What would you miss if you were to travel back in time?

First I was enamored with my iPod. I was thrilled with the idea of being able to listen to podcasts or music at work. When I was a receptionist listening to history podcasts kept me sane. Next, I fell in love with my iPhone; oh how I loved the apps the touch screen keyboard, which was so easy on my middle age eyes, and having books on the go. I was awed by all the things this small handheld device could do. As a child of the original Star Trek era, the future seemed to be in my hand. Now it is the iPad that blows my mind.  I have reading choices without having to carry multiple books in my already overflowing purse.  Being able to look at exhibits from the British Museum and science videos from several sites is something I am not sure I will ever get over.  I can take Facebook and Twitter with me, and can be entertained by Angry Birds when I find myself waiting at the doctor’s or DMV. No, this is not a commercial for Apple, I just happen to have Apple products. I am just as amazed at a co-worker’s Koby. She is the one that turned me on to a radio app that allows me to finally listen to radio without static interference (which may say more about my house, than my radios).  I am amazed by our current technology for two reasons. I grew up in the pre-DVD and cell phone era. I can remember not that long ago we did not have anything close to this technology. Hell, I remember when we got our first answering machine.  My mother was so excited to know she would never miss another phone call, now we take our phones with us. The other reason I am amazed is because having lived in the country where the power went out every winter, I know how to live with the basics. I understand what we really need in order to live comfortably. Everything else is pure magic!

I love reading a good time traveling book in which the main character(s) find themselves thrust into the past. I want to know how they will react to being without the comforts of modern living.  I am disappointed when an author ignores this obvious plot point. This I think would be the most interesting part of the book.

Take the popular novel Outlander for example, for a book that is about a million pages long, Gabaldon, hardly mentions anything that Claire may miss. She easily adapts to her environment without even a glance back to her former life. Being a nurse, you would think she would be obsessed with personal hygiene.   The first thing I would miss and try to re-create? A toothbrush would be number one on my list of must haves, nope, can’t do without.

During the middle ages teeth were cleaned with a rough cloth dipped in an herbal mixture.  The wealthy chewed on cloves, cinnamon and mint.  As nice as this may be, I would quickly develop Mac Gyver like skills to come up with some type of toothbrush.

A change of clothing would be next. When I was doing research on medieval garments I was shocked to learn that even royalty wore the same chemise ( or tunic, depending on what scholar’s work  you are reading) to bed that that they wore under their mantle during the day. For many women, this undergarment was worn days on end, for the poor this may have gone on for years. Could you imagine wearing the same thing day in and day out? I can’t, which is why one of the first things I would want learn is how to sew.  The idea of wearing the same sweaty cloths day after day makes me want to go take a shower right now.

I could go on, but you get the point, there are some basic things that we take for granted, that I cannot live without.  Yes, I love my toys but they are not things I need. These are not things that are necessary for survival (though admittedly I would miss being able to do a Google search on “how to”). Maybe this is why I am still awed by them; I understand they are designed to make our comfortable life fun.

So dear Reader, what is that you could not live without? What would be on your list of must haves for all time travelers?

Author: sarij

I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.

8 thoughts on “What would you miss if you were to travel back in time?”

  1. Definitely agree on the toothbrush and plenty of clothes(underwear!) Crazy to think that they would be amazed at how much WE have now. Spices, medicines, feminine products! I guess it wouldn’t be too weird to live without razors, tweezers, and deoderant if everyone one else was doing without too. Funny too, how I used to love a good time travel romance LOL.


  2. Annette, I had to laugh, yes I could go on. A razor would be a must. Wonder how medieval women shaved their legs (did they?) I will have to look this up.
    I am with you, there used to be a time when I searched for a good time travel romance. Which title was your favorite? I don’t remember the title of one I read years ago (I was around 19). Some of the story has stayed with me, as the lady found herself in front of a castle, which of course had a sexy lord who fell for her. I thought it was well written as the author took the time to describe the setting and how people lived.


    1. Several come to mind, though upon rereading, wondered what was I thinking?! Read the Highlander books by Moning in the last 10 years or so and liked some of them very much. A Knight in Shining Armor, Son of the Morning, and the 1st Gabaldon book are the ones I remember. None of the last three stood up to a second read, not bad, I’m just not that romantic anymore 😦

      I don’t think they did shave, and I’m afraid I’d have a unibrow , oh the horror LOL. On the upside, I wouldn’t be an on and off again smoker either. And would probably do just fine without all the coffee and tea, with plenty of sugar in both. And salt! I read Pillars of the Earth a couple of years ago(have you read it?) and salt wasn’t commonly available. In one scene people are fined for grinding their own flour and such.


      1. LOL, I too would have a Brooke Shields unibrow. This would not bother me as much as having leg hair.

        Haven’t read the Highlander books but did read Pillers years ago. I loved it. Coffee did come to mind, but with all the ale drinking I may not miss it. Time traveling would be a great way to kick the cigarette and sugar habit. Gosh, that would mean we would not be the most pleasant guests for a while. Humm, never thought of that.

        Sari https://theviewfromsarisworld.com/ Karmageddon:It’s when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, and then the Earth explodes and it’s a serious bummer.


  3. What a wonderful question to challenge us with! First thought was pen & paper! To write down what was happening. Of course I’m in complete agreement re: toothbrush,razor, clean ‘dainties’ and a HAIRBRUSH. (comb). Being 49, I too am amazed by all the new gadgets. I was diagnosed w/ Primary Progressive MS in 2004. There have been many things I’ve ‘lost’ to this disease, the thing I miss most is the ability to work, the ‘set income’, has kept me from ‘ embracing’ new technologies! Perhaps not a bad thing! So, an IPad or a mini laptop must be saved for over months…and months. Even without time traveling, which I personally prefer back to, than forward,your thought provoking question can be applied to the ‘here and now’. I just may swipe it & next time enjoying a chalice of mead or a chocolate martini :p w/ the girls will toss it out! TY sarijj!


    1. Hi Bonnie, Thanks for taking up the challenge. You would find hairbrushes and combs in medieval times, nice sturdy ones because you would not get to wash your hair often and when you did, it would not be with shampoo but a mix of herbs. No wonder women braided their hair. Being diagnosed with a serious medical condition sure makes you take stock of what is important! I was diagnosed two years ago with heart failure and have had two surgeries. I went through a period of clearing out stuff (I didn’t want anyone else to go through my “junk” if I died). Even though they say I am out of the woods, I cannot bring myself to acquire more stuff. I understand about a fixed income. The iPad was a gift, or I would still be saving up for one.

      Chocolate martinis you say? I am coming right over, ah you are woman after my own heart.

      Sari https://theviewfromsarisworld.com/ Karmageddon:It’s when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, and then the Earth explodes and it’s a serious bummer.


  4. LOL I wholeheartedly agree with what you said about Claire in Outlander….really I would be DYING without a toothbrush….who gives a whit about meds when one should be worrying about personal hygiene, I would be grabbing a stock pile of toothbrushes and deodorant first thing!!! 🙂 LOL
    Great post BTW 🙂


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