Columbus’ Voyage: The 21st Century Remix

By Shannon Randol, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross

Columbus Day became a national holiday in the United States in 1937; almost 400 years after Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue to the Americas. He wasn’t the first settler to voyage the Western Hemisphere, but his exploration paved the way for the Europeans to inhabit America.

The Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria crossed the Atlantic for two months before reaching land, which Columbus thought was the other side of China. Boy, was he in for a surprise! This type of traveling is a lost gem, but probably for good reason. The thought of being on a boat for two months makes me queasy. The boats weren’t that big, either!

What would it take to say goodbye to loved ones and never know for sure if you’d ever see them again? Welp, in their case, the promise of gold and today’s bragging rights of being the first voyagers. Honestly, imagine the modern day conversation Chris had with his crew and then the crew with their families.

Chris: I need three ships worth of travelers to sail with me until we spot land.
Crew: Okay, for how long?
Chris: I don’t know.
Crew: Where are we going?
Chris: I don’t know.
Crew: Honey, I’m going to be the first settler!
Family: Where?
Crew: I don’t know.
Family: Will you come back?
Crew: I don’t know.

Who in their right mind would jump for joy and scream, “sign me up!” Nevertheless, the times were different and people didn’t seem to be attached to the same luxuries as us turn-of-the-century folk are accustomed to. In that retrospect, I tip my hat to you good folk.

And keep in mind these folks weren’t old. People didn’t live to be in their 70’s and 80’s, and were considered lucky to live until 30 without dying from disease. The voyagers were strapping young men hungry for adventure, or crazy (who knows).

I’d be willing to bet these guys were the bad boys of their time. It’s hard to argue the thought considering Captain Jack Sparrow made one heck of a sea-faring pirate. I’m not sure how people of that time prepared for long journeys, maybe a lot of chickens for food and booze to drink.

What would the American Red Cross suggest first voyagers prepare for in 2015? I smell a list coming on:

Wannabe Prep Sheet For Millenial Voyagers:

  • Bring Tums, because you’re eventually going to get sea sick.
  • A book Many books, because I doubt there’s going to be enough electrical outlets for everyone.
  • Nose plugs. I don’t know about you, but if I smell the weakness of someone else’s stomach … I’m a goner.
  • Your own personal stash of toiletries (enough said).
  • Plenty of dry clothes.
  • Fuzzy slippers for nostalgia purposes.
  • A digital disaster kit & solar battery charger; because you HAVE to selfie on the boat. And if you went on a discovery mission and didn’t tweet about it, did you really even go?
  • An extra compass. “Better safe than sorry,” says the Red Cross.
  • Copies of “Gilligan’s Island” so you know what NOT to do if stranded.
  • An extra pair of Dorthy’s ruby slippers. Ya gotta click the heels three times if you wanna get home, ya know.
  • Cookies.
  • Oh, and extra water.

All right, maybe this isn’t exactly what the American Red Cross would condone as quality preparedness tips for this kind of adventure, except for the water and extra compass, but nevertheless, you would be prepared for the trip of a lifetime!

Have a happy Columbus Day anyway, and stay away from any adventures with the word “voyage” in them.

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