For other uses, see Travel (disambiguation).
"Travelling" redirects here. For other uses, see Travelling (disambiguation).
Travel is the movement of people between relatively distant geographical locations, and can involve travel by foot, bicycle, automobile, train, boat, bus, airplane, or other means, with or without luggage, and can be one way or round trip. Travel can also include relatively short stays between successive movements.
The origin of the word "travel" is most likely lost to history. The term "travel" may originate from the Old French word travail, which means 'work'. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the first known use of the word travel was in the 14th century. It also states that the word comes from Middle English travailen, travelen (which means to torment, labor, strive, journey) and earlier from Old French travailler (which means to work strenuously, toil). In English we still occasionally use the words "travail", which means struggle. According to Simon Winchester in his book The Best Travelers' Tales (2004), the words "travel" and "travail" both share an even more ancient root: a Roman instrument of torture called the tripalium (in Latin it means "three stakes", as in to impale). This link may reflect the extreme difficulty of travel in ancient times. Today, travel may or may not be much easier depending upon the destination you choose (e.g. Mt. Everest, the Amazon rainforest), how you plan to get there (tour bus, cruise ship, or oxcart), and whether you decide to "rough it" (see extreme tourism and adventure travel). "There's a big difference between simply being a tourist and being a true world traveler", notes travel writer Michael Kasum. This is, however, a contested distinction as academic work on the cultures and sociology of travel has noted.
Purpose and motivation
Reasons for traveling include recreation,tourism or vacationing,research travel the gathering of information, visiting people, volunteer travel for charity, migration to begin life somewhere else, religious pilgrimages and mission trips, business travel,trade,commuting, and other reasons, such as to obtain health care or waging or fleeing war or for the enjoyment of traveling. Travellers may use human-powered transport such as walking or bicycling; or vehicles, such as public transport, automobiles, trains and airplanes.
Motives for travel include:
Travel may be local, regional, national (domestic) or international. In some countries, non-local internal travel may require an internal passport, while international travel typically requires a passport and visa. A trip may also be part of a round-trip, which is a particular type of travel whereby a person moves from one location to another and returns.
History of travel
Travel dates back to antiquity where wealthy Greeks and Romans would travel for leisure to their summer homes and villas in cities such as Pompeii and Baiae. While early travel tended to be slower, more dangerous, and more dominated by trade and migration, cultural and technological advances over many years have tended to mean that travel has become easier and more accessible. Mankind has come a long way in transportation since Christopher Columbus sailed to the new world from Spain in 1492, an expedition which took over 10 weeks to arrive at the final destination; to the 21st century where aircraft allow travel from Spain to the United States overnight.
Travel in the Middle Ages offered hardships and challenges, however, it was important to the economy and to society. The wholesale sector depended (for example) on merchants dealing with/through caravans or sea-voyagers, end-user retailing often demanded the services of many itinerant peddlers wandering from village to hamlet, gyrovagues (Wandering Monks) and wandering friars brought theology and pastoral support to neglected areas, travelling minstrels practiced the never-ending tour, and armies ranged far and wide in various crusades and in sundry other wars. Pilgrimages were common in both the European and Islamic world and involved streams of travellers both locally (Canterbury Tales-style) and internationally.
In the late 16th century it became fashionable for young European aristocrats and wealthy upper class men to travel to significant European cities as part of their education in the arts and literature. This was known as the Grand Tour, it included cities such as London, Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome. However, The French revolution brought with it the end of the Grand Tour.
Travel by water often provided more comfort and speed than land-travel, at least until the advent of a network of railways in the 19th century. Travel for the purpose of tourism is reported to have started around this time when people began to travel for fun as travel was no longer a hard and challenging task. This was capitalised on by people like Thomas Cook selling tourism packages where trains and hotels were booked together. Airships and airplanes took over much of the role of long-distance surface travel in the 20th century, notably after the second World War where there was a surplus of both aircraft and pilots.
See also: Air safety and Automobile safety
Authorities emphasize the importance of taking precautions to ensure travel safety. When traveling abroad, the odds favor a safe and incident-free trip, however, travelers can be subject to difficulties, crime and violence. Some safety considerations include being aware of one's surroundings, avoiding being the target of a crime, leaving copies of one's passport and itinerary information with trusted people, obtaining medical insurance valid in the country being visited and registering with one's national embassy when arriving in a foreign country. Many countries do not recognize drivers' licenses from other countries; however most countries accept international driving permits.Automobile insurance policies issued in one's own country are often invalid in foreign countries, and it is often a requirement to obtain temporary auto insurance valid in the country being visited. It is also advisable to become oriented with the driving-rules and -regulations of destination countries. Wearing a seat belt is highly advisable for safety reasons; many countries have penalties for violating seatbelt laws.
There are three main statistics which may be used to compare the safety of various forms of travel (based on a DETR survey in October 2000):
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Why do we travel? What makes us up sticks, subject ourselves to bleary eyed early mornings, hideous flights and unsettlingly new diets? Why do some choose to flop somewhere hot whilst others subject themselves to privation in little visited inhospitable regions?
For many it is seemingly simple, we have to. It's in our blood, an itchy footed restless careless desire to up roots and see and do something new, to break the routine of life.
So, at a time of year when most people's travel plans are bare, waiting to be filled with ideas and inspiration, it is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and pick apart what drives us to travel? Yes there are the obvious answers, rest, indulgence, escape, excitement, but what underlies these desires? Do we travel to consume, to experience a mythological adventure, is it about change or is it deeper than that, is it a religious experience?
1. A religious ritual?
In modern secular society, we're somewhat starved of decent life-changing rituals. You'd be hard-pressed to argue that a stag-night is as mind-blowingly transformative as the Amerindian vision quest (despite, perhaps, the noble efforts of the best man). But regardless, we all still partake in rituals. Where more so than amongst backpackers? They visit the same places, wear the same uniform, repeat the same greetings - rituals are built upon these pre-cut pattern of acts and utterances. Upon their return from the wilderness, our young vagrants are transformed (or reformed) into worldly-wise Westerners. For many in the West today, overseas travel has come to fill the void vacated by 'real' religions, providing meaning, purpose, awe and wonder, as well as a sense of belonging.
2. A mythological adventure
'Adventure' is derived from the Latin advenire, 'to arrive, come about or befall'. As travel is more or less a matter of letting things befall one, of submitting to the new and unfamiliar in the pursuit of pleasure, it is, by definition, an adventure. Tourism allows us to live out fantasies of adventure, escape and 'paradise on earth'. It is an opportunity to test ourselves in unfamiliar circumstance, to prove that we are more than our 9-5 cubicle job suggests.
3. A change
For many of us, the glory of travel is change, change from our routines, change from the irritations of weather, work and culture. We swap city for country, affluence for simplicity, fast- for slow-living (or vice versa), sloth for action and security for risk. Seeing new places, trying new things (e.g. foods, activities, languages), meeting new people - it is all about change. Simply by changing our surroundings alone, we are able to change our mindset and free ourselves from the stresses and strains of everyday life.
4. An opportunity to consume
Modern society is preoccupied with consumption. We consume not simply to survive, but to achieve happiness, to build our status and self-perception. Travel is not immune from this insatiable consumerism. When we travel we consume cultures, experiences and vistas like brands. So travel makes a commodity of local culture. Everything comes with a price, a visit to the palace - $12; mountain trek - $35; traditional dance performance - $8; sense of self-worth - priceless. Today's holiday brochures boast bargains like an Argos catalogue; instead of homeware and cheap electronics, we find tigers, temples and tribal villages. All are commodities, just the same. We buy these things for the same reason we buy any other nonessential product: to look better, feel better or else appear better. We are, in effect, cultural cannibals, consuming culture so as to assimilate some aspect of it. Thus, New York confers cosmopolitanism, India spirituality, the Caribbean serenity and so on. And then there are optional extras, side dishes if you like. A five-star hotel suggests status, a wine tour imparts taste, the prefix 'eco-' accords ethical acumen. In the realm of the tourist-cannibal, you are what you eat.
If you enjoy this post and like thinking about travel at a level deeper than top 5 lists and photographs of infinity pools, then you'll also enjoy a more exhaustive investigation and discussion on why we travel and the impact of our travel in our recent travel essays series on the Tourdust blog.
Follow Ben Colclough on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bencolclough