Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, which commemorates the Pilgrims heroic pilgrimage. These pious religious “purists” traveled to the new world not only to escape persecution but to advance their beliefs in remote parts of the world.
Profit-seeking investors, financed the treacherous Mayflower voyage. They arranged financial backing from the “venture capitalists” of the day: a syndicate known as the Merchants and Adventurers of London. This reads more like a modern day investment prospectus rather than the 400 year old story of the native Americans and European pilgrims sharing a Thanksgiving harvest.
The travelers arrived too late in the season to plant crops, and yet they managed to triumph over hunger and poverty. The native indigenous people were charitable to the newcomers. The welcoming interaction and the assistance offered to these new settlers could easily be explained as the earliest philanthropic work of the new world.
As the years went by, the colonies constructed communal houses and welcomed new arrivals to join in building a new society. Then the harsh Massachusetts winter of 1623 devastated the colonies, with starvation and disease.
Governor William Bradford, the leader of the colony, wrote in his diary that the survival of the colonies could not continue unless they changed course. The young “able bodied” men of Plymouth ( who grew up or were born in the colonies ) found it “an injustice” that they were paid the same as those who did a fraction of the work. They complained that they were unfairly doing the lions share of the labor with no extra compensation and therefore weren’t motivated to work.
Bradford wanted a balance between community cooperation and individual self-interest. He concluded that if the “able bodied” first generation Americans were not motivated to work, the economy could not succeed and prosper on the charity of Native Americans alone. He recognized that larger families needed more and that the elderly and aged had special needs.
Old world socialist ideas couldn’t work in this vast new world. He identified the root cause of the existential problem of survival as a “particular vile form of communism”, which was the self-destructive behavior that consumed his fellow Puritans.
Property in Plymouth Colony was communally owned and communally cultivated. This system of “taking away of property and bringing it into a commonwealth” bred “confusion and discontent” and stifled “much employment that would have been to the settlers benefit and comfort”.
Cooperative ideology was upended and each settler was allotted a parcel of land, with the hope that private ownership of farmland would encourage self-sufficiency. Bradford wrote that this new system resulted in “much more corn being planted than otherwise would have been”, for it made all hands very industrious”.
One hundred and fifty years later Adam Smith expounded on this free-market principle of private property ownership, when he wrote The Wealth of Nations. Today this constitutional right of the sanctity of individual property rights is as American as apple pie and Thanksgiving.
This week is one of the busiest travel times of the year. The Airports Council International reported that 8.8 billion passengers flew last year, which is about 1 billion more people than live on planet Earth. How can more people fly than live on the planet?
Whenever I fly, I am counted as one person flying when I leave and take-off, and I am counted as another person when I arrive and land. That mundane statistic is actually a very profound way of looking at travel.
Apparently, the person who arrived at a destination is a different person from the person that boarded the plane at the origin.
Isn’t it true that travel changes things? It changes our scenery, our weather and our personal experiences, and most importantly our outlook on the world. If travel does not change anything, we may as well stay home.
Thanksgiving annually retells the story of a unique and significant travel event. From the old world to the new world. From monarchy to individualism. From dependence to independence. From socialism to capitalism. Thanksgiving explains why America is the only country that uniquely references a dream, a dream that is shared by millions of individuals around the globe.
The American Dream.
About the Author: Jake Tewel holds a Masters Degree from YU, a wine seller, caterer and a million miler for the past 15 years. Jake is a best friend, great neighbor, your go to travel person, father, grandfather and loving husband. He is now focusing his efforts on heart healthy nutrition, exercise and travel.