By Beth Whitman, on March 7, 2014

Girl power getaway

I rarely spend time daydreaming. Sure, I’m always thinking of new travel adventures to take, but these dreams are quite practical and achievable, not the this-would-never-really-happen-in-real-life sort of ones. I’m far too much of a realist to believe that I could go back in time to experience or change history. So dreaming up time-travel destinations is not something that usually occupies my free time.

But with the new DreamWorks movie, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, coming out March 7, I was encouraged by my editor to give this some thought. What if I could go back in time using Mr. Peabody’s WABAC (pronounced “way-back”) machine? What would I do? What would I change? Truth is, history has not been the kindest to women. So I ask, humbly, what if I could not only go back in time, but also change the course of history?

If it were possible for me to jump in that machine and flip a switch to another year, I’d go back to Europe in 1485. The exact location is less relevant than the year, because I could accomplish my goals from Spain, England, Portugal, or some other country.


You see, it was in 1492 that Christopher Columbus set sail for Japan (the picture above, courtesy of The Columbus Foundation, shows replicas of the Nina and the Pinta). But instead of reaching his destination, he landed in the Bahamas. The Bahamas aren’t a bad place to end up if you ask me, but the navigational blunder was not one of his finer moments. If you recall from fifth-grade history, he never did actually land in North America. That was left for Ponce de Leon, who reached Florida in 1513. (Actually the Vikings arrived in North America about 500 years prior to Ponce de Leon and, well, the Native Americans were here far, far longer than that. But I digress. Let’s get back to that time machine.)

I estimate that by landing back in 1485, I’d have a good chance to raise the necessary funds to build sea-worthy ships well before Columbus and make my own way to the New World first. I’d make a plea to the queens, princesses, countesses, dowagers, duchesses, and political leaders (yes, there were women of political power at that time), and appeal to their feminist sides, explaining that a female explorer would create closer trading ties than a man to the lands that she “discovered.”

Viewfinder Tip: Don’t be too hard on yourself about navigational blunders while traveling; even Christopher Columbus got lost.

The five years from 1485 to 1490 would give me enough time to raise the necessary funds to begin gathering, building, and modifying the appropriate number of ships and crew for the voyage west to the New World. Christopher Columbus would be a non-factor because all of the available money of the day would have been funneled into my voyage(s) instead. Sorry, Chris.

Unlike Columbus, I’d actually land in North America. And rather than pillaging the locals, our meetings with the indigenous cultures on the continent would be of a friendly nature.

Like a true diplomat, my purpose would be to build bridges between countries, create mutually beneficial trade routes, and develop long-lasting relationships based upon trust and respect. The long-term effect of these first encounters would change the way in which relationships developed around the globe. Europeans and Native Americans would go on to live cooperatively, with a mutually beneficial approach toward development. In the end, I’d aim to bring a woman’s touch to history. Because a little girl power would only improve the male-dominated past.

What would you do if you had a WABAC machine?