Not very long ago travelling about 20 miles from where you lived was considered to be an amazing feat. Even if you could manage to find your way safely there and back and you could walk at about 3 miles per hour, it would obviously take you at least 7 hours non-stop each way. That is if there was a good track for you to follow.
Travelling across country would have been a much more difficult prospect. So a more realistic travelling speed might have been half of that. In which case, a journey of 20 miles could have been split into a 2 day journey of approximately 7 hours each day. Still a very exhausting journey for most people. More likely, the journey would have taken about 4 days, allowing for rest periods and stopping for refreshments and sleeping. A round trip of 8 days, just for travelling to a village 20 miles away and back.
You would have to have a very important reason to expend that much time and energy. And considering the Roman Armies of the past would march at roughly 3 miles per hour and they had good roads to travel on, this estimate for ordinary citizens, no matter how fit, is still probably too optimistic.
So it’s not surprising, therefore, that most people did not venture very far from where they lived. It’s not very likely that they considered journeys like this as ‘Travel and Leisure’!
What a contrast to today’s average traveller! Ten times the 20 miles mentioned above, i.e. 200 miles, can be achieved in around 3 hours by car and even less by train or plane! With far less energy expended by the traveller. Although, when watching people who have been sitting in a plane or train for hours getting off at the airport or station, you might be forgiven for thinking that they had been working really hard for the whole journey!
Today, travel is often for leisure, pure and simple. As we set off on holidays to parts of the world that didn’t even exist as far as our neighbours of the past were concerned, we are beset now by afflictions such as ‘jet lag’, which have taken over from the purely physical aspects of travelling. Having to spend perhaps 24 hours on a plane, drinking, eating, reading, talking or sleeping seems to be far more exhausting for today’s traveller than the ‘obviously’ far easier task of walking for 4 days through often unwelcoming terrain endured by our ancestors!
But now we can sit back in our own armchairs, in front of our own fire places, eating our very own toast and jam while we sip our cup of piping hot tea and take a virtual journey to many countries of the world. The wonders of science and in particular, photography, have made our journey to many parts of the world as easy as clicking a button to control our computer. While our great-grandparents could only dream of distant lands, we can stay in our own homes and visit those lands. When you think about what the eye sees and what it transmits to the brain, it’s only our other senses that tell us that we have not really been to the places we see in films, etc. But the images we see can stay with us as if we had actually been there.