Do you ever look out your airplane window at 34,000ft, sipping wine whilst enjoying the latest blockbuster, and think yourself lucky to be a 21st century traveller? You may wonder what it was like travelling many years ago, before the days of cheap flights, engines and even electricity. Well, it’s still possible to see the world in the style (or lack of style) of an ancient traveller. Here’s how:
OK, so this may not be the oldest form of travel, but less than 100 years ago freighter ships were often the only way of crossing the oceans. Known as “tramp steamers”, these ships carried mainly cargo but had a spare berth or two for passenger traffic. Of course, cargo ships still ply the seas but it is now harder, and more expensive, to travel this way. It is great fun though – and a unique way to see the world, especially from the bridge!
Around the time that intrepid travellers took to the seas on tramp ships, steam trains were a popular form of travel. Services such as the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express were for wealthy passengers only, much the same as they are today. However, trains such as these are no longer powered by steam. Apart from day-tripper trains found worldwide, including the UK, it’s no longer possible to travel overnight by steam train.
The idea of journeying to far-flung shores beneath sail and rigging was perhaps not as romantic as we may now believe. Travellers were exposed to dangers such as disease and shipwrecks as well as extremely uncomfortable living conditions. You’ll be glad to hear that you can now recreate such adventures in much more comfortable circumstances. Glide down the Nile in a felucca and be waited on hand and foot, or, for a proper splurge, board one of Star Clippers’s elegant vessels and enjoy 5-star treatment all the way.
Coach and horse
Criss-crossing Europe in a rickety coach was slow and often painful. Nevertheless, before the advent of the steam train, this was the most comfortable way to go. “Slow travel” is becoming a modern travel trend. This is the concept where taking your time to properly absorb the places through which you pass adds to the enjoyment of your holiday. In Ireland you can hire a horse and gypsy caravan to experience the Emerald Isle in the style of the days of yore, albeit with a few additional creature comforts.
No steam, no coach, no fancy accoutrements apart from a saddle. Traders, and a few hardy travellers, voyaged many thousands of miles on or besides the humble dromedary, camping out in the desert under a million brightly-burning stars. Head to a desert city such as Jaisalmer in India and you will be handed a headdress to protect you from the sun, the reins of an ill-tempered camel, and the opportunity to follow in the hoofsteps of your wandering ancestors.