One hundred two men, women, and children, and thirty crew set sail on the Mayflower in September of 1620 to experience a new life in America. Some were fleeing religious persecution while others made the journey to set up new business ventures.

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The Mayflower must have been a large vessel to hold 132 people along with their worldly possessions, and even their livestock, right? You might be surprised to learn that wasn't exactly the case. Space was tight and because the ship was only taking one trip to America, the passengers were considered to be the cargo which meant that they had to live in the dark, and often cold cargo decks below the crew's quarters.

I never really considered what the journey must have been like until this last summer when my family visited Plymouth and stepped aboard the Mayflower II. It was a hot summer day and the ship was filled with curious visitors. As I watched my son explore every nook and cranny, I thought of the mothers who'd made the journey with their own children and how the 66 days they spent aboard the Mayflower must have felt more like 66 years.

Imagine being packed into a small cargo deck with so many others, along with smelly livestock. Imagine having to prepare meals (the Pilgrims typically ate the same thing every single day because cooking was near impossible) while being tossed around in a dark, damp boat and also keeping an eye on rambunctious and curious children who no doubt did all they could to climb to the windows to catch a glimpse of the water. My heart would have been in my throat for the entire journey.

While most of the world associates Plymouth Rock as the landing point of the Pilgrims, a fun fact is that it probably wasn't where the boat first ended up. Yes, Plymouth Harbor is where the Pilgrims eventually arrived, but their first stop was actually near where Provincetown is located today - however they did not get off the ship and this is why Plymouth is considered to be the place where the Pilgrims landed. It was the first place where they stepped off the boat and onto land, according to oral history.

Did the Mayflower really strike Plymouth Rock? Maybe. We are all aware of how history has a way of changing depending on who you ask and the same might have been true back in the 1600s. The story of the Pilgrims hitting the rock was first told in 1771, over 120 after the Pilgrims landed in America. Was the story passed down from generation to generation? Perhaps. Was the story a clever idea made up by someone who knew Americans love to cling to feel-good stories? Perhaps.

Either way, Plymouth Rock is a rockstar in and of itself, and each year, thousands and thousands of people visit Plymouth and crowd over a gated area to catch a glimpse of a (quite small, really) rock that has been part of American history for nearly 300 years.

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