A Brief History Of Travel

Many of us look forward to our annual holiday and, with the arrival of budget airlines, came the ability to jet off to sunnier, snowier, or more remote climes with relative ease. Our global village felt slightly more accessible and the travel industry reacted to the consumer search for adventure and fun. You can choose from luxury holidays, package holidays, DIY holidays, eco holidays, ethical holidays, and even cosmetic surgery holidays. It's up to you...

However, this has not always been the case and tourism as we know it today only emerged in the last few decades. Once, travel was something only the rich could afford to do. The majority of the population could only dream of what lay beyond their home town, let alone what happened outside their home country.

Research suggests that tourism began sometime in the 16th century. Prior to that there had been travellers – pilgrims in search of salvation and explorers in search of strange new lands – but these weren't tourists. The 16th century was when European aristocrats started to travel for fun, visiting major European cities in search of enlightenment on their Grand Tours.

In 1841, an enterprising Englishman by the name of Thomas Cook saw a window of opportunity: package tourism. He identified that the railway, which had revolutionised travel in so many ways, was the perfect vehicle for transporting groups of tourists in search of adventure. Booking entire trains and hotels he was able to offer these packages at unbeatable prices. And while he might not have been the first to have this idea, he was certainly the most successful at executing it. He laid on travel guides, tours, itineraries, a money exchange and attractions to make the experience one of ease for the traveller.

Air travel began after the end of World War II, when there was an abundance of aircraft, aeronautical technology and pilots ready to take those who could afford it on a holiday to remember. And as air travel continued to get more affordable, it didn't take long before the emergence of international mass tourism.

Looking back, there are some similarities between the grand tourists of the 16th and 17th centuries and our modern-day backpackers and gap-year students; all of them in search of a global adventure. Today, we view this kind of travel in much the same way these aristocrats did – a rite of passage, an initiation and the chance to do a bit of soul searching.

And as we move into an age where travel is increasingly about technology and staying connected, it's good to think back and remember that we have (and will) always want to travel in search of a new adventure.