CHARLOTTE, NC: Traveling today has become easier than ever before. Especially in the last two or three decades where technology has found their way into the logistical mainstream. Consider inventions like the Internet, cell phones, GPS, consolidated currencies (Euro), guided tours with mikes and headsets, online check-in, ATMs, high speed trains and Global Entry. Even fast food makes it easer for us to travel.
No longer do we have to be “out of touch” with non-traveling family members or our fellow travelers. Access to communications has simplified the process of travel to make each person more independent, flexible and comfortable.
Ahhh, but what about the days known as the “Golden Age” of travel?
Have you ever considered the major inventions and creations that made mass transportation a reality? Here are some travel innovations you might never have thought about.
Everyone knows the wheel was a major turning point in world history much like the printing press with moveable type and computers. Today, wheels have become so integrated into society, we barely consider the impact it had on civilization. Some historians believe that once but the concept became known, it spread throughout the world like wildfire.
If you ever watch movie, even a sci-fi flick set in the future, you will be amazed at how many actors must be proficient at riding a horse. Most experts believe the first domesticated horses appeared between 4000 and 6000 years ago in what we know today as Kazakhstan.
Virtually every aspect of human endeavor was affected from farming, transportation, hunting, exploration and warfare with the aid of equestrian skills.
Most of us have heard of the Bering Strait but in the days before the first compass, it was far more difficult for explorers to keep their “bearings straight.” The earliest compasses were used by the Chinese for locating sites for rituals rather than navigation. By 1000 A.D., some three thousand years later, Chinese sailors were able to travel as far as Arabia without getting lost.
Longboats made it possible for the Vikings to sail into daunting uncharted seas with relative ease. The boats were light, shallow-bottomed vessels that were flexible enough to allow the fierce marauders to not only navigate large expanses of ocean but also to travel up rivers in their newfound worlds.
One of the most important inventions in the world of global travel was the steam engine. James Watt gets the credit, but the development process took several centuries to achieve. With the creation of the steam engine, factories were powered as were weapons.
However, the two most significant developments as far as travel was concerned were locomotives which brought railroads into prominence as well as ship building that made transAtlantic sailings comfortable, convenient and luxurious. Interestingly enough, those two key methods of transportation are still with us today.
INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES:
What would Americans do without their automobiles? Where trains dominate transportation services in many other places around the world, the family car has long been the choice for Americans since the establishment of the production line by Henry Ford. When gasoline became the best source for fuel, the automobile became king in the United States.
We have never looked back.
Less than a decade after the Wright Brothers flew their historic flight at Kill Devils Hill in Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903, military forces in Europe and the U.S. began developing reconnaissance planes. Soon after that, Germany began building combat aircraft. Not much later, those planes were fighting crop disease as they became crop dusters.
In slightly more than a century, we now cross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in jets filled with 300 to 500 passengers and soon hypersonic flight may take to the skies at five times the speed of sound.
With the popularity of the motor-car came assembly lines which brought the price of an automobile into an affordable range for nearly every American family. It was not long before families had two-car garages and the open road revolutionized the “Sunday drive” along with bold new worlds of freedom and independence.
Back in the day, travelers’ pockets were full of cash. Thus making them ripe for robbers. Eventually traveler’s checks helped reduce some of the problems, but in the 1960’s credit cards changed the way we travel forever.
Not long after the introduction of the credit card came the ATM. Like the Euro, the ATM is seen as a contemporary innovation that has greatly minimized the need for carrying large amounts of money be it for business or pleasure.
In the early days of travel, major cities had hotels but consistent quality was always a challenge. With more people traveling, roadside inns found a niche to improve service and amenities followed by the evolution of the chain hotel which guaranteed a certain level of comfort and cleanliness. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Cesar Ritz, Franz-Josef Bucher and Heinrich Wirth, European hotels established new standards of service, dining and amenities that changed the landscape of accommodations forever.
We all laugh but when you think about first-time travelers who share a fear of language barriers and unknown food choices, fast food has played a significant role in making the world more palatable for those who fear venturing beyond their comfort zone. With familiar names like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Bojangles and the like now readily accessible just about anywhere in the world, skittish travelers know they can get food and drinks at an affordable price without having to worry about eating odd cultural culinary dishes.
You see travel should no longer strike fear into the heart of anyone.
One final tip
If you’re a novice traveler in another country and get lost, head to the railway station. There you will find English speaking assistance, ATMs, food, restrooms, information, brochures, lockers, taxis and even hotel reservations.
It may be inconvenient at first, but it’s all just part of the adventure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up