The concept of travel is not new. Homer’s Odyssey provided us with an enduring travel myth, and from Adam and Eve’s first tentative steps beyond the Garden of Eden to Joseph and Mary’s travels on the road to Bethlehem, the Bible is full of tales of travel, adventure, danger, transport difficulties and the perils of trying to find a room in peak season (resulting in the birth of the baby Jesus in a stable). Religions of all kinds have provided the impetus for long-distance pilgrimages: Muslims travel to Mecca, Jews to Israel and Buddhists to India, while Catholics get their spiritual passports stamped in Rome. Many of Europe’s greatest churches, such as Canterbury Cathedral (the destination for Chaucer’s pilgrims in his bawdry Canterbury Tales), were built in order to attract pilgrims and cash in on the pilgrim ‘dollar’.
Business travellers have also crisscrossed the continents for centuries, and were particularly busy tying up the Silk Road with peak-hour traffic throughout the Middle Ages. The Age of Exploration, chiefly the 15th and 16th centuries, saw unprecedented parties of would-be heroes set off in all directions from Europe – a trend that would last until the end of the 18th century. And of course, nomadic peoples from the Gypsies of Europe to the Australian Aborigines have wandered the globe for eons – until recently, that is, when colonialism and capitalism divvied the world up into bite-sized pieces and began enforcing border controls. Travels far and near have also been embarked upon in the interests of war. But while trade, profit, religion and invading one’s neighbours’ lands have always provided a motive for travel, the idea of travelling for fun is a relatively new phenomenon.
Rachael Antony e Joël Henry, The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel, Lonely Planet Publications, Melbourne – Oakland – London 2005. 276 pagine.