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Kate Kelsey Staples Essay

Travel is how I fell in love with what I do; it’s also made me better at what I do. Whether it is carefully picking my way through castle ruins in Northumberland, getting lost walking the streets in old Prague, traversing the canals in Venice, or struggling to absorb difficult historic landscapes, all are experiences that have changed my relationship to the humans I study and teach about, and they have changed me as well. To step into a painted medieval cathedral is to catch a glimpse, with awe and wonder, of the believers’ complex worldview; to study material objects in museums is to imagine bygone diners’ table conversations and to explore the symbols that peppered their visual landscape; to touch a damp, stone twelfth-century town wall is to confront the alterity of that far away world. Travel, to me, is as much about empathy as it is about experience, and both profoundly shape my own history and the way I write and talk about the past.