We take for granted that a lot of what we read on the internet is the gospel truth. But sometimes, it just ain’t so.
In 1902, the German psychologist William Stern conducted a series of experiments involving storytelling. He enlisted a group of subjects and asked them to share a story, whispering it down the line from one person to the next. What he found was that oftentimes the text of the original tale was altered or shortened, sometimes so much so that the final telling bore little resemblance to the original. It’s the basis for the kid’s game Chinese Whispers (or “Telephone” if you’re considerably more P.C.).
And travel quotes are not immune to the same treatment. Words get substituted. Names get changed. And before you know it, the authenticity of a quote is blurred.
Here are some of the more infamous internet fakes.
1. “Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
The quote is genuine, but the attribution isn’t.
In 1998, an ad in New Yorker magazine attributed it to Mark Twain, and well, since it’s the New Yorker, I suppose folks just took it for granted it was legitimate.
Since then, the much-loved quote has been consistently misattributed to Twain in countless publications, travel sites, and memes. Cindy Lovell, Executive Director of Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut tried to set the record straight in a 2013 Huffington Post article with an emphatic, “Mark Twain did NOT say that.”
So where does this famous travel quote come from?
It’s from the author of the Life’s Little Instruction Book series — H. Jackson Browne Jr. (not to be confused with the singer Jackson Brown), from his 1991 book P.S. I Love You — a compilation of letters from his mother.
2. “People don’t take trips — trips take people.” – John Steinbeck
This one is more of a paraphrase of Steinbeck’s words than a complete falsehood. In his 1962 travel memoir Travels with Charley: In Search of America he writes:
“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.
And all plans, safeguards, policies and coercion are fruitless.
We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
— John Steinbeck
3. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson holds the dubious distinction of having two famous travel quotes misattributed to him. This particular one (or rather a close semblance thereof) belongs to a poet named Muriel Strode, and first appeared in print in 1903 in a monthly religious magazine titled The Open Court, (Volume 17, No. 567) and then again in her own My Little Book of Prayer published in 1904.
“I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail.”
— Muriel Strode
Source: Quote Investigator
4. “Life Is a Journey, Not a Destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson did offer a not entirely dissimilar quote in the Experience chapter of his 1844 work Essays: Second Series:
“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Alas, it does not have the same oomph as it’s less wordy substitute. The oft-quoted text comes from the Sunday Sermon lesson of a pastor by the name of Lynn Hough, published in The Christian Advocate in 1920.
“Life is a journey and not a destination.”
— Lynn H. Hough
Source: Quote Investigator
5. “The World is a Book and those that do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine
Saint Augustine (Augustine of Hippo) was a prolific writer who frequently hovers atop many Best Travel Quotes lists. At best though, he held little regard for those who travelled. At worst, he downright despised it. While there is no clear connection between Saint Augustine and “The World is a Book…” quote, there is between Saint Augustine and the following:
“What disasters are suffered by those who travel by land or sea! What man can go out of his own house without being exposed on all hands to unforeseen accidents?”
— Saint Augustine, The City of God (Book XXII), chapter 22, paragraph 3
“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.”
— Saint Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 86, paragraph 10
The quote is most likely derived from Le Cosmopolite, ou, Le citoien de monde from 1750 by Louis Charles Fougeret de Monbron. Translated from French, it goes a little something like this:
“The universe is a sort of book, whose first page one has read when one has seen only one’s own country.”
— Louis Charles Fougeret de Monbron
6. “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” – Mohammed
This travel quote’s been bandied about by everyone from Rick Steves to Matador Network to Thought Catalog, and just about everyone with a Pinterest travel board, although there is no definitive citation of the Prophet Mohammed as its source.
Islamic scholars say it’s not in the Quran, but it is among the (long) list of unsourced travel quotes on WikiQuote. Internet sleuth John Malathronas tracked down a chap by the name of Leland Wong who first posted the quote online in October of 1996, but after that, the trail goes cold.
For now, this quote should be attributed to that good old standby — Anonymous.
7. “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” – Buddha
Did you know there’s an entire website dedicated to Fake Buddha Quotes? Neither did I.
But apparently, there’s a need.
I suppose things just sound more profound when you attach “Buddha” at the tail end of it. This misattribution is probably a mix of a couple of other famous travel quotes. The first is by our good pal Robert Louis Stevenson, in his essay El Dorado.
“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson
The second is a Chinese proverb which itself often gets attributed to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (it was the title of a 1987 book about Jobs.)
“The journey is the reward.”
— Chinese proverb
Source: Fake Buddha Quotes
If you’re keen on decorating to feed your wanderlust, check out this lovely World Map decal with “real” travel quotes.
Almost Not Famous Travel Quotes
Which brings up to the “Almost Not Famous” section — the quotes that almost never were.
1. “Traveling — it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
Generally considered among one of the world’s greatest travellers, Moroccan-born Ibn Battuta travelled for 29 years throughout much of the Muslim world during the 14th century.
The thing is, he never took any notes.
It wasn’t until his return, and upon the insistence of Morocco’s ruler Abu Inan, that he dictated his tales to a chap by the name of Ibn Juzayy. So you see, it’s Ibn Juzayy we have to thank for this quote (it appeared in his lofty “A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling” — shortened to “RIhla” or “The Journey.”)
The trouble is, Ibn Juzayy copied much of his text from tales of earlier travellers (like, a 150 years earlier to be exact), so even the authenticity of his words is in question. Perhaps a more apt quote would be:
“Travelling — it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a plagiarizer.”
(Feel free to attribute that one back to me, thank-you very much.)
2. “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Arguably, the most famous travel quote circulating on the web, Tolkien’s line “Not all those who wander are lost” has become a mantra of travel bloggers and vagabonds alike. It’s from the poem All That is Gold Does Not Glitter in The Lord of The Rings. The first quatrain reads:
“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.”
According to Tolkien’s son Christopher, the original draft of that poem didn’t mention “wander” at all. It read:
“All that is gold does not glitter;
all that is long does not last;
All that is old does not wither;
not all that is over is past.”