When we embark on a backpacking trip, taking only what we need for weeks or months, we are really doing no different than some of the world’s earliest explorers. Discovering cultures, new lands, languages and meeting new people, essentially “travelling” has been done for centuries upon centuries. But who started it all?
Whether it’s through ancient Aztec communities with Cortes or sailing through the North West Passage with Roald Amundsen, discovering the New World with Columbus or the rugged Rockies with Lewis and Clarke. We are continuously inspired by travellers from the past that chartered new territories and changed the way we move today. Travel has come a long way since ships sailing the Seven Seas in search of a new route to the Orient. Here’s a look at 7 of the world’s greatest and most influential travellers, where they went and what they discovered.
Will you do the same?
- Thomas Cook – Did you ever wonder who was the man behind Thomas Cook Airlines? He single-handedly changed how we travel in the modern world. He made it possible for middle-class and working-class travellers to move cheaply around Europe and eventually the world. He started taking travellers on train excursions for leisure, first to London then Paris and beyond! Cook also had an idea that would effect the masses and how we travel today, traveller’s checks.
>> flights to Leicester, to see where Thomas Cook started it all
- Richard Burton – Trained in England as a translator, ethnologist and linguist, Burton set out to discover Mecca, totally in disguise in the 19th century. He explored Africa’s great lakes with John Hanning Speke in search of the source of the Nile. He is also known for his translation of Thousand and one Nights and the Kama Sutra. He is above all one of the most famous members of the Royal Geographical Society.
>> flights to Tanzania, to visit Lake Victoria, the source of the great Nile
- Marco Polo – Venetian born, Marco Polo is undoubtedly the most famous explorer in history. He set out for China in the 1270s. He travelled through Persia, Afghanistan, along the Silk Road all the way to what is now Beijing. He led missions to India, Burma and other parts of China. He returned to Venice and while being captured he met a writer who then recorded his stories and journeys on paper, to become The Travels of Marco Polo.
>> flights to Beijing, to visit the Lugou Brigde, considered the finest in China by Marco Polo
- John Cabot – Giovanni Caboto, as he is known in his homeland of Italy, is known for his exploration of North America in the last 1400s. He is considered the first to explore Canada since the Norse Vikings in the 11th century. First landing in Newfoundland, it is believed he explored that part of the coast, planted an English flag into the ground and returned via Brittany to Bristol. He returned a second time to explore from Baffin Island to Maryland, giving England claim to colonize the country.
>> flights to St. John’s, where Cabot first stepped onto Canadian soil
- Roald Amundsen – The first exhibition this Norwegian sailor made was to find the North West Passage in the early 1900s. First sought after by Cortes in the 1500s but never found, Amundsen was determined. His trip began at Baffin Bay and headed west to to Gjoa Haven where he stayed an entire year. Heading south of Victoria Island, they reached the northern shore of Alaska two years after first setting out. Amundsen was also the first person to reach the South Pole and the first to fly over the North Pole.
>> flights to Alaska, where Amundsen finished his journey
- Lewis and Clarke -When the American government bought the western part of the USA from France in the 1800s, they were curious what exactly they had bought. Thus Captain Mariwether Lewis and William Clark set out on an expedition to find out. Starting up the Missouri River, they travelled through North Dakota, crossed the Continental Divide and followed Clearwater and Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean, eventually to Astoria, Oregon. On the way home, they split to cover more territory and met again at Yellowstone River. It took 28 months to make the first great American “road trip”.
>> flights to Seattle, to visit Lewis & Clarke Historical Park
- Charles Darwin – Although famous for his Theory of Evolution and On the Origin of Species, Darwin was also a great explorer. He charted the coastline of South America on the HMS Beagle for five years during which time he collected geology and natural history samples. He travelled from Portsmouth in England to Santiago, Cape Verde onto Brazil, Patagonia, the Galapagos Islands, the southern part of Australia and Cape Town in South Africa.
>> flights to Johannesburg, to see the Cradle of Humankind
- Hernan Cortes – After hearing of Columbus’ discovery of the New World, Cortes quickly left Spain in the 1500s with the plan of being a colonist in the Dominican Republic. He was part of the conquest of Cuba and Mexico where he eventually conquered the entire Aztec Empire.
>> flights to Havana, where Cortes planned his expedition into Mexico
Img: sizeight / flickr cc