When you mix and muddle the thrill of unbridled wanderlust with the fascinating history of places and its people, magic happens. For those who spend hours planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip each year, it’s no secret that the world’s most famous places sit on so many of our bucket list’s because of their awe-inspiring backstories.
Journey: An Illustrated History of Travel (DK Publishing, 2017), is the perfect gift for the travel nerd and history buff on your holiday hit list. This must-have travel tome offers a lavishly illustrated account of human journeys from The Ancient World to The Age of Flight. Flip through its glossy pages and you’ll learn that human journeys have arisen from all manner of impulse, from migration and the search of food, to religious pilgrimages, trade, scientific discovery, or simply the quest for adventure. You’ll discover biographies of conquerors, explorers, and travellers, stories of scientific discovery and technological innovation, stunning works of art, and catalogues of travel-related memorabilia.
Ever since 2006 I’ve been embarking on my own colourful journey: beginning as a backpacker on a budget, launching a travel blog to document my adventures, acting as a travel journalist for several print publications, and photo-shooting the worlds most luxurious hotels while flying to the farthest reaches of the globe to explore ancient temples and indigenous cultures.
The spellbinding stories in Journey are broken down into seven chapters which explore the history of human movement as catalogued through major events and technological advances. I read the book from cover to cover, reminiscing over my own memorable moments from the far reaches of Canada’s pioneering Arctic to dry desert temples erected by the ancients in Egypt.
Here are seven of my most memorable travel moments inspired by each fact-filled chapter in Journey.
The Ancient World: 3000 BCE-400CE
The Nile River was the lifeblood of ancient Egypt, providing water for cooking, drinking and cleaning, and irrigation to farmers. Most importantly The Nile was the highway of Egypt, the main mode of communication that connected the country from southern Aswan to the pretty palaces of Alexandria. Today the best way to explore the treasures of ancient Egypt is on a luxurious Nile cruise, which typically sails from Luxor to Aswan, making daily stops at the most famous ancient Egyptian temples.
Trade and Conquest: 400-1400
The Vikings hailed from present day Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) yet also made their mark on the remote island of Iceland and Canada’s own Newfoundland. In the 8th century shipbuilders throughout Scandinavia had developed the longship – a fast, shallow-draft war vessel capable of sailing on both seas and rivers. Viking armies became known for their raiding tendencies, conquering new land by pillaging communities from the nearby British Isles, to the Iberian Peninsula and even Northern Africa. If you’re keen to dig deeper, Oslo
has the world’s best viking ship museum, while Reykjavik
in Iceland has erected a now iconic modernist sculpture to honour their adventurers.
The Age of Discovery: 1400-1600
In the 16th century, several explorers tried to find a northern passage from Europe to the spice markets of Asia. Although the route promised a shortcut, the journey around Africa, it was fraught with danger. Harrowing stories that detail the exploration of Canada’s Arctic have always fascinated me. Book yourself on an epic journey to Manitoba’s tiny town of Churchill, and you’ll come face-to-face with wild belugas and polar bears. A highlight for history buffs is a wander through The Prince of Wales Fort which, began as a log fort built in 1717 by James Knight. It was situated on the west bank of the Churchill River to protect and control the Hudson’s Bay Company’s interests in the fur trade.
The Age of Empires: 1600-1800
There have been many reasons for mankind’s constant voyaging, but in the exploration of the Southeast Asian seas there was one goal above all, the quest to find the source of the treasure of the age – spice and tea. The British found both in India, scooping up valuable cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and pepper, and the Queen’s favourite loose leaf tea which were sold at an extravagant premium in London’s fancy hotels. Foodies keen to get a taste of history head to the jaw-dropping Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai for High Tea
. The hotel’s tea room bustles each afternoon as dainty tea cups are sipped alongside classic sweet English pastries and Bombay’s favourite spicy street foods.
The Age of Steam: 1800-1900
Until the middle of the 19th century, hotels in the modern sense were rare. Travellers generally stayed in boarding houses or rented lodgings in cities and put up at coaching inns while on the road. As the number of travellers increased (thanks to the steam-powered train engine) and stays became shorter, it became impractical to rent lodgings – and so it was that grand and luxurious hotels were born. The epic castle-like hotels that were built across Canada by Canadian Pacific Railway still to this day are destinations in their own right.
Keen to explore Canada while stepping back in time? It’s easy to organize a cross-country adventure by hopping on Via Rail and making stops at Fairmont’s iconic hotels. Grab a sip at the Royal York’s historic Library Bar before settling in a first class cabin bound for Vancouver. Swoon in Alberta at Jasper Park Lodge, the Banff Springs Hotel and postcard-perfect Lake Louise and you’ll see how train travel made accessing Canada’s most scenic landscapes a breeze.
The Golden Age of Travel: 1880-1939
The end of the 19th century marked the beginning of a golden age of sea travel. Ships became bigger and even more luxurious, and more people voyaged greater distances around the world than ever before. The Titanic is most certainly the most famous of these floating five-star hotels and there’s no better place to learn about the history of the infamous ship than at Titanic Belfast
. Northern Ireland’s top museum sits directly on the site where the titanic was constructed and offers visitors a fascinating education via interactive displays, world-class multi-media experiences and never-before-seen artifacts.
The Age of Flight: 1939-present
Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl went to extreme lengths to prove his theories of migration, most famously sailing a handmade raft from South America to Polynesia. After 1010 days at sea, the Kon-Tiki struck a coral reef and was beached on an uninhabited islet off Raroia atoll in French Polynesia (travelling an astonishing 7,000km!) Heyerdahl’s expedition successfully demonstrated that South American peoples could have journeyed to the islands of the South Pacific by balsa raft. Subsequent DNA tests have shown that Polynesian people are, in fact, of Asian descent.
Today, the Polynesian islands (faves including Fiji, Tahiti and Hawaii) are more accessible than ever thanks to technological advances in the aviation industry. These exotic islands are now a must-do for honeymooners, so treat yourself to a luxurious holiday at the Four Seasons Bora Bora
, and you’ll find yourself a hero after braving the three flights from Toronto to Tahiti’s most celebrated island paradise (jet-lagging on hauls from Toronto-LA-Papeete-Bora Bora).