Heritage Travel

What is it that inspires our zeal for travel? And how do our explorations by planes, trains, and automobiles affect the planet?

Heritage travel (sometimes called cultural tourism) sparks our curiosity. The National Trust for Historic Preservation describes it as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.”1 In other words, we seek new places to learn about the past and each other.

Travel can be a big step in understanding different cultures, which in turn builds empathy and connects us to our global community.

1.“[Preservation Glossary] Today’s Word: Heritage Tourism,” National Trust for Historic Preservation, https://savingplaces.org/stories/preservation-glossary-todays-word-heritage-tourism#.YJftArVKhPY

Our curiosity plays a big part in fueling our desire to travel. Many of us continually seek out new information and experiences – a desire fulfilled by heritage travel. Curiosity and exploration are intertwined. In fact, according to the 2017 Curio Collection (a scientific study funded by Hilton Hotels about what drives travel trends), 73% of adults claimed that travel was their preferred method of expressing their curiosity.

When we give ourselves permission to indulge our curious mind, our brains feel pleasure and happiness. When we explore, we often experience joy and learn through the process.

Can we recreate this zest for exploration through virtual travel? And why should we consider taking more virtual “trips”? You could explore even more!

Think about a historic place you’ve visited. How did it change your perspective about the past? The present? Having a broader awareness of how important these places are can help us all to preserve these places. But what about places we’ve never been to? Not everyone will visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. However, most of us would agree that the building should be preserved. We can recognize the intrinsic historic and cultural value of a place without having to visit in person.

Virtual travel comes in handy when we recognize we might not ever visit a place. While some of us are committed to visiting every National Park and Historic Site (kudos to you folks!), the rest of us might not get around to it all, considering there are over 400 units of the National Park Service! Most of us face the very real constraints of time and money, yet that doesn’t impede dour love for historic places. Virtual travel is a way to feed our heads and hearts without emptying our pocketbooks.

Virtual travel also will help you reduce your carbon footprint. Our choices make a difference. Every individual has opportunities to work toward a more sustainable future. Get involved! If you want a fun way to think about this, check out this Carbon Footprint Activity.

Exploring online can be an ideal way to learn feed our curiosity. Here we offer a few ways for you to do just that! Below you’ll find a few ways to explore. To think more deeply about a specific place important to you and how it’s changed over time, check out the Discovery Journal If you’re interested in traveling in the footsteps of great American figures, discover our “Places of…” series. You’ll also find featured travel itineraries to virtually explore by geographic region and theme.

Photo of woman.

Places of... Series

Walk in the (virtual) footsteps of important American figures and discover places associated with their lives.

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Curiosity Kick-Start

Give in to your curiosity and delve more deeply into a place.

Last updated: July 14, 2021

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