What is modern travel if it cannot illuminate your imagination
Legendary travel quests are nothing new. From Gengis Khan and Alexander the Great’s global conquests to The Holy Roman Empire and Marco Polo’s quests of expansion of one means or another. All the way to todays Great Modern Travelers we’ve witnessed men and women who’ve pushed travel to the limits of wonder.
Today many people retrace historical routes and those of legendary figures. Why?
Are we trying to acclaim some of their glory by mentioning common bonds between us? Or are we retracing their steps in hope of touching on the feelings they too might have had.
If you, like me, have experienced anything of the above. Or if your body tightens at the expectation of legendary travel then perhaps this article will mean something to you too.
Once in a while in my own travels I go in search of legends. I retrace steps from the past. I visit places from former ages. I inhale. I feel something great from yesteryear. Almost as if breathing from another time that’s pivoting on a mantle of historic value.
Later, I will take you on a quest I undertook in Nepal in search of such a legend tale.
Today I explore how and why this happens.
Retracing the travel routes of legends
The Silk Routes of Asia are perhaps one of the most famous legendary routes to follow. Largely consisting of a choice spanning four routes the majority of these historic trading routes can still be retraced today. From Europe into Turkey, Egypt, East Africa to Persia, Central Asia, India and China there is a wealth of historic mapping to follow both on sea and on land.
Alexander the Great marched from Greece into Turkey down through the mid-east and into Egypt. From there he marched his army east through Persia to Persepolis in modern-day Iran. Then it was north-east into the Hindu Kush and modern-day Pakistan and India. The mighty army then split into three with Alexander taking the brutal desert route south through Baluchistan. Finally at the planning of a journey back to India Alexander the Great died. Today many of Alexanders routes can still be traveled with epic historical monuments from his day continuing to stand today.
Want to see some maps of great travel routes across the world? Check out my list of great overland travel routes.
Mongol Empire travel from the Sea of Japan to Eastern Europe this is a route that covered over 16% of the world spanning from 1206 to 1368. Perhaps best mixed with a modern-day retracing of a silk route and the fabled tran-siberian it is again very much accomplishable today.
Whether it’s following the Inca, Maya or Aztec civilizations in Central America or retracing Napoleonic foots steps in Europe or into North Africa there are some fabulous historical routes from yesteryear that can make for fascinating re-traceable journeys today.
Traveling to unearth historical locations today
Many famous historical travel routes can take a substantial amount of time to retrace. What if you only have a few weeks of vacation time? Perhaps then you might enjoy the rapture of unravelling specific historical sites today.
Venture to Poland and visit the former concentration camp locations many of which have haunting stories that need to be retold today. Journey further to India or Borneo and locate the colonial era houses and buildings. What’s become of them today and what of the people remaining?
To Greece and the wealth of ancient monuments that still exist today. China and the hidden pyramids. A ghost town in Arizona … investigate and discover why it’s deserted.
Rediscover the people of yesterday today
A full exploration of Old Paris may seem too grand an adventure. But perhaps if only traveling to a specific age you’ll uncover a lot more. Research on Picaso or Hemingway’s time there and see if the places they frequented still exist. Photograph them and compare the ages.
Travel Spain and discover Dalí’s influence there and what’s left of it today.
Vacation to Romania and unearth the legend of Count Dracula / Vlad Tepes from Sigisoura.
Trace Odysseus the Greek who created the Trojan horse which brought down Troy before retiring to the Greek island of Ithaca.
Book a trip to Togo in West Africa and discover if Voodoo is still being practiced today and who it influenced in the past.
Travel in search of legends and find a whole new world
Throughout my current journey I have embarked on many side adventures from history. There is something about such travel that’s embedded in my consciousness. Everywhere I go there’s a pull to discover the past or something from the present that may unearth something rarely seen nor touched upon.
Indeed unabashed stereotyping means that many of the great ethos of hidden legends also lie deep within the text of earlier journals with trace mentions of such travels up until today.
As we are just starting a new year I will reveal one such minor quest that recently took place. One that actually started in 2007 on my first trip to Nepal and ended in my most recent. I had heard of a legend that shouldn’t be. A mythical entity that in western culture was as utterly nonsense as once believing the Earth was round.
There could be no better spark to ignite a search …
Why travel in search of legends?
There is no question that needs to be asked for those that understand the lure. Be it the discovery of the “why”. To baring witness to factual practical evidence we can touch. Some seek our future from our past. Others simply want to capture their mindsets golden age.
Take your own choosing.
In search of a Living God
I will now take you on my quest to find and meet with a living god. Not just a simple village legend but one that is a national figure-head centuries old. A legend that is thwarted in controversy, ethics and tradition.
Many soothsayers will condone the very idea of publishing this. Human rights watchdogs will cast shame upon the publicity of such a way of life. Indeed even some local Nepalese people frowned upon my search as being foolish.
In a cynical “modern” world that’s becoming harder to find travel ventures that truly fill your heart with legendary passion I went in search of the Kumari.
Not just a search to locate. But a search to meet, talk with and indeed photograph a living Goddess.
In search of the Kumari
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22 Replies to “Travel in search of legends”
Nice article Dave. History + legends fascinate me too, and are the main reasons for my continuing travels (culture + landscapes also star).
I’m sure you’ll find the living Goddess and look forward to reading about her.
PS: Voodoo is indeed practiced in Togo (and Benin) – at least it still was in 2007 when attended a ceremony in 2007.
Hey Michael, glad to hear you like to source out legends too. Togo in 2007 we must have literally just missed each other. I left the area early in the year.
Actually made a typo – was travelling across West Africa during 2007 – but actually the (local – not tourist-staged) voodoo ceremony was on NY day 2008 (with the crocodile man who’d never met white guy before me; one day, I should edit and upload the video).
Okay, so we missed each other by nearly a year I’d say. Either way, W. Africa – quite the special place!
Agreed. West Africa is fascinating and fresh – well away from these moronic tour masses that pollute southern + east Africa; I’m heading that way soon to see if I can avoid those cretins.
I really like this. An original concept as old as the legends themselves. Looking forward to reading the upcoming!
Well, I think many people like to travel similar paths. It just doesn’t always occur that the first people might have been “legends” etc. Hope you enjoy!
A great traveler that few in the West know of is Ibn Battuta who, in 1325, at the age of 21, set off from his native Tangier. He did not return to Morocco until 1349, by which time he had visited not only Mecca, but also Egypt, Syria, Persia, Iraq, East Africa, Yemen, The steppelands of southern Russia, Constinople, India, the Maldives, Sumatra, and China. Everyone knows of Marco Polo, but Ibn Battuta is virtually unknown- at least in the west.
Hi Paul, yes I’ve heard of Ibn Battuta. Though I will admit I’ve only heard of him in recent years when looking at Great Modern Travelers etc. It’s such a shame that travelling across North Africa is a near impossibility in recent times. And I know many people who would love the opportunity to follow his route. Indeed I’ve often though of expanding the Great Modern Travelers to include people from the past like Ibn.
What a great idea! I’m sure there are many legendary travel figure trails that would be great to travel today. I can think of figures from history and fiction I’d be interested in. Huckleberry Finn always strikes a cord with me. I’m guessing fiction is okay?
Now your talking! Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer style USA travelling! I don’t think fiction matters in this case. Indeed it would even make it quite “Novel” ;)
Great post, looking forward to your Kumari legend!
Great article, and a fun concept!
The living Goddess, I can’t wait to read your upcoming article on this and hear your take on it. I have read a little on these girls that are elevated into the position of being a Goddess and was a little disturbed. But I am ready to listen to all opinions.
I’ll have several posts about the Kumari legend and indeed am thinking of setting up a more factual page too. Lots of controversy there alright. I’ll try to cover all sides of the coin and let people come to their own conclusions.
I love this line “What is modern travel if it cannot illuminate your imagination”
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