Before the advent of modern-era jet-set travel age, few keen explorers ventured out to see, experience and document the world as they witnessed it…
They were the first travellers and pioneers, who opened up the world, documented the fascinating geography, history, economy, society and culture; noted the intriguing customs and traditions and most of all; shared their wisdom with the world!
How did they travel in the bygone era? What did they experience during their travels? How does it feel to travel the world with no strings attached? If these are the questions which you ponder while thinking about Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta and Cristopher Columbus, then continue to read and travel along the legendary routes!
Abu Abdullah Mohammad Ibn Battuta left behind the earthy comforts of his hometown of Tangiers at the age of 21 in circa 1325. What started as a pilgrimage to Mecca led to over 30 years of intensive travel around the world and culminated in an epic travelogue – “Rihala”!
Countries Travelled: Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Mali, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, India, Malaysia and China.
In the mid-13th century, a 20-year-old Marco Polo arrived in the royal court of Kublai Khan in China, traversing from glorious Venice to Istanbul and using the overland silk route through the modern day Central Asia countries to China. 16 years later, Marco Polo returned to Venice but not a single word of his travel was believed back then, but fortunately his works narrowed the gap between West and East and his journeys culminated in “The Travels of Marco Polo”!
Countries Travelled: Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Iran, India and China
The spread of an empire, a new shipping route to the lucrative spice market of India and the urge to spread the message of Christianity leads to four voyages of Cristopher Columbus under the patronage of Spanish Royal Crown. The proposed shipping route to India didn’t materialise, instead it opened up the American continents and Caribbean islands for an age of Spanish conquistadores and heralded the age of imperialism.
Countries Travelled: Caribbean Islands (Haiti, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago), Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Honduras and Panama.
Vasco Da Gama
Necessity is the mother of invention! When the search for a shipping route to the lucrative spice market of India became desperate, Vasco da Gama sailed south in the Atlantic Ocean. Vasco da Gama passed West Africa and founded the Cape of Good Hope, brushed aside East Africa and landed up in Goa. The discovery of shipping lane to India initiated the age of exploration, golden period of Portugal and removed the Arab monopoly of the spice trade.
Countries Travelled: Portugal, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and India
On 10 August 1519, Magellan sailed out of Seville along with five ships and more than 230 crews. The idea of the expedition was to sail west of Cape Horn, the southernmost point of South America and circumnavigate the earth and find the famed spice rich island of Maluku, modern day Indonesia. His fleet sailed in the waters of Straits of Magellan, past the Cape Horn and arrived in the French Polynesia, Guam and Philippines, where he lost his life during clashes with the natives. His expedition reached modern-day Indonesia and sailed past the Cape of Good Hope to return to Seville.
Countries Travelled: Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, French Polynesia, Guam, Philippines and Indonesia
Captain James Cook
Captain James Cook is credited with connecting the far-fetched Pacific Islands of Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia with the mainstream. During his three expedition of the Pacific, he explored more of the earth’s surface than any other explorer in the history. He became the first European person to land in New Zealand and Australia, explored the continent of Antarctica and the wilderness of Alaska and the Artic belt.
Countries Travelled: Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, The Cook Islands, Tonga, Easter Island, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Hawaii.
Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic at the age of 34. Five years later, on 21st May 1937, she embarked on a journey to become the first woman to navigate the world with a navigator, Fred Noonan. She made a monumental journey of 35,000km that would take her from US to New Guinea via South America, Africa, India, Southeast Asia and the vast Pacific. However, on her last leg of journey, the plane disappeared leaving no trace of the aviator. What happened to her is now part of conspiracy theories!
Countries Travelled: USA, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Suriname, Brazil, Senegal, Mali, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Guinea
Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, popularly known as Che Guevara, an iconic revolutionary leader embarked upon a motorcycle journey with his friend Alberto Granda. The pair traversed 8000 km across the vast stretches of South America till Florida, USA on a battered Norton motorcycle. The journey became his legendary memoir known as “The Motorcycle Diaries.”
Countries Travelled: Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, USA, Panama
Twentieth century explorer and the first person to climb Mount Everest, Edmund Hillary was also a legendary explorer, adventure enthusiast and a community developer. He joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force and suffered a serious burn injury in a boat mishap; the accident motivated him to scale Mount Everest. He didn’t stop until he became the first person to stand on both North and South Pole, an incredible achievement.
Countries Travelled: Nepal, Antarctica, North Pole
Burke & Wills
Robert O’Hara Burke and William Wills led an expedition across Australia in 1860 with the intent of becoming the first group to achieve the feat. They started from Melbourne and travelled to Menindee, Coopers Creek and Innamicka before reaching the northern-most point of Flinders River. On the return journey, the duo perished on the banks of Copper Creek.
Country Travelled: Australia