5 Travel Lesson Learned from the Pilgrims

5 Travel Lesson Learned from the Pilgrims

21st Nov 2012

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Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally one of the busiest travel periods of the year, and according to AAA’s projections, there will be more than 43.6 million travelers this year. 90% of them will travel by automobile and the rest will fly, but either way, the organization predicts that spending will drop about 10% this year as travelers look for ways to save money. So during this holiday season, as so many people hit the road, there may be some lessons to learn from the original Thanksgiving travelers.

The Mayflower left Plymouth, England in September 1620 to arrive in North America a couple months later in November – just in time for a really harsh winter. The pilgrims who made this journey faced many difficulties along the way and their fledgling colony needed a lot of help to survive. While most of us won’t come up against these types of difficulties in our own travels, there are some important tips we can gather from their experience.

1.  Prepare For the Unexpected

When the pilgrims left England the weather was in their favor and the entire first month on the ocean was relatively calm. The second month, however, was filled with strong winter gales that battered the ship and caused some structural damage to it. You never quite know what will happen on your trip – the weather could turn against you, the tourist attractions could be closed, people might get sick – so always have contingency plans and be prepared for even the most unlikely events.

2.  Be Flexible

The Mayflower was originally headed to an area near the Hudson River in Virginia but was forced off course by the horrible weather. Even after arriving in the Cape Cod area they tried for several days to continue their journey to Virginia, but the winter weather forced them to return to the harbor where they finally anchored and set up their colony.

Some travelers are planners while others just pick a destination and go. There are benefits to both methods, but it may be more effective to take the best of both worlds. Plan your travels, but leave room for spontaneity. This way if something unexpected happens or you come across something better, you can make the changes and still do most of the activities in your original plan.

3.  Don’t Let Setbacks Get You Down

At one point during the pilgrims’ trip, the weather and sailing got so bad that the captain wanted to turn around and go back to England. The only thing that stopped him was the realization that turning back would probably only make things worse. No matter how much we plan, obstacles will get in our way. Turning back should only ever be the last resort, though. Look for new options and alternatives to your original plan and have a little determination to make sure your trip happens.

4.  Learn the Local Customs

All pilgrims are travelers, but not all travelers are pilgrims. By definition, a pilgrim is also seeking a way to increase knowledge as they journey. The pilgrims had to quickly learn the lay of the land, find the best places to plant corn, catch fish, and procure the other things they needed.

You can save yourself a lot of trouble by taking the time to learn more about your destination before you ever leave. Find out where the best places are to stay, what the local cultures are like, and how you can best respect them. When you do finally arrive, then, you should never expect anything and focus on learning everything.

5.  Work Together

The pilgrims had an uphill battle to survive their first winter and half of the original company didn’t make it. The ones who did had to rely on each other and help from the locals. Having a unified goal can help when things get extremely difficult. So while it isn’t likely you’ll be fighting for survival on your next trip, things will feel a lot more difficult if your family or friends want to do things differently than you do.  Listen to everyone’s ideas and delegate responsibilities so that everyone feels like they are part of the decision-making process and contributing to the success of the journey.


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image of the Mayflower at dusk