Let's say you're not just traveling as a tourist. Maybe you've got one of those time machines where it's a one-way trip, like if you're Kyle Reese and you just defeated the Terminator, only without dying this time. So, what next?
Aliens, The Abyss and Tombstone, followed by dozens of mediocre character roles, that's what.
Well, probably a lifetime working menial jobs for less than minimum-wage, if you're lucky. If you're not lucky, you're probably a very low-rent whore because now you're not only penniless and hungry, but you have nothing to confirm your identity. You're an adult with no ID, no Social Security number and no birth certificate. You also have no friends, family or references. You have no paperwork that any self-respecting institution would require you to have before even considering passing over your job application. Furthermore, you would have no way to even get any of these things, because each one of them requires the other to achieve, sort of like the power ups in Super Metroid.
The Canadian passport upgrade lets you spit maple syrup.
This is not a minor problem. In every civilization ever, a weird-talking, penniless stranger with nothing to vouch for who he is means he's insane, a fugitive, a vagrant or all three. In short, you are going to be living life as an illegal alien.
So yeah, welcome to Arizona.
Behind that truck is Sarah Palin's 2012 campaign.
Congratulations, that little Ocarina of Time you bought on eBay actually worked! Your plan to return to New York in June of 1938 and snag as many copies of Action Comics #1 as you can carry seems to be going swimmingly, provided you can get your ass back to the present before you spill coffee on them or something.
Retail value as of 2010: $1.5 million.
But as it turns out, you are totally screwed the second you pocket your time traveling pan flute. Unless you had the tremendous foresight to stop by a coin-collector before you left, all the money in your pocket is officially bogus. Not only do your dollar bills look ridiculous, but that surly-looking guy at the newsstand is pretty pissed over those Roosevelt dimes you keep trying to push on him. You sure as hell can't take your fakey toy future money to a bank to exchange it for real money. Your little business venture into the past could end up putting you in Sing Sing for counterfeiting (on the plus side, all the inmates will be uproariously entertained by your time travel story).
They probably won't stab you more than three times.
Ah, but that's just yet another reason to travel into the future instead! It's the magic of compound interest, baby! You know, put some change in the bank and then go a thousand years into the future to collect your riches. Well assuming your financial institution even still exists that far down the road (and given the current state of the nation, this seems highly unlikely). Hell, that's assuming that the country still exists. Or the currency.
Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg, because...
Let's get the obvious out of the way first: One thing time travel movies never address is the fact that the Earth moves. Your time machine can't just move forward in time, it has to be able to travel through space with perfect precision. After all, you have to account for the fact that the planet is flying through space at 70 thousand miles an hour, and you've got to know exactly where it's going to be at the exact moment you arrive in the future. Oh, also the planet is spinning really fast.
But let's just assume that Doc Brown and the Terminators and all the other time machine inventors figured out a way around that. Even that doesn't account for the fact that the landscape is ever-changing. This...
...was a forest 400 years ago. So you leave from a nice, open valley and arrive embedded inside several million tons of concrete for a new dam they built decades after you died.
Of course, even that is the optimistic view. Unlike going back in time, where any decent history book can serve as a travel guide, visiting the future means you have to prepare yourself for any of Earth's potential mass extinctions, world wars and malevolent dictators.
Even if there's no worldwide disaster, who can vouch for the particular spot you're standing? Hiroshima was a pretty nice city for 350 straight years until somebody dropped a gigantic bomb on it.
Even if you show up and things look fine at a glance, who knows if your race/ethnicity/hair color won't make you part of a persecuted minority in that time period? Trust us, ethnic cleansing is one thing that never goes out of style on planet Earth. And 500 years from now, Iowa could be the new Darfur. So who knows what horrors Doc Brown's magical flying train would have found at the end of Back to the Future III?
"...is that Christopher Lloyd in a flying train? Everyone else is seeing this, right?"
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