Time Travel, Part 6
As I stumble from the bathroom, I am reminded that after being on a strict diet for so long my stomach will punish me for cheating on it. Any little fried or greasy thing that I eat now will cause much suffering for the rest of the night. When I ate food like this regularly, I didn’t have any problems with them, but after long enough I’m just not used to eating food like that anymore. You might be asking yourself what any of this has to do with Time Travel. Well this story (that might be over-sharing) illustrates one of the potential difficulties for a Time Traveler.
When people travel to Mexico the most common warning given is not to drink the water. This is because we are used to much cleaner water that has been heavily filtered. There are regulations regarding how food is prepared to ensure that everything eaten is safe for consumption. There are still places in the world where these standards are not followed. For the most part the citizens there do not have any issues with their food, because they are accustomed to it and have the needed bacteria in their stomachs to handle it. Travelers, however, are not prepared for the parasites and bacteria contained by the food and water. The human body can adjust in about 6 months, but until that time it would be unpleasant.
A Time Traveler would be used to the food and water standards of their home time. If they were to travel into the past these standards would be much lower and thus the food and water would likely cause them similar distress as to what I am feeling when cheating on my diet or travelers experience when they drink the water in Mexico. It is possible to die from improperly cooked food, but much more likely that these wayward travelers would simply fall ill.
A larger concern would be the diseases that are carried into the past or future timeline. Much like traveling to less developed countries, a trip through time would require inoculations to ensure that the traveler does not come down with the diseases of the time. Long extinct diseases could easily wipe out a traveler who is unprepared for them. There is nothing, however, that can protect the other time from the Traveler. Viruses and diseases would be a concern both ways. A Traveler would be at risk of contracting something, but they are equally at risk of releasing a virus that has mutated into a much stronger strain by having been fought for years. A Time Traveler could very easily release a plague that could cause irreparable damage to the time they are visiting.
These concerns are generally overlooked in Time Travel stories. I suspect the reasoning is that bathroom trips are not major plot points outside of comedic value, though certainly the traveler wouldn’t find it particularly funny. The virus outbreak is a particularly difficult concern to deal with so it is generally glossed over. These are concerns and not necessarily major plot points. There are easier ways to tell these stories with factory created viruses than to introduce the potentially confusing aspect of time travel. The easiest way to deal with these concerns is heavy testing of the individuals traveling, a strong round of inoculations, and a period of adjustment to the food preparation methods present in the destination time.