For years, Wisconsin Public Television has partnered with Holiday Vacations to provide unique travel opportunities around the world. Viewers join experienced guides and enthusiastic WPT personalities to visit many sites they may have experienced for the first time through a program on PBS.
The delights and wonder of travel abroad stand in stark contrast to many headlines these days. But The New York Times, among others, suggests one way to ease anxiety about travel in the age of unexpected attacks: travel more.
Eric Greiling, director of development and executive director of the Friends of WPT, recently traveled to London and the United Kingdom with one of these groups. Read on for his reflections on travel, television and the world we share.
Earlier this spring, Wisconsin Public Television had the pleasure of hosting a trip for our viewers to London, Windsor and beyond with our longtime travel partner, Holiday Vacations.
Our travelers were delighted by a cornucopia of sights – and sites – both modern and historical. Highlights included: Highclere Castle (the setting of Downton Abbey), Bampton Village (the setting for Downton Abbey’s Downton Village), Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, Windsor Castle, Hampton Court, the Tower of London and a Thames River cruise. Travelers also had plenty of time to select from many, many other things to see and do in London.
During one sightseeing stop near the Palace of Westminster – the seat of British Parliament – the mood turned solemn and reflective when Peter, our guide, called our attention to the memorials honoring those injured and killed in a then-recent terrorist attack. Peter spoke with conviction of the determination of the people of London, and of the UK, to not allow deranged acts of violence to cast a pall over the character of their society: to cause them to live in fear.
Appropriately, one of the statues across the street was that of Winston Churchill, striding forward, an embodiment of determined leadership in troubled times.
Our guide also showed us the Borough Market, at the foot of the London Bridge, which would, unfortunately, become the site of another attack in London weeks later.
It may be a reach to call an afternoon of sightseeing an act of resolve, but it may not be much of a reach, after all. Mark Twain said it best (as he so often did) in his travel memoir The Innocents Abroad:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
It seemed entirely appropriate, then, for us to enjoy the rest of the afternoon – and appreciate the opportunity to do so.
What a joy to travel with a group so determined to see and learn as much as possible, and to revel in the history and culture all around us. Downton Abbey fans were over the moon to walk in the footsteps of their favorite characters. Fans of Wolf Hall and Victoria, too, got to walk on very special ground. Followers of the royal family and the historic kings and queens of England were only disappointed that there wasn’t time to see it all.
And fans of Selfridges, Sherlock and dozens of other shows on WPT – historical or contemporary, dramatic or based in fact – found site after site to enjoy in person and make the connections to place, people, history, drama and literature.
WPT’s mission is to “boldly enrich, educate and entertain diverse audiences of children and adults.” We are committed to building better understanding about the world we live in through thoughtful programs, community engagement, and, yes, travel abroad.
At times, the complexities of the world may leave us at a loss. We will continue, however, to seek out ways to connect with the people and places that make the world so fascinating, whether it means visiting a historic site in person or discovering more through the best television has to offer.
Thank you to our viewers who choose to travel with us – and have a great time while doing so! We hope others will join us in the future for a trip here in the U.S. or abroad. Or go on your own and tell us about it!
And if travel is not in your plans right now, or if you’re between trips, please turn to WPT as your window on the world. We hope our programs – whether travel, history, drama or nature – inspire your curiosity about this wonderful Big Blue Marble and our own amazing corner of it: Wisconsin.