What is a Destination?

Alan Rankin

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.”

Motorists use GPS systems to reach their destination.
Motorists use GPS systems to reach their 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.

Airplanes transport millions of passengers to their destinations.
Airplanes transport millions of passengers to their destinations.

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.

For cruise ship travelers, the journey is the destination.
For cruise ship travelers, the journey is the destination.

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.”

The Burj al Arab, a destination hotel.
The Burj al Arab, a destination hotel.

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.”

The Forbidden City is a popular tourist destination.
The Forbidden City is a popular tourist destination.
Prehistoric sites are popular destination spots in Ireland.
Prehistoric sites are popular destination spots in Ireland.

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Discussion Comments


I think of a destination as a point in life which someone has struggled long and hard to reach. For me, this point was landing the job of my dreams.

I had been to college for four years, and I had worked a seemingly endless string of dead-end jobs. Even the jobs I got that were related to my field of study didn't fulfill me and paid next to nothing.

Ten years after my graduation, I finally got the job I had always wanted. I finally had enough experience to brag about on my resume, and this was what sold my employer on me. I really felt as if I had reached the destination I had been traveling toward for so long.


Has anyone ever noticed how dramatic GPS devices get with the word “destination?” I think it is funny how the voice always says, “You have reached your destination.”

This sounds like a congratulatory greeting to someone who has traveled to another planet. Of course, if you have been on the road long enough, you might feel a great sense of accomplishment upon arriving at your destination, but I'm usually just so delirious by then that hearing this makes me laugh.


@OeKc05 – Wow, I wish my vacation destination had been a Destin, Florida hotel! I love the ocean and warm weather, but I had to drive much further north into an unpleasant climate instead.

I live in Mississippi, but my husband is originally from New York. So, we had to drive about twenty hours to go see his family. We went in early fall, and I expected the weather to be a little chilly, but what I got was super cold temperatures and even a little snow.

I was relieved to reach our destination in a way, because I was glad to no longer be in motion. However, I didn't enjoy the location at all, so for me, it wasn't much of a destination.


My destination this past summer was Destin, Florida. The water there is so beautiful, and the beaches are just lovely.

I live eleven hours away from Destin, so for me, the journey was not the destination. I don't enjoy driving or riding for long distances, and I really just wanted to get there as quickly as possible.

Once I arrived, I really felt like I had reached a destination of epic proportions. I could hardly believe that the drive was over, and my time of relaxation and enjoyment could begin.

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