People have always traveled. In ancient times, people traveled from area to area to search for food or better living conditions. When the Roman Empire was at the peak of its power in 100 A.D., it built the first great system of roads connecting Rome to other cities in its vast empire. Constructed by and for the Roman troops, it was used mainly to transport goods between Rome and other cities. Eventually, inns and restaurants developed along the roads to accommodate the needs of travelers on long journeys.
As transportation improved, the number of travelers increased. Pilgrimages to holy sites became common during the Middle Ages. Later, those seeking adventure or business began to make voyages of hundreds or thousands of miles, and after a time even the idea of traveling simply for pleasure became accepted. For those with sufficient time and wealth, traveling provided a diversion.
Technology began to make travel easier and more affordable in the 19th century. Until then, much travel was done by horse and carriage or on foot. Starting in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, inventors developed the first steam-powered locomotives. In the United States, the first rail lines carried goods and passengers throughout the Atlantic states by the 1830s. In 1852, the first train reached Chicago, and the West and East Coasts were finally linked by a rail line in 1869, with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railway. The rise of the railroads increased the demand for hotels and inns.
New methods of travel made tourism possible for others beside the wealthy. The working class could afford train fare to the countryside or the big cities. For Americans, a trip to Europe became an achievable goal. Technology made travel easier and more affordable in the latter half of the 19th century, as steamships replaced sailing vessels on the world’s trade and passenger routes. Luxury ships carried passengers to and from Europe offering accommodations equal to those of fine hotels. The Queen Elizabeth was probably one of the best known and most traveled of the luxury liners. These vessels featured orchestras, ballrooms, dining halls, and private suites. Ship travel was intended to be leisurely; crossing the Atlantic by ship took two weeks.
A new age of travel began when the Wright brothers made the first successful powered flight of a heavier-than-air craft in 1903. Within a few decades, the airplane had secured its place as a vital means of transportation. As the airline industry developed, advancements in plane design allowed for a greater number of passengers to be transported on a greater number of routes. Small cities were able to establish airports for smaller vehicles, and large cities found themselves with large, international airports, multiple runways, and substantial air traffic.
Travel by automobile became especially popular after the end of World War II. Better production technology made automobiles more affordable. An increased number of families could buy cars, and with a healthy economy and growing amounts of leisure time, more people were traveling, dining out, and vacationing than ever before.
Due to the growing interest in and popularity of commercial travel, the need for people who could plan trips increased. Travel agents who knew which hotels were good, how to get reservations, and how to make travel plans, found themselves increasingly in demand. The booming travel industry relied on experts to steer tourists to their establishments.
The advent of travel services available on the Internet has had a major impact on the travel industry. Web sites such as Expedia.com, Priceline.com, and Travelocity.com allow travelers to do their research, plan their own trips, hunt for the best price, and book their own vacations. Most hotels, entertainment venues, and airlines maintain Web sites that allow direct contact with the public and offer much of the information traditionally provided by travel agents.
Another major development in the travel industry has been the need for heightened security in the face of terrorism. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, struck a blow against many travel-related businesses, particularly airlines, as tourists elected to drive rather than fly or chose to vacation closer to home. Much of that business has returned, but travel has been permanently changed. Air passengers and luggage are subjected to close scrutiny and thorough security checks before boarding.
Leisure activities and recreation began as a way for people to relax after completing daily chores or to celebrate a good harvest or cultural events. Ancient peoples, though, had little leisure time. Life was hard; most food, clothing, and other necessities were grown or handmade.
Organized sporting events can be traced back at least as far as the Olympic Games of Greece, first held in 776 B.C. The ancient Greeks held athletics on the same level of study and participation as music, art, and scholarship. Ancient sports such as wrestling, boxing, archery, and track and field are still enjoyed today, by both athletes and spectators. During the Middle Ages, the nobility enjoyed hunting, swordsmanship, and jousting while the common people played various ball games. Skill in all sports and athletic activity was considered a desirable attribute.
As society and technology progressed and people were able to enjoy increasingly more leisure time, other activities flourished. The perfect Renaissance man, an idea developed during the 14th century, excelled in music, art, and sports, as well as in academia. It was in the 20th century, though, that leisure time and recreational activities became an essential part of modern life. People still view professional athletes with high regard; but many also take part in regular, amateur athletic events or leagues. Today, facilities, organizations, and services exist for nearly every leisure activity.