A brief history of travel

A brief history of travel

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone! A cliche, of course, but most cliches’ have more than a grain of truth to them. In this case the thing we’re all missing is travel. Who could have guessed that meandering around our beautiful blue dot would be off the menu? It was inconceivable that it would be a pleasure that would be withdrawn. Short of WWIII breaking out, I don’t think many people would have foreseen our current situation. I think most of us took it for granted that foreign travel would be a luxury to enjoy every year. It got me thinking about travel and what is it that we love so much and why it’s seems an entitlement for those lucky enough to be able to afford the diversion.

Our long distant ancestors, who were very closely related to humans, were hunter-gatherers for 5.5 million years until roughly 11,000 years B.C. when the agricultural revolution began to change the way of life. Homo Sapiens date from around 200,000 B.C. and spent 189,000 years of that time as hunter-gatherers. A typical band of nomads would explore a vast territory in search of food, water and shelter. Never staying in one place for too long, they were constantly on the move. This way of life necessitated that possessions were pared down to the bare minimum. Things changed when humans were tied to one spot with their crops and their animals once the agricultural revolution became the dominant way of life. That is quite a significant change.It was a huge adaptation that bought about it’s own disadvantages but it became the new norm for the vast majority of humanity.

I’m not suggesting that wandering around searching for the essentials to stay alive was a holiday but it was a way of life that offered variety and change. For millions of years it was not feasible to stay in one place. The essentials to stay alive would soon be exhausted if a few square miles of land was constantly harvested. You could speculate that a change of scenery and a nomadic yen is hard wired into our DNA.

It wasn’t until the age of exploration and empire building that the world was opened up to the possibility of experiencing foreign lands. Captain Cook, Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Columbus and other great seafarers paved the way. The industrial revolution ushered in steam locomotion, ships and the combustion engine. The age of tourism was born.

At first it was the privileged few and the Aristocracy who could take advantage of the possibilities but it wasn’t very long before travel became cheap enough for the middle classes and working classes to follow suit. The English seaside thrived as mobility became accessible to all.

It was the jet engine that really opened the world up. The late 50’s and early 60’s saw an explosion of relatively cheap package holidays. All of a sudden the age of mass travel was upon us. Most people with the desire to travel took full advantage.

Long haul destinations were in reach, it was a revolution. It seemed we’d come full circle. The desire to wander was obviously a world away from the hunter gatherers motivation but the desire to do so wasn’t so different. New flavours, new experiences, new vistas are appealing to humans no matter what millennia they exist in.

Danny Frith is Director at SkiBoutique. SkiBoutique is a luxury ski chalet agency based in Switzerland.

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