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3rd Feb 2014
They’re probably some of the most shared words on the internet – inspirational travel quotes. Perfect for inducing wanderlust and adventure cravings. Words to live by, you might say. But many of the most popular quotes have been repeated so often that we forget where they came from or what they mean. Here are nine things you probably didn’t know about your favourite travel quotes.
1. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by.
These two lines from Robert Frost’s 1916 poem The Road Not Taken are often used to express pride in going off the beaten track. But the true meaning doesn’t reflect this at all. In the poem, the speaker encountered two paths that are equally worn, he takes one, telling himself that he will take the other another day, knowing that he is unlikely to ever do so. But he admits that in future he will claim that he took the road “less travelled by”, because, why not? There is no right path – just the chosen path and the other path. We never really know what we are choosing between.
2. Not all those who wander are lost.
This oft-quoted line from JRR Tolkien comes from a poem in the first volume of the Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Ring:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
The first line is a variation of “all that glitters is not gold”, known from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The second line refers to the Rangers, viewed as wanderers (and therefore suspicious) by those they actually protect from evil.
3. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Could this be one of the most quoted quotes of all time? If you’ve heard it before (which you most likely have) you’ve probably seen it attributed to Mark Twain. In truth, this can’t be verified. After the New York Times attributed it to Twain, it became a factoid and stuck. It was more likely uttered by the mother of American author H Jackson Brown Jr, immortalised in his book PS I Love You.
4. The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
Another potentially misattributed quote, this time to Saint Augustine of Hippo, the patron saint of brewers (a nod to his debaucherous lifestyle of drinking and partying before he converted to Christianity and became a priest). St Augustine’s writings tend to oppose the sentiment of the quote, and even criticise travel: "He to whom foreign travel is sweet, loves not his country: if his country is sweet, travel is bitter; if travel is bitter, all the day there is trouble." (Exposition on Psalm 86).
5. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
A more correct translation of the original Chinese by Lao Tzu would be: “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet”. Lao Tzu regarded action as something that comes naturally from stillness. Little is known about the Chinese sage Lao Tzu, although some legends say that he was born with white hair, having spent eighty years in his mother’s womb.
6. I never travel without my diary, one should always have something sensational to read on the train.
A witty comment from Oscar Wilde, this was actually a line from perhaps his most famous work, The Importance of Being Earnest (first performed in 1895). It was uttered by the character Gwendolen in Act II. The role was played by Joan Greenwood in the 1952 film adaptation.
7. One cannot discover new lands unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.
The original text went: “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore”. It comes from French writer and Nobel Prize winner Andre Gide’s The Counterfeiters (1925). The statement is often misattributed to Christopher Columbus.
8. The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.
A poignant line from Twentieth Century literary great Proust, from volume 5 of his In Search of Lost Time, it is about looking at life with new perspective – perception affects experience as much as location. Henry Miller had similar advice with his statement: “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things” in Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch (1957).
9. I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
A lovely quote, and Susan Sontag had a thing for lists. In her diaries she wrote: “The things (Beethoven’s music, movies, business firms) won’t exist unless I signify my interest in them in noting down their names.” Some things that Sontag listed under “Things I like”, include: Venice, tequila, sunsets, babies, silent films, heights, coarse salt and top hats.
What’s your favourite travel quote? Tweet us at @ContikiUK and let us know.