The Journey: Understanding Why People Travel

The Journey: Understanding Why People Travel

Aaron Belyea

Travel is a timeless endeavour, weaving its way through the fabric of human history. From the earliest nomadic tribes to today's globe-trotting adventurers, the reasons behind our journeys have evolved, yet the core motivations remain deeply rooted in our nature. Let's explore the fascinating history of travel, weigh its pros and cons, and delve into the scientific benefits that make travelling such a rewarding experience.

A Brief History of Travel

  • Ancient Nomads: The earliest humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers who travelled to find food and resources. This wanderlust was driven by survival, not leisure.
  • Trade and Exploration: With the advent of agriculture, permanent settlements emerged. However, the desire to explore persisted, leading to trade routes such as the Silk Road, a path of adventure and discovery that connected the East and West. Explorers like Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta expanded the horizons of their time, driven by curiosity and the thrill of the unknown.
  • Religious Pilgrimages: Throughout history, people have travelled for spiritual reasons. Pilgrimages to sacred sites like Mecca, Jerusalem, and Varanasi reflect the deep connection between travel and religious devotion.
  • The Grand Tour: In the 17th and 18th centuries, the European elite embarked on the 'Grand Tour,' a journey across Europe to experience the continent's art, culture, and history. This was not just a leisurely trip but an early form of educational travel aimed at broadening the mind and deepening cultural understanding.
  • Modern Tourism: The Industrial Revolution, a period of significant industrial, technological, and economic change that began in the late 18th century, brought about advances in transportation, making travel more accessible. The invention of steam-powered ships and trains, for instance, revolutionized long-distance travel. The 20th century saw the rise of mass tourism, with people travelling for leisure, adventure, and relaxation.

Pros and Cons of Travel


  • Cultural Exposure: Travel exposes you to new cultures, traditions, and perspectives, enriching your world understanding.
  • Personal Growth: Navigating new environments isn't just about survival, it's about thriving. It fosters independence, resilience, and problem-solving skills, shaping you into a more adaptable and confident individual. It's a journey of self-discovery and personal growth that only travel can offer.
  • Relaxation and Recreation: Travel offers a break from daily routines, reducing stress and rejuvenating the mind and body.
  • Social Connections: Meeting new people and forming friendships across the globe broadens your social network.
  • Education: Experiencing historical sites, museums, and natural wonders provides practical knowledge that can't be learned from books alone.


  • Cost: Travel can be expensive, covering transportation, accommodation, food, and activities. If cost is a barrier, try exploring the local area around you! 
  • Health Risks: Exposure to unfamiliar diseases and health conditions can be a concern. Before travelling abroad, consider consultation with a health professional just in case.  
  • Environmental Impact: Travel, especially air travel, contributes significantly to carbon emissions and environmental degradation. For instance, a single round-trip flight from New York to London can produce about 1.2 metric tons of CO2 per passenger, which is equivalent to driving a car for about 3,000 miles. Alternatives and suggestions to travelling far include travelling by another means when possible, travelling more local and planning out trips abroad so that you get the most out of the trip while you're there.
  • Safety Concerns: Traveling to unfamiliar places can pose crime-related risks, political instability, and natural disasters. Always research the country and culture especially if it's off-resort travelling.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Understanding and respecting local customs and traditions is crucial during travel. This practice, known as cultural sensitivity, can help avoid uncomfortable or offensive situations and foster positive interactions with the local community. People are generally accepting. Get used to being aware of your surroundings and how your actions can affect others.

The Science-Backed Benefits of Travel

  • Stress Reduction: Studies show that travel can lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, leading to improved mood and relaxation. For instance, a study published in the reputable 'Journal of Travel Research' in 2013 found that people who took vacations had lower stress levels and felt more satisfied with their lives.
  • Enhanced Creativity: Exposure to new cultures and environments stimulates the brain, fostering creativity and problem-solving skills. Neuropsychologists suggest that diverse experiences enhance cognitive flexibility.
  • Improved Heart Health: Traveling isn't just a break from routine, it's a boost for your heart. It promotes cardiovascular health, especially when it involves physical activities like walking or hiking. So, when you're out exploring the world, you're also taking care of your heart.
  • Boosted Immune System: Moderate exposure to new environments and microbes can strengthen the immune system, making you more resilient to illnesses.
  • Mental Health Benefits: Travel has been linked to decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, providing a break from routine and an opportunity for cognitive rejuvenation.
  • Enhanced Cognitive Function: Learning new languages, navigating unfamiliar places, and engaging in novel activities keep the brain active and improve cognitive function.
  • Increased Physical Activity: Exploring new places often involves walking, hiking, and other forms of exercise, promoting overall physical health.
  • Improved Sleep Patterns: A break from daily stressors and exposure to natural environments can enhance sleep quality and help reset circadian rhythms.
  • Strengthened Relationships: Shared travel experiences, such as hiking the Inca Trail in Peru or exploring the ancient ruins of Rome, can create lasting memories and strengthen bonds with friends and family, fostering closer and more meaningful relationships.
  • Longevity: Studies suggest that people who travel more frequently have a lower risk of heart disease and tend to live longer healthier lives.

Travel is more than just a physical journey; it explores the mind, body, and soul. From its historical roots in survival and trade to modern pursuits of leisure and personal growth, the reasons people travel are as diverse as the destinations they visit. While travel comes with challenges, the scientifically backed benefits make it a rewarding endeavour. So, pack your bags, open your mind, and embark on a journey that promises not just new sights but a new perspective on life itself.


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