Every backpacker knows all the famous travel quotes off by heart. We all understand that not all who wander are lost, that failing to travel dooms you to reading only a single page of life’s book, and that stories of adventure are more valuable than meagre possessions.
These inspirational travel quotes are perfect for tattoos and social media memes, but they’re too terse to really get to the heart of why we travel, and why none of us plans to ever stop.
We’ve put together this collection of the best travel quotes that are slightly longer than usual. They may not be as singularly pithy, but we think they truly capture why travel becomes a lifelong obsession.
Everything I was I carry with me, everything I will be lies waiting on the road ahead.”
~ Red Dust: A Path Through China, Ma Jian
Okay, so this one can and does fit onto a meme, but despite its inspirational tone it offers a surprisingly realistic take on hitting the road. You don’t leave yourself behind when you travel and become somebody new – you discover and develop the person you always were.
It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestice setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.”
~ The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton
Travelling to ‘find yourself’ is the biggest cliché of them all, but when phrased like this you can’t help but wonder if it’s true.
For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.”
~ The Beach, Alex Garland
And how can travel help us grow into the person we’re destined to become? By giving us the chance to experience new things, no matter how frightening they might be.
But 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, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe
The thing is, those new experiences don’t have to be big adventures. Simply going to another country takes us out of our comfort zones and prises open our shells.
Every one of a hundred thousand cities around the world had its own special sunset and it was worth going there, just once, if only to see the sun go down.”
~ Ryû Murakami, Coin Locker Babies
At least once in your life somebody will ask ‘why did you go there?!’ Show them this quote. Every place, famous or not, offers a unique experience. Plus backpackers bloody love a good sunset.
Even to-day, when shutting drawers and flinging wide a hotel wardrobe, or the impersonal shelves of a furnished villa, is a methodical matter of routine, I am aware of sadness, of a sense of loss. Here, I say, we have lived, we have been happy. This has been ours, however brief the time. Though two nights only have been spent beneath a roof, yet we leave something of ourselves behind. Nothing material, not a hair-pin on a dressing-table, not an empty bottle of aspirin tablets, not a handkerchief beneath a pillow, but something indefinable, a moment of our lives, a thought, a mood. This house sheltered us, we spoke, we loved within those walls. That was yesterday. To-day we pass on, we see it no more, and we are different, changed in some infinitesimal way. We can never be quite the same again.”
~ Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
You may never stay in a villa and your hostel probably doesn’t offer a wardrobe, but the pain of leaving a place behind, and leaving a piece of yourself there, is known to every traveller in the world.
Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
~ Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
Coming home from the trip of a lifetime can be painful, but you won’t be the same as when you left. Travel enriches your life long after it’s finished.