For Europeans and their former subjects, the making of planet Earth – a process better known as globalization – begins after the Renaissance, as newly empowered groups embrace the idea that, contra the Church, the world is both knowable and mostly unknown.
The frontier – the unsettled terrain – is thus not just an economic and political prize but also, importantly, a stage for intellectual and spiritual advancement. To travel to distant lands is to make the world known.
The system which emerges, beginning with the colonization of the Americas and ending with the Cold War, is the largest cosmos to date; so ubiquitous, it is capable of viewing itself from orbit.
A new self-image, a more unified self is the destination of every figurative voyage. Thus, the lore of the traveler is that of self-discovery. In such representations, any vessel is a means to a psychological end.
The more perfect of these vessels are mirror-like. Such reflective ships move the traveler, inwardly. To a world always in creation, one that can never be fully known.