Journeys (don’t stop believing!)

So apologies for not blogging recently,amazing how quickly life can take over! You’ll also be pleased to know that this post has nothing whatsoever to do with that awful song, resurrected and forever associated with the pain that is “Glee”!

I’ve spent the last few days booking quite a big summer holiday (as everyone does in dreary January!). We’re hoping to spend a month travelling from Calgary to Los Angeles,taking in the Rockies, Mount St Helens,the Grand Canyon and some pretty historic cities too- it’s set to be quite the adventure!   I’ll also be driving on the “Pan-Am” highway, the longest motorable road in the world!

But it got me thinking as last Sunday I ate at the “Oliver Cromwell”, a lovely pub near the village of Bromham. As I sat waiting for my Sunday Roast, I read my table mat… I know this sounds odd, but the table mat had information on it. You see, the Oliver Cromwell is situated near the site of the Battle of Roundway Down, a key battle site from the English Civil War.

The table mat informed me of how the Roundheads had marched through the Wiltshire countryside,right past the pub itself. Although my lovely wife couldn’t have cared less, I was geekily excited about this momentary link with history!

‘But how do these two tales link?’ I hear you ask! Journeys. History is full of them. I could say that “history is a journey” at this point,and continue in a rather cliche manner, but instead, I want to focus on actual historical journeys (so not “Around the world in Eighty Days”), counting down my top 5!

5-Charles Lindbergh and his aircraft “The Spirit of St. Louis” completed the first solo transatlantic flight in 1927, from New York to Paris. This was eight years after a hotelier by the name of Raymond Orteig had offered $25,000 dollars as a reward for the first person to achieve this feat. It’s an amazing accomplishment, full of bravery and risk, which opened up a new era of aviation.

4- The Trans-Siberian railway was Sergei Witte, Russia’s Finance Ministers “Pièce de Résistance” as he attempted to demonstrate their move towards industrialisation. Although ultimately this attempt ended in failure, the railway line which stretches from Moscow to the Pacific Ocean is remarkable as an engineering feat, beautiful to travel (so I’m told!) and steeped in history.

3- As a part of the aforementioned new era of aviation, Amelia Earhart was a major household name in the 1930s. Her adventures in the skies, combined with her books that told her tales, she became known as the “Queen of the Air”. In 1937, she twice attempted to circumnavigate the globe. Her second attempt took her just 7,000 miles away from her goal, before she disappeared in the Pacific Ocean on July 3rd. Her disappearance remains a mystery to this day!

2- The Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan had already sailed from Europe to India, before in 1519 he attempted to reach Asia by sailing west, in an attempt to prove that the world was indeed round. The journey took almost 3 years, and Magellan died during a battle in the Philippines. However, one of his five original ships, with just 17 of the original crew of 270 sailed past Asia, round Africa and back to Spain- circumnavigating the globe by boat and proving that the world was round once and for all!

So why isn’t that number one? Because this is more historically significant than any of the others:

1- The Scottish-born missionary and explorer David Livingstone spent the vast majority of his life travelling through Africa, opening up routes to places previously unknown. His various journeys brought back new ideas, developed trade routes, and ultimately led to British imperialism in Africa, and the rise of the British Empire-he was even responsible for naming the Victoria Falls!

What- no Captain Cook? No Orient Express or Marco Polo? Not even Christopher Columbus?! For me, no. Important as they were, they don’t stand out or excite me as much as these five epic journeys. Each one could be worthy of a blog post in itself. As for Livingstone, considering the impact of the British Empire on people around the world, and life today, it’s only fitting that this be considered the greatest historical journey of all time!

So although my month long trek through North America may be an experience of a lifetime for me, it’s importance pales beyond significance in comparison to these mighty explorers and pioneers!

Disagree? Why not tell me your thoughts on the greatest journeys of history!


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