Inspiration to travel can come from anywhere and just about anyone. While you can’t discount the powerful influence of family and friends, many of us have been eager to explore the world, encouraged indirectly by these unintended travel icons. These figures are famous for a number of accomplishments in various fields and have fed our collective consciousness to see the world around us.
1. Gene Roddenberry
The father or Star Trek taught us to go boldly where no one had gone before. More so than the technology or the exploration of the universe, Star Trek is about examining cultures, and learning ultimately about ourselves as a species. Star Trek has taught millions that you don’t need to travel light years to intergalactic destinations to do that, while at the same time has us yearning to see the final frontier.
2. Mahatma Ghandi
Read Ghandi: An Autobiography and you’ll discover on his first trips to South Africa Ghandi brought almost nothing with him. A minimalist, he spent a great deal of thought and time trying to reduce his worldly possessions. It was a process well illustrated during his preparation for his first international trip and one many travelers can relate to.
3. Dian Fossey
Zoologist Fossey spent close to 20 years studying gorillas in the mountain forests of Rwanda and was staunchly against many aspects of tourism (because of the ill effects for gorillas) – making her an unlikely travel hero. While gorilla tours remain controversial, her life, work, conservation efforts, and to some extent Gorillas In The Mist has encouraged many travelers to realize their impact on the world.
4. Margaret Mead
This anthropologist’s famous book, Coming Of Age In Samoa, challenged what universal human practices were and showed what we consider as “normal” varies from culture to culture. Many travelers have also come to see that there isn’t one “right” or “standard” culture or belief system, but rather, that humanity is defined by the varieties in all of them.
5. Uncle Traveling Matt
Little did this Fraggle know that he would be the first trailblazer many children would meet during the 80s. He is even the famous face of Nomadic Matt on Twitter. While he eventually did return home for good, the ever clumsy, not-so-perceptive Uncle Traveling Matt’s long-term jaunt into “outer space” left many kids dreaming about exploring the world one day.
6. Charles Darwin
He’s the reason the Galapagos Islands are so incredibly popular with tourists – Darwin visited the islands on his 5 year voyage around the world by boat on the HMS Beagle. During that time (1831-1836), Darwin charted lands, explored cultures, and documented many plants and animals on one of the most famous round-the-world trips ever.
7. Christiane Amanpour
Although she’s often seen reporting from war zones and many of the most dangerous places in the world, Amanpour’s nearly 30 years as a foreign correspondent has shown many travelers to look beyond the headlines.
8. Ewan McGregor And Charlie Boorman
Yes, they have motorcycled around the world, then from London to Cape Town, and the entire Americas as well and wrote one of the great motorcycle travel books. That still, it’s not the kind of adventure you would expect from two actors, who took off on a career break to follow their dreams.
9. RTWers and You
Most people think that traveling around the world is insane, impossible, or inconceivable – yet there are RTWers and many world travelers on all kinds of budgets, with and without kids, and those who travel with their pets. Every trip you take, even if you’re the first person in your family to travel abroad, inspires and shows those around you how to overcome the obstacles and travel the world.
You are the biggest influence and whether you’ve got support or not can show those closest to you that travel isn’t inconsequential. The names on this list didn’t set out to be trailblazers but ending up doing just that. You may not realize it but you can or might already be someone else’s unorthodox travel hero.
[photos by: sketchy record (Ghandi statue), Lukas Vermeer (Rwanda forest), celerrimus (Charles Darwin statue), WITNESS.org (Christiane Amanpour), Mandy Seyfang (Long Way Down), Fighting Tiger (pointing at self)]
What a cool idea for a post! It’s an aspect we forget I think, having a travel hero, but having a source of inspiration or model can do wonders towards motivating travel.
Thanks Suzy. It all starts with that spark at some point doesn’t it 🙂
Fun post! I so agree with your point that every journey can inspire others and this has been so true for us. We were inspired by other world travelers, especially the Terhorsts that retired at 35 and have been traveling non-stop for over 20 years.
They did not have any kids, but we thought we could do the same even as a family, so we have been traveling the world non-stop since 2006 with no plans to stop. Now we have inspired many with and without kids to travel.
I love how the inspiration is contagious! I think not only for travel, but my conquering ANY “impossible” dream.
I’ve found for everything we think is difficult or impossible, there’s someone who’s done it and under more difficult circumstances and that the path to every dreams starts with small but steady steps.
Love that you included Ewan and Charley, I thought their show was great because it also highlighted the rough patches, not the scandalous tv created ones but simply getting irritated and fighting on the road.
My favorite part too! A lot of people felt it was annoying but I thought it showed what most people would have gone through. It was real which was great.
I love that you included such an eclectic mix of inspiration – mad props to you for putting both Gandhi and Uncle Traveling Matt in the same post 🙂 Fantastic list Anil!
haha, he’s an influential Fraggle!
Big votes on Gandhi. A very eclectic list. I, too, thought the Ewan McGregor/Charlie Boorman was a unfiltered way to show traveling with a friend. Or in general. And thanks for including us. 🙂
Ghandi’s autobiography is one of the best books I’ve ever read, I highly recommend it. Do you have a Kindle or Nook yet – would be perfect for your traveling-light obsession!
I like this!I’m glad you included Margaret Mead, the archetypical solo female traveler.
My personal travel heroes (who I’ve considered posting about at some point) are John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain. All great American writers whose philosophies and writings are very inspiring to THIS traveler.
Thanks Stephanie, I really like Margaret Mead – she didn’t take crap from anyone. My kind of woman. Thanks for sharing your inspirations as well 🙂
Excellent! I had no idea that was where Matt got that pic, I’ve never heard of Travelling Uncle Matt! Great concept, well executed. 5-stars!
hah no way, guess the Fraggles missed you 🙂
Just had one of those “ah HA!” moments… great post.
Great post Anil! I had never considered a lot of these people to be travel heroes before but you definitely changed my mind. Darwin, has always been a big hero of mine though… oh how I long to visit the Galapagos islands.
Your post was one of my favourite travel reads for my Friday Five segment this week.
Thanks for making me feel like I might be a travel hero too!
You never know who’s looking up to you 🙂 Thanks for including me in your post!
I’ve always wanted to go on a cross country motorcycle tour, and the two TV series that Euan and Charlie sealed the deal! They’re brilliant TV series and well worth the time it takes to watch them. They’re full of great footage and they do an excellent job of interacting with locals along the way.
I think maybe I need to watch the TV series. I read the book and while the travel was nice I thought the writing was a bit lacklustre. I found Ewan especially to be disappointingly whiny… (and I loved him so much before 🙁 ) was he like that in the TV series? Maybe he comes across better in film.
I liked the book better, although the Ukraine scenes in the film version were great. It was nice to put some faces to the names in that part of the story.
I thought the first series far more natural and better through seriously difficult country in East Russia and Mongolia. I thought the second was more staged and seemed to be a rush to get to South Africa with all the stops stage-managed. Charlie Boorman did a thrid series where he gets from London to Sydney via all kinds of transport but I thought that wasn’t as good as the other two.
Ahhhhhh…. Gene Roddenberry! So glad you had it at no 1 🙂
Trek has a special place in my heart 🙂
🙂 really inspiring… hopefully in two years time i can break freefrom this monotonous life that i went back to… 🙂
traveling doesnt just let us see things outside our home country, it opens up our mind to endless possibilities 🙂
I hope so too Flip!
Excellent idea Anil.
And I do think that in the end, other travelers do provide that last piece of motivation that many people need to get started. After all, communicating with people that we can easily relate to, who grew up in similar situations as ourselves, and learning how they were able to achieve their travel goals, is about as powerful a motivational tool as it gets.
And I also give two thumbs up for Ghandi’s autobiography. One of my favorite reads as well.
I think that’s why many travel shows are so popular and probably blogs as well. We want to feel like the people doing these extraordinary things are similar enough to us that we can do it. It’s gets rid of many excuses people often make to put things off indefinitely.
A great and unexpected list! For me…I have a very strange travel hero – Mark Burnett of reality television fame. I started watching his EcoChallenge races one day and was amazed at the places they were racing in. The first one I ever saw was in Borneo and I knew right away I had to go there…and I did 7 years later! Then he went on to create Survivor which I tried out for and obviously didn’t get on! However it was the process of watching people be brave in other cultures and strange lands that eventually got me off the couch.
I also have to give a big shout out to GlobeTrekker – also a huge inspiration for me.
I’m going to YouTube him and EcoChallenge now – the name sounds familiar but I can’t put a face to it. I think it’s awesome you got to Borneo after seeing it on the show and wanting to go there. So many people have the “I want to go” part but never do!
Great list! so that’s Matt got the pic from – funny – now to figure out how/why you are Fox Nomad
haha, a frequent question I get with a bit of a story. It gives me a good idea for a post though, think I’ll put one up down the line 😉 but if we cross paths before, over many beers!
Great post, love the long way around. really amazing footage and books. I hope they do another there are talks about it. thank you for the link to Ghandhi autobiography ill put that on my to-do list. When he visited london he was famous for staying in a hostel in the east end and turned down an offer of a hotel, he won over the working class which lived in the east end and all around Britian.
My top travel hereo is Michael Palin who I’ve followed ever since i was young. i used to watch his travel shows with my Gran and hope to one day write books and work for the BBC making travel documentaries just like he does, real inspiration and cracking travel books and tv shows.
Gandhi’s autobiography is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Really a special person who put an inordinate amount of time and introspection in a quest for some of life’s truths. The work he did in South Africa too, such a humble leader. Wish more (or any) politicians had an gram of what Gandhi had.
Just Googled Michael Palin — did not know he co-wrote Time Bandits; awesome fantasy film. (Actually just saw David Warner at the Star Trek Convention in Vegas talking about the film as well).
Amazing how varied our heroes can be but what a huge impact they’ve had on inspiring us to travel 🙂