Travel Culture: Essays on What Makes Us Go

By Carol Traynor Williams | Go to book overview

Introduction

CAROL TRAYNOR WILLIAMS

HUMAN HISTORY IS the story of a traveler, an Odysseus. In The Songlines, his narrative of traveling Australia to know its Aborigines, Bruce Chatwin says that travel is innate because humankind first evolved as hunters walking through the grasslands. And, like our history as a whole, the history of travel is a tale of ever growing democratization. The first humans who sallied forth from the mouth of the cave started a stream of us who have caught the caravan. We have looked for new herds, fresh soil, free land (or a free land), a mate not incestuous; we have searched fearfully for warmth, water, safety from the wargus--in Middle Latin, wargus is both the wolf and the stranger--but we have also moved out curiously, for new tribes to trade with, for novel congress. We have quested for the Grail and for gold, but also just for the sight around the bend. And that surprise has been searched for often enough, and by all kinds of men and women, from the most ancient times, so that we can be sure that to move and to change are human habits, as inborn as the other habit: to settle, to nest. 1

In the last half of the twentieth century, after the end of World War II, democracy and travel have run rampant. Ironically, war has been the great travel opportunity for the average Joe. Technology, especially of transportation and communication, also spurs travel, but these technologies grow from war (or "peace-keeping" missions). The Civil War uprooted and urbanized rural and small-town America. How would we keep them down on the farm after they had seen "Paree"? the World War I song asked, and World War II "expatriated" fourteen million American men and women. The Vietnam War lies behind the current boom in Asian travel. In the wake of post-World War II wealth, first in the United States and then worldwide, churned travel or, more democratically, tourism. As the world traveled, willy nilly and unwitting of itself as sea changer, it slowly grew more "international": from hamburgers to Wimpy's hamburgers in old Paris; from hamburgers to the French dip, tacos, sushi, tapas, and so on. In the early 1960s, when I crossed the Appalachians,

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