For years, I’ve been collecting phrases on notecards, bookmarking quotes from my favorite books, noting song lyrics that resonate. This list of inspirational travel quotes includes some of those you’d expect—iconic quotes I love, but also a mix of unconventional travel quotes representing the a decade of influences while traveling the world.
It’s not all about traveling, because life is twisty and long and ultimately travel is just one part of the human experience. I’ve been on the road for a decade now, and this unconventional life choice has made me see all the ways travel intersects with kindness, individuality, and much more. I have dedicated much of my life and travels to raising awareness about responsible tourism and service, and I also maintain a giant list of my favorite quotes about service and volunteering. And as a writer, I collect tidbits of thoughts, advice, and quotes about writing and being an artist. Whenever I need inspiration, I go to one of these lists and read through the succinct ideas, thoughts, and perspectives of others who have come before me.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” — C.S. Lewis
“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
“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.” — Ray Bradbury
“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.” — Julia Cameron
“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I will try.” — Rainer Maria Rilke
“A ship in harbor is safe—but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd
“The tragedy in the lives of most of us is that we go through life walking down a high-walled lane with people of our own kind, the same economic situation, the same national background and education and religious outlook. And beyond those walls, all humanity lies, unknown and unseen, and untouched by our restricted and impoverished lives.” — Florence Luscomb
“When all’s said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it.” — Charles de Lint
“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” — Socrates
“It’s like, at the end, there’s this surprise quiz: Am I proud of me? I gave my life to become the person I am right now. Was it worth what I paid?” — Richard Bach
“Learn to detach . . . Don’t cling to things, because everything is impermanent . . . But detachment doesn’t mean you don’t let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate fully.” — Mitch Albom
“Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.” — Viktor Frankl
I’ve been a long time gone now
Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down
But I’ve always found my way somehow
By taking the long way
Taking the long way around.
— Dixie Chicks
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” — Anthony Bourdain
“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy . . . Let’s go exploring!” — Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes
“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.” — Lisa St. Aubin de Teran
“I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper and I was free. . . . There’s more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line. The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.” — Indigo Girls
“Traveling—it gives you home in thousand strange places, then leaves you a stranger in your own land.” — Ibn Battuta
“All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” — James Thurber
“For me, a place unvisited is like an unrequited love. A dull ache that—try as you might to think it away, to convince yourself that she really wasn’t the right country for you—just won’t leave you in peace.” — Eric Weiner
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
“Born originals, how comes it to pass that we die copies?” — Edward Young
“The border means more than a customs house, a passport officer, a man with a gun. Over there everything is going to be different; life is never going to be quite the same again after your passport has been stamped.” — Graham Greene
“Leaving home in a sense involves a kind of second birth in which we give birth to ourselves.” — Robert Neelly Bellah
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” — Miriam Beard
“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” — Susan Heller
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” — Susan Sontag
“How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.” — R. Buckminster Fuller
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” — Alan Alda
“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” — Paul Theroux
“Conventional wisdom tells us . . . we take our baggage with us. I’m not so sure. Travel, at its best, transforms us in ways that aren’t always apparent until we’re back home. Sometimes we do leave our baggage behind, or, even better, it’s misrouted to Cleveland and is never heard from again.” — Eric Weiner
“He won’t fly on the Balinese airline, Garuda, because he won’t fly on any airline where the pilots believe in reincarnation.” — Spalding Gray
“He who knows no hardships will know no hardihood. He who faces no calamity will need no courage. Mysterious though it is, the characteristics in human nature which we love best grow in a soil with a strong mixture of troubles.” — Harry Emerson Fosdick
“Own only what you can carry with you; know language, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.” — Alexander Solzhenitsyn
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust
“Life is not what happened to you but what you remember and how you remember it to retell it.” — Gabriel García Márquez
“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien
“All the above is, of course, a gross simplification. There are deeper reasons to travel—itches and tickles on the underbelly of the unconscious mind. We go where we need to go, and then try to figure out what we’re doing there.” — Jeff Greenwald
“Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.” — Georgia O’Keefe
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things—air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky—all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” — Cesare Pavese
“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks—on your body or on your heart—are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” — Anthony Bourdain
Traveller, there is no path
The path is made by walking.
By walking you make a path
And turning, you look back
At a way you will never tread again
— Antonio Machado
“I travel light; as light, that is, as a man can travel who will still carry his body around because of its sentimental value.” — Christopher Fry
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” — Jack Kerouac
“I think that wherever your journey takes you, there are new gods waiting there, with divine patience—and laughter.” — Susan M. Watkins
“Well I never lived the dreams of the prom kings
And the drama queens
I’d like to think the best of me
Is still hiding
Up my sleeve.
They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side.”
— John Mayer
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” — Mark Twain
“When you turn the corner / And you run into yourself / Then you know that you have turned / All the corners that are left.” — Langston Hughes
“The commonsense rules of the “real world” are a fragile collection of socially reinforced illusions.” — Timothy Ferriss
“Would you please tell me, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat.
“I don’t much care where … ” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat.”
— Lewis Carroll
“Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.” — Chuck Palahniuk
“I see too plainly custom forms us all. Our thoughts, our morals, our most fixed belief, are consequences of our place of birth.” — Aaron Hill
“I’d rather die of thirst than drink from the cup of mediocrity.” — Stella
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over—it became a butterfly.” — Edward Teller
“We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“She’d have to propel herself into the future by whatever means possible or she’d be trapped forever in a place whose times had already passed.” — Kiran Desai
“Treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.” — Quentin Crisp
Take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you’ve got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.
— Cat Stevens
“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively, unless you can choose a challenge instead of a competence.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do—especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” — William Least Heat Moon
There’s roads, and there’s roads,
And they call. Can’t you hear it?
Roads of the earth
And roads of the spirit
The best roads of all
Are the ones that aren’t certain.
One of those is where you’ll find me
‘Til they drop the big curtain.
— Bruce Cockburn
“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” — Carl Sandburg
“Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going –
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.”
— Kozan Ichikyo
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it has to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” — Thoreau
“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” — Kahlil Gibran
“Man is always inclined to be intolerant towards the thing, or person, he hasn’t taken the time adequately to understand.” — Robert R. Brown
“What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn’t come every day.” — George Bernard Shaw
“The ultimate sense of security will be when we come to recognize that we are all part of one human race. Our primary allegiance is to the human race and not to one particular color or border.”
— Mohamed El Baradei / International Atomic Energy Agency
“All you need to know is that it’s possible.” — Wolf, an Appalachian Trail Hiker
“Once in awhile it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” — Alan Keightley
“There is little favorable to be said about poverty, but it was often an incubator of true friendship.”
— Nelson Mandela / Long Walk to Freedom
“The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” — William Jones
My yearn for home is broadened
By callings from beyond
So I pack my things
All things sacred
— Alanis Morissette
“The lust for comfort murders the passions of the soul.” — Khalil Gibran
“We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them.”
— Oliver Wendell Holmes
“All men have the stars,” he answered, “but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travellers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman they were wealth. But all the stars are silent. You—you alone—will have the stars as no one else has them.” — The Little Prince
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”
— Dr. Seuss / Oh the Places You Will Go
“Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.”
— John O’Donohue / To Bless the Space Between Us
“Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.” — Christopher Morley
“Every place is a goldmine. You have only to give yourself time, sit in a teahouse watching the passers-by, stand in a corner of the market, go for a haircut. You pick up a thread—a word, a meeting, a friend of a friend of someone you have just met—and soon the most insipid, most insignificant place becomes a mirror of the world, a window on life, a theatre of humanity.” — Tiziano Terzani
“The desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it.” — Laurence Sterne
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” — Anais Nin
“A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end … but not necessarily in that order.” — Jean-Luc Godard
“There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, ‘Yes, I’ve got dreams, of course I’ve got dreams.’ Then they put the box away and bring it out once in awhile to look in it, and yep, they’re still there.” — Emma Bombeck
“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.” — George Bernard Shaw
“Traveling makes one modest — you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” — Gustave Flaubert
“Most people think that shadows follow, precede, or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories.” — Elie Wiesel
“I don’t want to own anything until I know I have found the place where me and things belong together. I’m not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it’s like.” — Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
“The only unit of time that matters is heartbeats. Even if the world were totally silent, even in a dark room covered in five layers of foam, you’d be able to count your own heartbeats. When you get on a plane and travel you go 15 heartbeats per mile. That is, in the time it takes to travel a mile in flight your heart beats 15 times. On a train your heart might beat 250 times per mile. And we count this up and we make sense of it. We’re constantly switching accelerations; we’re jumping between time frames. That’s what we’re asking people to do every time we make something new, some new tool or product. We’re asking them to reset their understanding of time. To accept that the sequence we’re asking them to follow is the right way to do a thing. It’s like the farmer with the clock.”
— Paul Ford
“They thought that it would be a disgrace to go forth as a group. Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path. If there is a path it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.”
— Joseph Campbell / The Hero’s Journey
“There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” — Nelson Mandela
“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.” — Martin Luther King, Jr
“Among men, it seems, historically at any rate, that processes of co-ordination and disintegration follow each other with great regularity, and the index of the co-ordination is the measure of the disintegration which follows. There is no mob like a group of well-drilled soldiers when they have thrown off their discipline. And there is no lostness like that which comes to a man when a perfect and certain pattern has dissolved about him. There is no hater like one who has greatly loved.” — John Steinbeck
“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer
“The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.” — Alden Nowlan
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” — Helen Adams Keller
“Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.” — Milan Kundera
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” — Elie Wiesel
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — Martin Luther King, Jr
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” — Albert Schweitzer
“Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.” — Aldous Huxley
“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” — Samuel Johnson
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” — Bill Bryson
“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.” — Maya Angelou
“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” — Freya Stark
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure—self-determined, self-motivated, often risky—forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind—and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” — Mark Jenkins
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” — Steve Jobs
“A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not; but a man of superior talent will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place…” — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“You don’t choose the day you enter the world and you don’t chose the day you leave. It’s what you do in between that makes all the difference.” — Anita Septimus
“I’m happy to be here, but still a little sad to be here too. Sometimes it’s better to travel than to arrive.” — Robert Pirsig
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” — Neil Armstrong
“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” — Edmund Hillary
“If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by the fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
— Shel Silverstein
“There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.”
— Robert W. Service
“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” — George H. Lorimer
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” — Henry David Thoreau
“The best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with.” — Bruce Springsteen
“People always think happiness is a faraway thing,” thought Francie, “something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains—a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone—just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.” — From “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”
“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” — Thomas Paine
“Every man has his secret sorrows, which the world knows not; and oftentimes we call a man cold when he is only sad.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.” — Ben Hecht
“There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.” — Hannah Senesh
“Our conscience is not the vessel of eternal verities. It grows with our social life, and a new social condition means a radical change in conscience.” — Walter Lippmann
“In a world of fugitives, the person taking the opposite direction will appear to run away.” — T.S. Eliot
“Imagine there’s no country, / It isn’t hard to do. / Nothing to kill or die for, / And no religion, too. / Imagine all the people / Living life in peace.” — John Lennon
“Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity.” — Albert Camus
“One recognizes one’s course by discovering the paths that stray from it.” — Albert Camus
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” — Desmond Tutu
“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” — Henry David Thoreau
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” — Zora Neale Hurston
“No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.” — Alan Watts
“Interdependence is a fundamental law of nature. Even tiny insects survive by cooperating with each other. Our own survival is so dependent on the help of others that a need for love lies at the very core of our existence. This is why we need to cultivate a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others.” — Dalai Lama
“Activism is the rent I pay for living on the planet.” — Alice Walker
“May I see what I do. May I do it differently. May I make this a way of life.” — Buddhist mantra
“Compassion is not weakness and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.” — Hubert Humphrey
“Adversity has the same effect on a man that severe training has on the pugilist: it reduces him to his fighting weight.” — Josh Billings
“Stories allow us to travel, time and again, outside the circumscribed spaces of what we believe and what we think possible. It is these journeys—sometimes tenuous, sometimes exhilarating—that inspire and steel us to navigate uncharted territories in real life.” — Elizabeth Svoboda
“I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, and I am not who I was.” — Stanley Kunitz
“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat, and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump. One needs to learn the difference.” — Robert Fulghum
“There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.” — Carl Jung
“We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” — Brené Brown
“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.” — Herman Melville
“When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.” — Chinua Achebe
“We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust’s jars of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and re-categorized with every act of recollection.” — Oliver Sacks
“How safe do we want to be? How much of ourselves are we willing to give up for it?” — Sarah Hepola
“People forget years and remember moments.” — Ann Beattie