk, too! Nature can be unpredictable, and you never know when something you’ve been saving up to see might get blown away in a hurricane or knocked down by an earthquake!

      And the “dark skies” initiatives around the world are great! I traveled out West in America this summer, and a few cities in Arizona have employed dark skies laws. I think it’s a great idea!

  • Brooklyn says:

    I 100% agree with this. I had actually never really thought about it, until my guide mentioned it, but this doesn’t just apply to ancient ruins and the like, it applies to all sorts of cultural experiences. In my case, we went an saw the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and as our guide pointed out, if we came back in 10, 20, 30 years, it may not be there as the two Koreas may or may not reunify… Really puts the pressure on to get out and see everything you want to while you have the chance, doesn’t it?
    Brooklyn recently posted..Exploring Jeju: Korea’s “Hawaii”

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Yes, you’re right! And this also applies to certain traditions in countries. As the world modernizes, a lot of old traditions are slowly dying out!

  • zoomingjapan says:

    I totally agree with you!
    And I’ve actually experienced myself what you are talking about in this post!
    I live in Japan and have travelled around to each and every corner here.
    You might remember the Great Earthquake and Tsunami of March 2011.
    Parts of Northern Japan were destroyed very badly. It was horrible!
    Some things are gone now. Luckily I visited that are in 2008.

    I came back last year to see how much was still destroyed. Here’s an example: http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/ishinomaki-tsunami-devastation/

    So yeah, people go and travel as long as you still can!!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Yup, that’s a perfect example! All too often I think we take advantage of things, assuming they’ll always be there “later.” But, the truth is, they might not be!

  • Ria Dancel says:

    I am actually not giving up my dream to travel to Greece one day. Been teaching World Literature to college students here in the Philippines, and I am just awed by Greek mythology. Even if the remnants may not be visible anymore, just the idea of being able to go to Greece one day excites me.
    Ria Dancel recently posted..Doña Jovita Garden Resort

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