10 Inspiring Travel Quotes and the Stories Behind Them

10 Inspiring Travel Quotes and the Stories Behind Them

The Origins of Popular Travel Quotes

Everyone has seen those amazing quotes about travel and what a wonderful thing it can be. Heck, this blog even takes its name from one! But I wonder how many people know the stories behind the travel quotes.  Why were they written, and when? Under what circumstances? Let’s take a journey (pun intended) into the origins of popular travel quotes…

#1 – Mark Twain

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…”

This line comes from the final paragraphs of The Innocents Abroad, which was published in 1869. Twain wrote this book as a series of newspaper columns sent home while he traveled on a grand expedition by land and by sea through parts of Mediterranean Europe and the Holy Land.

The quote above comes from the book’s conclusion. It continues with “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” (Honestly, I kind of prefer the latter half of the quote, which is almost never cited.)

Twain was a celebrated humorist. Throughout the book, he uses satire to describe his fellow travelers and the tour guides who cheerfully share boring anecdotes about how a particular landmark got its name. But there are also glimpses of someone who was genuinely touched by his travel experience, as you can see in this quote.

The origins of popular travel quotes: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." Mark Twain

There is another popular travel quote often attributed to Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” However, Mark Twain never wrote or even said these words. They were actually a bit of advice from Life’s Little Instruction Book author H. Jackson Browne, Jr.’s mother.  He included it in a collection of her letters titled P.S. I Love You.

#2 – John Muir

“The world is big, and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”

“The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”

John Muir was born in Scotland but moved with his family to Wisconsin in 1849, when he was 11 years old. After three years in college and making many inventions, he decided to make a career of taking on odd jobs as he traveled through the northern US and Canada.

In 1867, he suffered an accident that resulted in him losing his sight. This was a life-altering event for him that shaped the remainder of his life. When he regained his sight a month later, he made a vow to take in as much natural beauty as he possibly could in the world. In the year that followed, he walked a thousand miles from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, sailed to Cuba, and later to Panama. Then he sailed up the West Coast, landing in San Francisco in March the following year.

As he explored the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite areas of California, he began to write about his adventures. He published many articles in Century magazine, where his calls for conservation began to gain attention. Then in 1890, due to the efforts of Muir and Century magazine editor Robert Underwood Johnson, an act of Congress created Yosemite National Park. In 1892, Muir and his supporters in the movement to protect Yosemite National Park founded the Sierra Club, where he served as president until his death in 1914.

In 1901, Muir published Our National Parks, the book that brought him to the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt. The President visited Muir in Yosemite, and they laid the foundation of Roosevelt’s innovative and notable conservation programs.

Origins of popular travel quotes: "The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark." John Muir


#3 – Ray Bradbury

“’Stuff your eyes with wonder,’ he said, ‘live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.’

Taken from the pages of Bradbury’s iconic dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, written in 1953. This quote addresses the fact that in the book, the majority of the people have become self-centered, shallow individuals who can’t seem to focus on anything beyond themselves and their technology. (Hmmm. I think I hear a bell ringing.)  We live in an age where some people actually believe that there is no point in traveling because we can see everything there is to see via the Google searches, a Netflix documentary, or Instagram photos.

So, yeah.  Stuff your eyes with wonder.

Origins of Popular Travel Quotes - "See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories." Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451

#4 – John Steinbeck

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.”

In 1960, noted author John Steinbeck set out on a nearly 10,000 mile road trip around the USA with his pet, a standard poodle named Charley. His purpose was to discover see the country he wrote about so often on a more personal level. The result of that trip is the book Travels with Charley.

In traveling across the country, he found that although he never crossed its borders, he had varying experiences. He noticed that people differed widely from region to region. For example, he saw that New Englanders spoke tersely and usually waited for the newcomer to initiate conversation. In Midwestern cities, on the other hand, people were more outgoing and would come right up to him. It seemed to him as if strangers talked freely because they longed for something new and wanted to be somewhere other than the place they were. They were so used to their everyday lives that when someone new came to town, they wanted to explore new information and imagine new places through the visitor.

Before writing this blog post, I had never given much thought to reading Travels with Charley. Now I’ve placed it on my To Be Read list, as I am intrigued by the perspectives he shares in the book.

Origins of Popular Travel Quotes - "A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike." John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

#5 – Robert Louis Stevenson

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake.” 

The author of classic stories like Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde started off early in his writing career with a lesser known work, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.

Published in 1879, the book recounts his experiences on a 12-day, 120 mile hike through the Cévennes mountains of south central France, which reminded him of his homeland in Scotland. It is thought to be the earliest book promoting hiking and camping as a form of recreation. He was an innovator in this regard, commissioning perhaps the first sleeping bag, which was so big and heavy, the donkey was necessary to carry it.  The locals he met seemed horrified that he would sleep outside, risking encounters with wolves or thieves.

Interestingly, John Steinbeck was a great admirer of Stevenson and this particular work. He chose the title for his travelogue Travels with Charley as a nod to Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.

Origins of popular travel quotes - I travel for travel's sake. Robert Louis Stevenson

#6 – Lauren Hutton

“Without travel, I would have wound up a little ignorant white Southern female, which was not my idea of a good life.”

“Whenever I came back from Africa or the Antarctic, head swelling with the beauty of it all, I found I was loving life again. You look different because of everything that has gone on inside of you.”

Lauren Hutton is a model and actress who has achieved a great deal of success by standing out and being different. She was advised early in her modeling career to hide the gap in her front teeth but found it difficult to do so, and met with greater modeling success when the gap was visible in her smile. In 1973 she signed a contract with Revlon cosmetics. At the time, it was the biggest contract in the modeling industry. In 2000, at the age of 57, she joined a motorcycling group with some other actors and ended up crashing at a speed of over 100 mph, resulting in multiple injuries from which she has since recovered.

Hutton has never considered herself too old to try something, and has spoken at length about her love of travel. She is a great role model for younger travelers in this regard.

Origins of Popular Travel Quotes - Lauren Hutton on how travel changed who she is

#7 – Maya Angelou

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

This quote came from the first book of essays that Angelou published, titled Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now. It would be impossible to sum up in just a few paragraphs Ms. Angelou’s contributions to American literature and poetry. However, travel was one of the main themes of her writing, and in particular how travel opens us up to the realization that people are more alike than different. She often stated that travel was the antidote to ignorance.

Origins of Popular Travel Quotes - "... if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends." Maya Angelou

#8 – David Lynch

“I’ll miss the sea, but a person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside, allowing him to grow. Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”

In the screenplay of Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic Dune, the character of Leto Atreides spoke these words. The book was published in 1965, and the film was released in 1984, nearly 20 years later.

Duke Leto Atreides is given control of a planetary fief called Arrakis, which is the only source of a valuable drug that is at the core of the planet’s economy. Unfortunately, Arrakis, while valuable, is covered in sand and inhabited by gigantic sand worms with bad attitudes.

Leto has the right perspective on his change. Frequently, getting away from your comfort zone will provide you with an awakened sense of wonder and a new appreciation for what you are experiencing… or what you left behind. If you are lucky, you will find both.

Origins of Popular Travel Quotes - David Lynch "The sleeper must awaken." Dune

#9 – Freya Stark

“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”

“One can only really travel if one lets oneself go and takes what every place brings without trying to turn it into a healthy private pattern of one’s own and I suppose that is the difference between travel and tourism.”

While many people have seen this quote, fewer realize who Freya Stark was. She is the author of more than two dozen books on her travels in the Middle East and Afghanistan. In fact, she was one of the first non-Arabs to travel through the southern Arabian desert.

By 1931 she had completed three dangerous treks into the wilderness of western Iran, parts of which no Westerner had ever visited. She had also located the long-fabled Valleys of the Assassins, for which she earned a Royal Geographic Society Award in 1933. Numerous other trips and awards followed throughout the years, and she was even appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Freya Stark lived to be 100 years old.

Origins of Popular Travel Quotes - "To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world." Freya Stark


#10 – Bill Bryson

“That’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”

Bill Bryson’s books are excellent reads for anyone who loves to travel and/or laugh. My personal favorite is Notes from a Small Island, about his life as an expat in Britain. The quote above, however, is from Neither Here Nor There. In this book, he retraces the steps of a European backpacking trip he made in the 1970s… twenty years later.

This quote perfectly sums up the combination of awe and terror that accompanies traveling in a foreign country… it can be quite scary to travel abroad but it is very much worth it.  Remember that!

Origins of Popular Travel Quotes - "I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything." Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There.

The Origins of Popular Travel Quotes at Travelasmuch.com

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