From the 11th to the 16th centuries why did Europeans travel from the Carolingian heartland up to the periphery of the continent and beyond?
During their explorations, was there a certain perception of how they percieved others and how others percieved them?
Although the sincerity of their intentions might be questioned, the primary reason for travel outside the European mainland during the early Middle Ages was the spread of Christianity. Europe was at the time heavily influenced by Christianity, in fact the continent called itself Christendom. As members of a missionary religion, Christians believed they had an obligation to spread that religion elsewhere. Most of those who travelled to distant areas did so with this purpose in mind.
Later, with the advent of the early modern age, trade rather than the spread of religion became the motivating factor. After the publication of Marco Polo's Map of the World, and the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the desire for trade with distant areas became a consuming element in European political affairs. Interestingly, Europeans often conflated religion and trade. When Vasco da Gama was asked by an Indian sultan why he had travelled to that distant land, he replied "for Christians and Spices."