In November 2003 the last Concorde flew from New York to London, marking the end of an era and arguably the last peak of technological advancement in commercial travel. In 2011, NASA prepared to launch its last space shuttle, ending an era of over 30 years of space exploration, not quite beginning, but most famously recognised from the 1969 moon landing. Now, as less than 500 people have been into space, Virgin Galactic Space Travel, with a cost of over $250,000 per person, and over 700 people already booking a place to go to space, are advertising space holidays. So when and what caused travel to evolve so exponentially, opening tourist routes and accessible holidays for all?
Famously in the 3rd century BC, Hannibal marched to Italy with war elephants. Despite his best effort, elephants as a mode of transport did not take off, although this did not stop the growing tourist trade in Thailand and other countries to go on an elephant trek. Nevertheless the horse did succeed, which William the Conqueror infamously used to seal his victory in 1066, with the help of his superior cavalry. However, these methods of transport were all utilised in the field of war, and not by civilians.
Domesticated horses emerged in Britain in the early Bronze Age, from around 2000 BC, with horse ownership becoming widespread by the 12th century. This put them in direct competition with the ship, which had aided the gradual settlement of Oceania from about 1000 to 3000 BC. Nonetheless by the 17th century the rise of various naval powered nations, including the Vikings, the Chinese with the Zheng He voyages, and most notoriously European exploration had been seen. The ship then, arguably facilitated the greater discovery, mapping and conquering of various countries. Marco Polo in the 13th century, although not the first European to visit China, was the first to leave a detailed travel diary. Travelling by camel and boat, he eventually reached China, later inspiring Christopher Columbus in the 15th century to become an explorer, navigator and colonizer
As the industrial age began, so too did the development of steam powered transport. Richard Trevithick designed the first full scale working railway steam locomotive in 1804, but was largely unrecognised for his efforts. It was not until 1825 when George Stephenson developed the idea of the steam locomotive with its instalment on the first public steam railway in the world, the Stockton to Darlington route that steam railways took off. This led to steam locomotion’s widespread adoption. The Manchester to Liverpool line, was the first modern railway, and due to its competition with the canal system, displays many miraculous feats of engineering. The growing number of railway lines gradually replaced canals, due to their impracticality. Steam power also facilitated the advancement in ships, as clipper routes (very fast sailing ships) fell into disuse after the introduction of steam ships and the opening of the Suez and Panama canals in the 19th century.
Moreover, steam power led to a boom in holidaymakers. For the first time, working class families could afford to go on day trips to the seaside and other places. Before that, only the rich went on holiday. In the 16th and 17th century, this was mostly sons of rich families, after their education, going on the Grand Tour. Before the 16th century, people did not go on holiday, but travelled for work. It was only pilgrimage that could really be classified as travelling for other reasons. The traditional seaside holiday persisted until the 1960’s, when package holidays abroad began to be offered.
The early powered flights developed at the beginning of the 19th century, saw the dawn of technology that could make the world a smaller place for all. By World War II, the planes had advanced technologically. The planes were sleeker, with aluminium bodies and supercharged piston engines, as well as experimentation being carried out on jet engines during the war. The birth of the modern airplane began.
As men were jetted to the moon, average British families were taking their first package holiday abroad, using that most modern of invention, the plane. Throughout the years, air travel has advanced significantly, although the zeppelin was unfortunately left behind, leading to the budget airlines and ease of travel that we have today. As Concorde completed her last flight, has all this progress really made life better? Certainly sitting in a budget airline seat, feeling cramped and annoyed makes me wonder.