The great Carl Sagan once said, “I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way”. He might not have quoted this in the strictest sense of travelling but there’s a ring in those words which unsettles that traveller within us, urging us to sought out the unknown. Here are some of those famous travellers who answered the call of wild inside them and set out to explore the world, little knowing that their journeys would eventually unite different cultures and civilizations.
1. Marco Polo
The Venetian merchant traveller whose famous work ‘Travels of Marco Polo’ recorded his epic travels and introduced the Europeans to the cultures of South Asia! Setting off with his father and uncle at the age of 17, Marco travelled through various kingdoms and wastelands for 24 years before he returned to Venice and documented his travels.
2. John Cabot
John Cabot or Giovanni Caboto as he’s fondly referred to in Italy, is famed for being the first European explorer to claim contact with the North American inhabitants. Supposedly, he landed on the island of Newfoundland in 1497 and led three expeditions to the American mainland, the success of which is still held in question by many exploration researchers.
3. Christopher Columbus
Famous for being the discoverer of America, Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, navigator and colonizer citizen of Genoa. Under the aegis of the monarchy of Spain, this man completed four long and arduous voyages across the world. In his last voyage on the seas and in a bid to discover India and the Japanese, he strayed away and landed in what is the present day America. Although not the first one to land in America, his voyage had a lasting European influence on the continent. Ambitious and determined, this explorer’s four voyages are a testament to his will and spirit that has inspired travellers all across.
4. Ibn Battuta
Generally considered to be the greatest travellers of all times, Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan explorer who is famous for his travel account called ‘Rihala’. Battuta travelled through the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and finally China for over forty years. It’s said that after he returned to Morocco more than a quarter of a century later, he had lost half his family. His comprehensive accounts of the places visited have guided historians as well as future travellers alike.
5. Amerigo Vespucci
This explorer discovered the new world of America along with Brazil and established them as large landmasses which had nothing to do with Asia. His four voyages spread across 5 years make him a legendary traveller that you should know of.
6. Xuanzang(Hsuan Tsang)
Chinese monk, scholar, and a famed translator, Xuanzang is famous in the South Asian history as the traveller who brought the great Indian and Chinese cultures in contact with each other. His claim to fame is the 17 year overland journey from China to the many kingdoms of the Indian subcontinent he took. This journey is supposedly the inspiration behind the novel “Journeys to the West”, written by Wu Chengen. Like all great souls, it’s rumoured that Xuanzang had a dream that convinced him to visit India. Following his heart, he covered an overland journey which made him one of the most famous travellers of history.
7. Ferdinand Magellan
This bold traveller and intrepid explorer from Portugal was behind the East Indies expeditions which finally inspired the first total circumnavigation of the globe. His voyages, which took him across the mighty Pacific paved way for further expeditions. The famous ‘Straits of Magellan’ is named after this voyager.
8. Bartolomeu Dias
A Portuguese explorer, Dias was the first among all the explorers of his age to undertake the arduous voyage across the African continent and the first to touch the Southernmost tip. Although he wanted to sail to India, his crew revolted and he had to sail back, incidentally discovering the Cape of Good Hope!
9. Jacques Cartier
Cartier was a very respected mariner who undertook the first European voyage to the far undiscovered land, what we now know as Canada! He was the first European to map the Canadian landmass while also brought along the French language, which to this day remains Canada’s second language.
Popularly known as the ‘Father of History’, this Greek historian, Heroditus, was one of the most travelled people of his age. His accounts give insights as he travels through Asia Minor, Greece, Rome and Egypt.
11. Vasco De Gama
A Portuguese traveller and explorer, Vasco De Gama was the first to reach the Indian shores, linking the Indian subcontinent with Europe by the sea route. A daunting voyage, his discovery of the sea route meant that the Europeans didn’t have to cross the Arabian Peninsula or the treacherous Mediterranean in order to spread out their empires. Gama opened up the ‘Spice Route’ when he landed in Calicut and established first contact with the golden Indian shore lands.
12. Captain James Cook
Captain Cook was an explorer, navigator, cartographer and a captain in the Royal Navy. His voyages led to the discovery of the East coast of Australia and the Hawaii. As a sailor who saw action in the seven years’ war, Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted territory of the globe and mapped islands from New Zealand to the Hawaii.