Reading time ( words)
As far back as the 1600s, and lasting through the mid-1800s, young, imperial English aristocrats would leave the island to travel “the world;” however, this often simply meant visiting continental Europe on an out-and-back trip, resembling a golf outing, before returning home to settle down to the business of running their family estate and/or the country. This practice was commonly called “the Grand Tour.”
Richard Franks, a freelance writer, summarized the idea of the Grand Tour, with English spelling and all: “…travellers would often head off for months—or even years—in search of Western civilisation, perfecting their language skills and even commissioning paintings in the process.” He further points out, “Cultural integration was not yet fully-fledged and nothing like we experience today, so the only way to understand different ways of life was to experience them yourself. Hence why so many people set off for the Grand Tour—the ultimate trip across Europe!”
From what I can gather, travelers usually took a traditional route on the Grand Tour: Dover, England; France (Calais and Paris); Switzerland; and Italy (Turin, Florence, Rome, Pompeii, and Venice). On the back nine, so to speak, the route home often included Germany, Austria, Holland, and Flanders before sailing back across the Channel to Dover again. But that’s not really “seeing the world,” is it? Certainly not by today’s standards. And yet, I can’t be too judgmental. Had I not been hired right out of college into the particular engineering job I landed, I might not have toured the world as a young man at all.
For example, I took my first airplane flight when I was 21 years old. I was tasked with delivering a magtape reel full of bug fixes to a major military customer (the internet was still mostly a university thing, and 8” floppy disks didn’t have enough storage capacity, so magtape it was). It wasn’t until after I returned to the office that my boss learned I’d never flown before.
After that late start, however, I’ve visited nearly every U.S. State, and the three “easiest” continents to reach from my home in North America. These trips have been incredibly valuable to me. I have grown professionally and personally through exposure to varied cultures and developed a wider, more encompassing perspective of the world and the people in it.
To read this entire column, which appeared in the November 2019 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.