The History of Modern Travel

With international flights and worldwide destinations available at the click of a button, it can be easy to forget that travel wasn’t always what it is today. As our concept of holidays gets more and more extravagant with each passing trend and emergence of new technology, it’s funny to see how holidays emerged into societal life and what shaped the industry we know today.

The humble holiday was actually, believe it or not, trialled first by the Romans. They were the first civilization to travel for pleasure. What they didn’t know is that they started a whole new lifestyle that’s still going strong today.

Travel was only for the wealthy
Up until relatively recently, travel was reserved exclusively for wealthy people. Romans with a lot of cash to spare would often travel for 2 years at a time whilst wealthy folk in the Middle Ages were using waterways and the Roman-made roads to take their caravans for a little adventure. Lower classes also started travelling, usually motivated by religious purposes. They were travelling on foot, sleeping next to the roads or at some affordable accommodations.

This trend continued into the 17th century when Europe attracted those in high society with the promise of fine food and exquisite balls that were frequented by aristocrats from all over the world.

The invention of public transport

Up until the 19th century, everyone travelled privately. Then public transport changed the game forever. With the birth of the Industrial Revolution, more routes opened up with the Orient Express taking people across Europe and Asia and massive steamboats ferrying people from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

The mid 19th century really was a turning point for modern travel as the middle class grew in size, and trains and boats became the mainstay of travel before the aircraft came in. Thomas Cook established the first travel agency in England and used trains along with a network of hotels to arrange the first ever organised trips.

The commercialisation of plane travel

Considering that the steamboat between the UK and New York lasted a tedious nine days, the aircraft was a welcome prospect. Flying people all over the world in a fraction of the time, air travel really hit its stride in the 1920s. After the war in the 1950s and 1960s, newfound prosperity lead to wealthier people taking luxury holidays in far flung locations across the world.

Modern day vacations

Today, the world is truly at our fingertips; and at a reasonable price. From sunny breaks at the beach to adventure vacations in staggering landscapes and luxurious escapes in dazzling cities, there’s something out there for everyone. All you have to do is click a button and you’re off.

Nowadays, it’s possible to travel anywhere in the world in less than two days. Even though it’s a great privilege of our time, it can also bear some responsibilities, and the threats of over-tourism are becoming more apparent. What we should remember is the purpose of travel, just like how the Romans did. Travel to learn, explore local history and art, and be true culture tourists.

When it comes to modern travel, it’s quite outstanding how far the world has come.


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