Defining travel

The history of travel dates back to the early epochs of Man. From trading ventures, tourist traffic in ancient Rome, pilgrimages to voyages of discovery and journeys to spas up to present-day tourism.

Travelling cannot only be defined as routes, means of transport and destination but also as a thirst for knowledge, freedom, sense of adventure and the eagerness to learn, discover and broaden one’s horizons.

Travel, movement and mobility are part of the essential activities of the human life. Whether we travel to other parts of the world, walk within our city or just move around a room, we all make journeys that are part of our life and that define us.

“Travel! The urge to travel is perhaps the finest and the most innocent of all the passions.” noted austrian poet Moritz Hartmann, France, 1851.

So, what does it mean to travel? What effect does a journey have on a traveller and to the way that humans perceive their place in the world? Does it matter where and how one travels?

The questions above are essential in the quest of understanding the human condition in relation to the place, to other people and to our past. They help us understand what is the role of mobility as an inherited activity of the human nature and help us define the individual in relation to travel and the collective identity of travelling.

From ancient till the modern times, travel and tourism are and have been an important part of our life and society.

For the ancients, travel meant “an explication of human fact and necessity”, often the journey that were to be made were decreed by the gods, it was a journey in which the traveller was tested and transformed by the whole experience.

For the modern people, travel is an “expression of freedom and an escape from necessity and purpose”.

In “A phenomenology of tourist experiences” Erik Cohen suggests that there are five types of tourists and touristic experiences.

Contemporary studies of tourism see the tourist experience as either something essentially spurious and superficial, an extension of an alienated world, or as a serious search for authenticity, an effort to escape from an alienated world. It is argued that neither of these views is universally valid. A more discriminating distinction between five types of tourist experiences is proposed, based on the place and significance of tourist experience in the total world-view of tourists, their relationship to a perceived `center’ and the location of that center in relation to the society in which the tourist lives. It is proposed that the resulting continuum of types of tourist experience is both more comprehensive than alternative conceptual frameworks and capable of reconciling and integrating the conflicting interpretations arising from earlier studies.

We therefore have as fallows:

The “recreational mode”, for this type of traveller, the travel is a form of entertainment and the authenticity of the experience is irrelevant.

The “diversionary mode”, a mere escape from the boredom and meaningless of routine life.

The “experiential mode”, which represents the tourist that looks for meaning outside of the home society by experiencing authenticity in the lives of others.

The “experimental mode”, represents the tourist that seeks authenticity, but unlike the experiential tourist, which is just satisfied with observing, the experimental tourist participates in the different alternative societies encountered in the search for personal meaning.

Last but not least, the “existential mode” is the one in which the traveller goes through a kind of conversion experience as a result of travel and switches world. This change can be temporarily or permanently and it can be compared to a religious pilgrim.


Roberson, Susan L.. Defining travel: diverse visions. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001. Print.

Löschburg, Winfried, and R. Jena. A history of travel: Edition Leipzig, english version. London: George Prior, 1979. Print.

potography via handcarryonly


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