The enigmatic question, “Why do we travel” has intrigued thinkers and philosophers through the years and is best answered in the famous words of writer Pico Iyer, when he said, “We travel initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel next, to find ourselves.”
Do we really need to travel that much? If we find ourselves packing our bags and buying tickets, is it because we have to or is because we want to? It is estimated that 600 million people annually get into airplanes and travel.
When did traveling get so tremendously popular? Time was when so few people traveled, that when they did, it made big news. Christopher Columbus, the Italian Spanish navigator, made headlines when he sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean and discovered America. Marco Polo set sail determined to see distant lands and exotic people; he discovered China.
His travels across the whole of China became the greatest travelogue of all times. While these two great travelers of their times were busy traveling the world and making history, where was everybody else? Taking a gondola ride to the neighboring island was the furtherest they dared to get.
We’ve come a long way since then. We travel, not to discover anything new (though that would surely be a feather in our collective caps); but to see what others before us have discovered and seen. We travel to snow-clad mountains so we can ski down the slopes and then we travel to sunny Mediterranean countries to bask in the sun. We travel so we can see first-hand the many man-made and natural wonders of the world that so far we’ve only seen in travel books.
We travel because we believe that reading about a place or looking at its pictures is a poor substitute to actually getting there and feeling the pulse of the place and absorbing its culture. We travel the whole of India to sample its many different cuisines and then we travel to China to sample a different fare. We leave our televisions at home and travel across the world to catch the live action at the Wimbledon championships or the World Cup.
Most of all, we travel because the world’s become a smaller place. And with travel into Space becoming a distinct possibility, albeit a very expensive one, we’ll soon have yet another reason to travel.