Travel and Tourism


Joe Butler
January 17, 2024
5 min read
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Manhattan: an energetic metropolis known for its iconic skyline, world-class cultural institutions, and diversity in its restaurants, neighbourhoods and events. As a first-time visitor, I was excited to explore the city and experience it firsthand on my holiday this month.  

When holidaying, I am reminded of the quote by G. K. Chesterton; "the traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see".  

Perhaps unfairly disdainful of tourists, Chesterton feels that the traveller approaches a place with an adventurous, open mind and therefore more susceptible to the details and intricacies that a tourist following an itinerary may overlook. Walking through Times Square, busy, bright and loud even for Manhattan, seeing adverts and shops I've seen a million times before in the UK, it is easy to agree with Chesterton. But I also enjoy being a tourist; I enjoyed researching the best pizza joints, the hidden gems; reserving the restaurants and 'optimising' our itinerary. For this blog, I'll highlight two experiences that have stuck with me.  

First, Ellis Island. As I stepped onto the island, I was immediately struck by the sense of history and the countless stories of the people who had passed through its halls. 12 million people are thought to have passed through this small island in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, seeking a new life in America.  Each person with their own dreams, hopes, and fears. Around 40% of all Americans trace their lineage back to this island.  

As I walked through the exhibits and heard interviews of immigrants recounting their experiences, I couldn't help but feel a connection to their stories, even though they had taken place more than a century ago. Being a doctor, I found the medical inspection process that immigrants underwent upon arrival particularly fascinating. In a mere six-second examination, medics would swiftly assess each immigrant's health and mark their jackets with a chalk code, alerting other medical staff further down the line to would-be immigrants requiring a more thorough medical assessment.

What intrigued me the most was the emphasis placed on detecting cases of Trachoma, a chlamydial eye infection that was a significant public health concern at the time. Today, Trachoma is barely mentioned in medical education due to the effectiveness of modern antibiotics. However, during the peak years of immigration through Ellis Island, it was a critical aspect of the screening process.  

The second experience was the 9/11 Memorial museum. No blog post could ever convey the depth of the experience, hearing the real recordings of people involved, alongside artifacts and artistic responses to the tragedy, in the same physical space as the towers once stood. It serves as a poignant reminder of the immeasurable loss and extraordinary bravery that defined that fateful day and something that I think should be felt in person.  

Exploring these two historic sites made me realize the power of personal stories and the importance of preserving them for future generations. Every geographical space holds countless stories, each adding a layer of richness and depth to our understanding of the world. By learning about the experiences of those who came before us, our minds are broadened. We gain a deeper appreciation for the places we visit and the people who have shaped them. And so, as I look forward to my next adventure, I am reminded that the true purpose of travel is not just to place oneself in a new destination, but to immerse ourselves in its stories, perspectives, and experiences also.

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