Travelers today are spoiled. At the click of a mouse, we can book a flight, snag the last room in that great hotel, and rustle up great recommendations for things to do from friends and strangers alike. Oh, and there’s GPS. And airplanes. And cell phones. And people who have gone before.
But it wasn’t always this easy.
A handful of history’s boldest travelers staged epic journeys that crossed new lands, broke cultural barriers, and revealed the radical diversity of the world. In doing so, these trailblazers confirmed that wanderlust is part of the human condition — and made us want to follow in their footsteps, and even blaze a few trails of our own.
Take Ibn Battuta, a 21-year-old Muslim scholar from 14th-century Morocco, who took literally the Prophet Muhammad’s charge to “seek knowledge, even as far as China” when he set out from Tangier to perform his first hajj in Mecca.
His journey didn’t end there. Battuta’s pilgrimage grew into a tour that would cover more than 40 countries on a modern map, leaving behind a dizzying oral history of three decades on the road in the Rihla (“Journey”).
Some of the travelers in our Famous Great Travelers Photo Gallery are household names. Others, not so much. And some of them are better known for other contributions to the world. But all of these intrepid travelers left the world a better place.
Who would you add to the list of great travelers — past or present? Tell us in the comments section below, and we might just add them to our gallery or do a special follow-up post to shine a light on your suggestions.
- Nat Geo Expeditions