4 Trips That Changed the World

How many times have you had a friend come back from a long trip and say: “I feel like a changed person”? It’s a common tune for travellers who have been away for a sustained period of time and the reason a lot of us like to get away from it all in the first place.

Some journeys, however, have had a greater impact than others; indeed, some have changed the world and the way we look at it.


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Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel to Las Vegas, 1946

A native New York gangster who moved to California to develop the mob’s west coast syndicate, Siegel was instrumental in creating the original “Sin City”. Running a gambling and prostitution ring in Los Angeles, Siegel was enjoying the Hollywood lifestyle until his bosses sent him into the Nevada desert to oversee the building of William R. Wilkerson’s Flamingo Hotel in the mid-1940s. “Bugsy” resented the move but eventually learned to love Vegas, strong-arming his way into owning the hotel and being the first to envisage “The Strip” as a place tourists could come to enjoy losing their money. Siegel was killed in 1947 – some say by those who were fed up with his profligate ways – but by then his Vegas legacy was secure.

What it gave the modern-day traveller: The chance to lose your life savings on the turn of a card and get your picture taken with a naked ginger prince.

Las Vegas City Guide

Passengers on the de Havilland Comet to Johannesburg, 1952

Thirty-six people made history on May 2, 1952 when they became the first paying commercial jet passengers on a British Overseas Airway Corporation (BOAC) flight from London to Johannesburg. The four-engine jet’s first flight wasn’t as quick to its destination as you might think, as it made stops in Rome, Beirut, Sudan, Uganda and Zambia before arriving in Jo’burg 24 hours after leaving London. When BOAC realised it was better not to run the plane like a bus service, the flights proved highly successful, although a series of crashes forced the de Havilland fleet to be grounded and allowed Boeing to become the dominant jet supplier, which it still is today.

What it gave the modern-day traveller: The chance to sit next to a crying baby for up to 12 hours with no means of escape whatsoever.

Johannesburg City Guide

Mikhail Gorbachev to Washington, 1987

During the Cold War of the 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan held a series of meetings with a view to ending the nuclear arms race. Negotiations in Geneva and Rejkjavik were promising but ultimately failed, and it was only when Gorbachev travelled to Washington in 1987 that a breakthrough was finally made. Despite opposition domestically, the two leaders agreed to the INF Treaty, which eliminated all intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The treaty was the beginning of the Cold War thaw and an unprecedented working relationship between the US and Russia, who finally announced the end of covert hostilities at the Malta Summit in 1990.

What it gave the modern-day traveller: The opportunity to travel to previously closed destinations like East Germany and the old Soviet countries such as Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Plus cheap boy’s weekends and hen’s nights in Prague.

Washington, D.C. City Guide

John, Paul, George and Ringo to New York, 1964

On February 7, 1964 four lads from Liverpool arrived in New York City and the world of pop music – and America – was never the same again. The Beatles’ two-week visit to the US was like nothing anyone had ever seen before; thousands of fans were on hand to meet them at Kennedy Airport and an estimated 73 million tuned in to watch them on The Ed Sullivan Show. The term ‘Beatlemania’ was coined to describe a condition that induced shouting and fainting whenever the scouse lads appeared or played music. Not only did the Beatles’ trip make them the first British band to “break” in the US but it helped provide a tipping point for a younger generation of Americans to take control of their country politically, socially and economically.

What it gave the modern-day traveller: The belief that it’s socially acceptable to scream at the top of your lungs while jumping up and down when you see someone you know (or merely recognise) emerge through customs.

New York City Guide

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