There are said to have been three main motives for European explorers. It is, of course, impossible to know which motive was most important for any particular explorer. Let us look at the three motives. They are often expressed as “God, Gold, and Glory.”
The first motive, then, was religious. Christians in those days believed that their religion was the only true religion. They believed that all other people were damned. Therefore, they felt that it was their duty to bring Christianity to other people so as to save them from damnation.
The second motive (and remember, these are not in any particular order), was economic. Explorers wanted, for example, to find a way to get from Europe to Asia. This would allow them to trade directly with Asia for spices. The spice trade was tremendously lucrative and the countries and individuals who were able to do so would surely become more prosperous.
The final motive was glory, both for the individual explorer and for the country that sent the explorers. Whichever country could have the biggest and richest empire would have the most glory and prestige. Explorers who found important new things might become immortal.
These were the major reasons behind European exploration.
European explorers were interested in exploring the world as they sought to gain spices, which were extremely valuable in Europe, for trade. In such endeavours, they were largely motivated by profits. Competition in Europe for trade, power and prestige was similarly intense and this translated to other parts of the world, where a search for national glory ensured amongst explorers. European societies at that time were also intensely religious and increasingly found themselves being challenged by foreign religions, such as Islam, and within. Fearing the rise of Protestantism and the domination of Islam in large parts of the world, European explorers, under the purview of the Catholic Church, also sought to spread the teachings of the papacy. This was led by an increase in religious fervour to serve God.