|“||Two thousand years ago, the witches put a curse on our tribe so Nature would turn against us, should we ever attempt to settle as a people. We have lived without a home, roaming like cattle.||”|
The Travelers were cursed by the witches as a result of the controversial actions of former members Silas and Qetsiyah, and, in punishment for these actions, the curse turned Nature against them and actively prevented their community from ever truly uniting as a people.
In 100 B.C., Qetsiyah created the Immortality Spell and gave rise to the first immortals, which caused a schism in the witch community; some witches began to fear the Travelers' power, believing they could all possibly unbalance Nature in the same way Qetsiyah did. To ensure that the balance of Nature would never again be disrupted by the Travelers, the witches placed a curse to prevent them from drawing power from Nature, effectively cutting the Travelers off from the use of traditional magic, which was their preferred form of magic. Another consequence of the curse was that the Travelers were unable to gather in groups, as disasters and plagues would occur any time they attempted to congregate together, causing them to stop trying in fear of decimating their coven. Because they were unable to settle down together, the Travelers spent centuries and centuries drifting all over the world, which resulted in these cursed witches being known as the Travelers.
Despite the presence of the curse, the Travelers have found several ways around it to practice magic:
- As they were unable to practice traditional magic, the Travelers improvised by using a more complex form of magic known as Traveler magic.
- Although the curse prevented the Travelers from gathering as a group, it did not prevent them from gathering while possessing the bodies of others. Passengers were used for this purpose.
- Qetsiyah and her descendants did not seem to be affected by the curse, despite their ties to the Travelers. This could be because Qetsiyah's death shortly after she created the Immortality Spell spared her and the Bennett bloodline, as she was no longer considered a Traveler.
- Silas also appeared to be spared from the effects of the curse, as he was expelled from the coven, due to the fact that becoming immortal cut him off from being able to practice witchcraft. This would explain why he was able to freely practice magic again after he was cured of his immortality
The Travelers' main goal for the past few millennia was to break the curse on their coven. This was the main driving force behind the events of Season Five.
After the Travelers began using the residents of Mystic Falls as Passengers, they eventually took over the town and started casting a spell using Elena and Stefan's doppelgänger blood. The spell slowly unraveled all non-traditional magic as it spread, but stopped just past the border of Mystic Falls when Stefan was killed by Julian, which nullified the mystical properties of the mixed doppelgänger blood.  The curse was broken in Mystic Falls, but is still presumably active in the rest of the world.
- Since Markos' plan was specifically to undo all spirit magic, this implies that the curse was cast using that magic.
- Since Liv and Luke Parker were sent by their coven to stop the Travelers from breaking the curse, there is a possibility that they could be related or descended from the witches who originally enacted the curse. According to Liv, their coven has been tracking the Travelers for centuries. In Fade Into You, it was revealed that Liv and Luke are members of the Gemini Coven, which suggests that their ancestors in the coven could have been the witches who cast the curse on the Travelers.
- Markos' obsession with breaking the curse led him to cast a spell that drew the doppelgängers together, setting off a chain of events that led to Katherine meeting the Salvatore brothers, which eventually caused Stefan to meet Elena and ultimately started off the series.