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Why We Travel

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

Chances are if you were to ask ten people why they travel,  you would get ten different answers.   But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I personally have quite a collection of travel quotes and they represent a large spectrum of ideas on the subject.   I especially like those by philosophers and travel professionals.

Many of these quotes have to do with rejuvenation or the concept of a quest.

Thomas Cook (the original travel agent) placed travelers into four main categories:

• pilgrims • tourists • nomads • explorers

Those are fair,  I’d say.  But the problem with explorers is that historically they tended to include some rather unsavory characters  –  as in racists, conquerors, and plunderers.   Americans look on explorers in a far more romantic light:  we are in love with our own adventurers and discoverers.  Daniel Boone,  Lewis & Clark,  John C. Fremont,  John Wesley Powell are feted in our history books,  but are not without controversy themselves,  especially in relation to the treatment of the Continent’s first inhabitants.

Let’s go back even further.  The word itself  –  travel  –  comes from travail,  meaning to suffer or toil.  Early travelers of course had to work hard and overcome physical obstacles to satisfy their wanderlust.  Perhaps that is why those who traveled were often on a personal or religious quest for whom sacrifice was a way of life.  For example,  the philosophy behind a Buddhist pilgrimage was that traveling itself was considered a path of personal progress toward enlightenment.

But even historically,  some had no idea why they traveled.  Marco Polo came from a family of merchants.  And even though his 24 year odyssey resulted in the establishment of the so-called Silk Road used by merchants between Italy and Turkey  (and beyond)  for hundreds of years thereafter, he originally had no particular goal  (and certainly no time-frame)  other than a seemingly insatiable wanderlust.  Yet he managed to make considerable contributions to the knowledge of the known planet of thirteenth century Venetians.  Like many explorers before and after,  he traveled to learn,  and shared what he learned  (mostly about China)  with a Europe that was hungry for news of the mysterious East.  His book became a best-seller nearly 150 years before Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press (ca. 1439).

The book contained practical information for those with commerce in mind:  maps, suggestions for transportation routes,  and tips on establishing trade relations with China.  It also ushered in the age of discovery,  stoking even more curiosity about this exotic region.  The Silk Road was soon a well-traveled route beyond the colloquial confines of Europe.

In other words,  even travel for self-fulfillment can turn into something far more than just personal enrichment.

And  –  spoiler alert  –  that enthusiasm and enlightenment is catching.

Whether you are looking for a journey of the mind,  or time,  or place,  as you look ahead to places and experiences that you would like to pursue over the coming months,  I urge you to keep in mind our long-time slogan:

It’s not the destination  –  it’s the journey!

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