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Travel is the movement of people between relatively distant geographical locations.


Travel is defined as the action of going on a trip or journey. Travel can be used to describe short distances, such as traveling from home to a grocery store, but generally is thought to refer to going a long distance, such as traveling to another country. Travel, the word, can also be used figuratively—such as traveling back in memory. Some suggest that the definitions of travel are diverse, with almost as many answers as there are people, because travel means different things to different people. But it is generally understood to refer to a movement toward a distant geographical location.

Examples of people waiting for air travel.

Travel is often undertaken for vacationing or holidays, but another common version of travel is for business. Travel also does not have to refer to the movement of people but can also refer to the movement of cars, buses, trains, ships, planes, and other forms of transport. And it can refer to the movement of goods through a supply chain. In sports, travel is also used to refer to different movements of players or plays, and the speed of the movement of different aspects (such as a ball in golf or soccer).

Travel and tourism

In the modern context, travel is often combined with tourism. Tourism is the action of traveling to a location to have a vacation or holiday, take a tour, experience an attraction, or visit historic or scenic places. Tourism, as a function of travel, has been prevalent for a time, with notions of taking tours as far back as ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and the Grand Tour. The latter began in the late sixteenth century and may be most closely related to modern travel and tourism. The Grand Tour was typically undertaken by men and became fashionable for young aristocrats to visit Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome to experience local arts and culture. This type of travel drew Englishmen, Germans, Scandinavians, and Americans.

Painted example of aristocrats on a "Grand Tour"

Travel at this time was expensive, with the Grand Tour only being taken by aristocrats, gentleman scientists, antiquaries, and patrons of the arts. But the concept was popular, and by the late 19th century, early 20th century, the concept became popular with students.

Remembrance of the Grand Tour has inspired modern travelers to engage in "slow travel," which emphasizes spending time in a single place for an extended period, with an emphasis on connection to local people, cultures, food, and music. This is in contrast to some forms of travel with more rapid changes in location, in which people visit places to check them off of a list, more than to enjoy the place for what it is.

Types of travel
Example of voluntourism, a type of travel where the traveler helps a culture and area they travel to.

There are many different types of travel, which can be difficult to differentiate into clear segments or categories in some contexts. In other contexts, it is easier to categorize. Sometimes travel can also depend on the context, making the type of travel subjective. A short break for some people could be two days, and others four days, while four days for the first person could be considered a full vacation. Often, travel types are differentiated for the purpose of marketing as much as for understood versions of travel.

Types of travel

Travel type

Adventure or active travel

This type of travel, as the name suggests, involves a variety of adventures, often considered best for thrill seekers, and can involve a lot of hiking or backpacking. It can include visiting places, hikes, and areas that many people would not visit; it is considered a way to get a greater appreciation for a place. Because this type of travel can be difficult and can be ruined by poor weather, some people need a vacation from this type of vacation.

Backpacker or budget travel

This type of travel works to extend the length of a stay through reducing travel costs and can include staying at hostels, couchsurfing, and finding cheap transportation and food. Often this requires travelers to be flexible, and not all locations are conducive to this kind of travel. It can also be uncomfortable, but has a large community around it.

Business travel

As the name implies, this type of travel is often undertaken for business. However, it means the traveler's company is paying for the travel, and even though much of a traveler's time is spent working, there is enough time to visit some places, while a person could add an extra day or two, often at their own expense, to spend more time exploring the city or place.

Caravan or RV road trip

This type of travel involves a type of recreational vehicle or camper and includes a long road trip. Having the vehicle for travel also be a place to sleep allows travelers to save money, and is often associated with a chance to explore the natural beauty of a travelers home country.


This type of travel is similar to a holiday or a group travel, in that travelers are able to experience a bunch of locations while on a ship/floating resort that also allows them to relax. Often, when making port, these types of travel can include strict itineraries to ensure travelers are not left in foreign ports but return to the cruise.

Benefits of travel

Travel has been found to be beneficial for people. This is as travel allows individuals to see places and gain exposure to different cultures and ways of life. This can be achieved through domestic and foreign travel, but is generally considered good when travel involves any pattern of learning that can represent a continual pattern of learning and awareness. Travel can also be a way to understand how best to communicate and move past language barriers and to appreciate the power of nonverbal communication. This kind of exposure can help make individuals smarter, in a sense, and connect them more to the real world, which can be considered of increasing importance in a digital world.

Example of relaxing while traveling, away from everyday concerns.

Further, travel can help individuals build new relationships and build confidence in themselves and their capabilities. This is in part through pushing the traveler out of their comfort zones and exposing them to new cultural experiences. Travel can also allow individuals to relax and create new memories. And, of course, one of the most celebrated parts of traveling is the discovery and sampling of new cuisines and even the lifestyles around those cuisines.

Example of street food while traveling

Travel has also been found to be important for human happiness and human health. Rather than just self-report, studies have found that traveling can be great for mental health. This is in part because travel removes an individual from the world they live in with the constant expectations and stress from work, relationships, and family. Traveling can give those people a greater understanding of themselves, as well, which can create a feeling of wholeness within their individuality.

This can be especially important as remaining present in the moment can be difficult as an individual's brain is saturated with stressors and anxious thoughts. Traveling has also been shown to increase mental resilience, especially as traveling can be incredibly intimidating when a language or cultural barrier exists. And that mental resilience can help an individual learn greater emotional regulation, which, with increased intelligence, helps an individual to build stronger mental health.

History of travel
Ancient travel

Although travel is often considered a newer revolution, in part enabled by transatlantic travel, steam ships, trains, and other modern developments in methods of travel, archaeological evidence shows that humans have traveled, for leisure and other reasons, for as long as they have been around. This has been, of course, a part of the spread of humans across earth, but travel for leisure is seen as early as the Ancient Greek and Roman empires, when tourism and leisure travel were introduced. During this period, tourism and leisure travel were almost completely confined to the wealthy, who could travel for cultural exploration and sought to learn the arts, languages, and cultures of their destination.

Example of the Roman Baths in Bath, England, which was a resort destination during the Roman Empire.

During the Roman Empire, some of the earlier examples of travel resorts and spas were built and became destinations in that area. This drew not only the elites, but in the more prosperous periods of the empire, would draw regular people to travel. At the same time, in Asia, it was popular for nobles to travel across the country for similar reasons, including for religious and cultural experiences and often stopping at temples and sacred sites in their travel. Furthermore, during many of these empires, the relative safety of the empire, and the draw of the capital cities, allowed for greater movements of the population of those empires. For example, the roads across the Roman Empire allowed for increased travel because they offered an easy and navigable way for travel through the empire.

Middle Ages
Example of a scallop shell from an European pilgrimage trail.

Travel in the Middle Ages, especially in Europe, did not slow down from travel in the Ancient era; instead, it picked up. This was in part due to the increased role of religion in the life of average, everyday Europeans of the time, pilgrimages became a larger part of life in the Middle Ages. Pilgrims would see individuals or groups travel to another part of their home country, or else another part of Europe, or even other continents, to visit sacred places. Some of the popular destinations of this period included pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Spain or even the Vatican in Italy.

The non-elite people would often traveled on foot and would either sleep next to the roads or at an affordable accommodation. At the same time, especially in areas such as Belgium or the Netherlands, the use of scallop shells to mark pilgrimage trails became common. Some of those trails are still capable of being followed.

The Grand Tour
The Piazza dei Miracoli Complex and Leaning tower of Pisa, Italy, popular stops on the Grand Tour.

Starting in the late 16th century, in part inspired by the pilgrimages, of the Middle Ages, began the Grand Tour. This tour involved trips to cities such as London, Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome, often starting in London, and were intended to allow the youth of Europe to travel and experience and educate themselves in the arts, literature, and culture of these various areas. The Grand Tour was seen for many youth in Europe as a rite of passage and has largely been credited for the modern tourism industry as the tradition of travel became more entrenched in culture of Europe. As the tours grew in popularity, they became more structured and often would include the accompaniment of an educational tutor. These young aristocrats would also bring their servants to help them along the tour. One such aristocrat who went on a Grand Tour was the young emperor Peter the Great of Russia.

Tourism and modern travel

The French Revolution toward the end of the 18th century put a partial end to the Grand Tour, as Paris became an embattled place where young aristocrats did not want to travel, and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars made travel across Europe more hazardous than before. However, other movements of the time, such as the Industrial Revolution, began to make travel an easier and more affordable undertaking, allowing the middle class to seek leisure in different areas and countries. Around this time, one of the first travel agencies, Cox and Kings, was founded in Great Britain in 1758.

But a real revolution in tourism is often credited to the Englishman Thomas Cook, who began packaging tourism. With assistance from the railroads, Cook would send tourists off on adventures, with the tour operator booking entire trains and hotels, allowing him to offer better prices than those that could be achieved by an individual. Cook was not the inventor of packaged tourism, but he became one of the most successful organizers of them and spurred on the concept of holiday-making.

20th century

In the first half of the 20th century, the new tourism and travel industry continued to grow, fueled in part with the mass production of buses and cars. But even then, travel remained largely a middle and upper class activity, with many in the laborer class unable to vacation due to financial constraints. This changed with the ascent of the Nazi regime in Germany in 1933. In part to develop support for the party, the Nazis established a recreational organization, "Kraft durch Freude" (KdF, which translates to Power through Joy). This became the largest trip operator in the world, with the Nazis building classless cruise ships able to send around 700,000 people out to sea and allowing the people of Germany to travel regardless of class.

Post-World War II, the improvements in air transport, further reduction in costs of travel, labor legislation, and a growth in social welfare led to a boom in tourism. Air travel especially allowed people to begin to reach faraway countries and areas with less time investments necessary for the travel. Mass tourism is generally considered to have been developed in the 1960s. The developments of smartphones and related applications, has made navigating a new country much easier than before, making travel and tourism ever more available to the average person.


Further Resources



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the Guardian
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