A destination is the end point in a journey, whether that journey is across the street or across the planet. For most of human history, reaching a distant place could take weeks or months; in modern times, many far-flung destinations can be reached in a matter of days, if not hours. Modern technology has also provided more precise means of traveling, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS). The term is often used to describe popular and oft-visited locales; in this sense, it is a shortened form of “tourist destination.”
Travel as a pleasure activity is a relatively recent concept since, for thousands of years, human beings traveled mainly as a matter of survival. Some, such as nomadic tribes, followed the migrating herds of animals that provided their food and livelihood; others traveled to escape drought, warfare, or other threats. The original tribes of Israel, according to the Bible, the Torah and other ancient documents, traveled for 40 years before reaching their goal, a safe haven they called “the promised land.” The prehistoric tribes who traveled to the Americas from Asia undoubtedly faced equally epic journeys.
Before the advent of mechanical vehicles, traveling to a distant location was a long process often fraught with hardship. Trains, cars, powered ships, and airplanes transformed travel from an ordeal to an inconvenience and, finally, to a pleasure. By the middle of the 20th century, the terms “vacation” and “holiday” came to mean travel for its own sake, and the destination was often a resort, natural wonder or distant city. Tourism, a favored activity of the rich for centuries, became a major worldwide industry as new travel methods made it affordable to the general public. According to the World Tourism Organization, international tourism was generating more than $1 trillion U.S. dollars (USD) annually by the early 2000s.
Reaching a destination, close or distant, is easier than ever in the 21st century. Many Internet mapping programs can provide detailed directions to almost any location. GPS devices, some of which are built into modern cars and telephones, can pinpoint a precise location within a few feet. Tourism agencies can, for a fee, arrange travel to places around the world, as well as stays at luxury hotels sometimes called “destination resorts.”
Some pleasure travel does not involve an end point per se; travelers simply want to observe a country or landscape they’ve never seen before. Others go to enjoy the mode of travel itself, such as a classic train or a cruise ship. This has led to the popular and somewhat philosophical expression, “The journey is the destination.”