Stonehenge! As in, the actual Stonehenge! Not pictures, not videos, not a background shot in a TV show, the real deal! Wow.
Our visit to Stonehenge was one of the most thought-provoking day trips we’ve taken for a number of reasons, but mostly that I just can’t figure out how to explain my incredible mix of awe and disillusionment. Stonehenge is not in any way the distant marvel only reached by tenacious travelers any longer. It is undeniably a tourist site and it’s honestly hard to wrap my head around it. First point: You cannot touch the stones. You can think about touching the stones. You can look really hard at the stones and wonder how it would feel to touch them. You can look at your hands and then the stones and mutter “hmm” to yourself. But you cannot touch the stones.
This should not have been surprising to me, but it was. The area is roped off in a huge circle separating the spectators by some 20 feet from the monuments. It’s not difficult to see and there is plenty of space to take your personal pictures but it makes it difficult to really take in the size of the mysterious structure. We only had 45 minutes to get our viewing on so I made it around the circle in short time.
At first, I was disappointed. But then as I walked that feeling morphed into something a bit different. I felt suddenly very connected to the other viewers around me. Each one of those people had made a conscious decision to take time off, book a ticket and take a two-hour or more bus ride out to the middle of nowhere to gaze upon one of the world’s remaining mysteries. Each person around me was curious about the world they lived in. Every family had made a day trip of walking a short circle around a big rock because it was something universally thought to be incredible.
I felt as though the people that walked on each side of me were people who retained their sense of wonder and were people who wanted to share that wonder with people they cared about. It was a very enlightening feeling and it really helped me to change my opinion on tourism. I’m proud to be a traveler even if my itinerary is set in stone (pun totally intended). My path may be predetermined by an academic course, but what I take away from it is entirely up to me. And it seemed to me that everyone around us was taking away something new as well.