7 Inspiring (but Completely Fake) Famous Travel Quotes — plus 2 that were almost never famous at all

Posted by - March 6, 2015 | Category: Library

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?

Somebody’s Mom.

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.

Source: Quote Investigator, Huffington Post, and Wikipedia

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

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Famous Travel Quotes. 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

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination. Famous Fake Travel Quotes. 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

The World is a book and those who do not travel read only a page. Saint Augustine fake famous travel quote. Man On The Lam

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

Source: WikiQuote

6. “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” – Mohammed

Don't tell me how educated you are tell me how much you traveled -- Mohammed. Famous Travel Quotes

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.)

Source: Wikipedia


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.”

Let’s be thankful Tolkien changed it. Otherwise, us wanderers would be…lost?


escapes vintage compass

What’s your favourite travel quote? (Fake or Real) Leave a note in the comments section below.

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37 comments - add one
  1. I had a feeling a lot of these were dubious attributions. I personally prefer the Steinback quote in its entirety, though. It has a nice ring to it.

  2. Another famous one attributed to Mark Twain is about San Francisco. The coldest winter I ever had was a summer in San Francisco. Apparently he never said it.

    1. Thanks Chanel. Once I started this post I went down a rabbit-hole and spent hours trying to decipher what was real and what was fake. It was fun to research though. 🙂

  3. Love this post! I use travel quotes a lot on my FB page and I admit I don’t check the veracity of the credit. I am a huge Tolkien fan, and indeed the published one us much better than the draft!

  4. I’ve never believed the attribution of the Twain and St Augustine quotes in particular. Thanks for clearing it up! Though I’m sure it won’t stop the misattribution …

    One of my favourite travel quotations is by Spanish poet Antonio Machado:
    “Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wanderer, there is no road– Only wakes upon the sea.”

  5. This is the reason why I usually quote stuff from books I’m reading or movies I’m watching… 🙂 My favorite quote was something my grandma used to say all the time (especially when I’d be bitching about how life and the future was so “unfair). She used to say “the only certainty we have in life is death”. A bit of common sense right there, but took me years before I actually understood what she meant.

  6. Oh no! everything on Pinterest isn’t real?! yikes, I was using that to home school my kids 😉 anyway I’m no off to the rabbit hole that will be fake buddha quotes. thanks for the fascinating post!

  7. You can also add one more beautiful quote by Mohammed S.a.w “The worldly comforts are not for me. I am like a traveler, who takes a rest under a tree in the shade and then goes on his way.”

  8. Nice post you have here! My favorite was number 3! “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
    It really has this deep meaning.

  9. Great inspirational post. my particular favorite is number 5. I also have a good quote to share.

    “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”

    Lao Tzu

  10. I have adopted a couple of Yogi Berra quotes as my favorite travel quotes:

    “We’re lost but making great time.”

    “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

  11. To clarify, one does not get quotes from the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from the Quran. The Quran was delivered to him by the angel Gabriel (Jibril). Quotes from him would come from the hadiths, which are anecdotes collected from his core followers and his wives.

    That said, I’ve not read it in any hadiths, so go figure.

  12. Amazing how many “popular” travel quotes are misquoted or miscredited. Regardless, the message behind these quotes is all that matters. And if they inspire at least one person to get out of their comfort zone to explore the world, then mission accomplished!

  13. Great post, BTW! Probably one of the most original ones I’ve ever read on a travel blog in quite some time.

    For shits and giggles, it would be funny if everyone posted their own fake travel quote in this “Comments” section to see if it picks up steam anywhere!

    “I’ve yet to travel to a place that you couldn’t find on a map!” – Rand McNally

    1. LOL — I love your fake travel quote Ray. Here’s hoping others take up your challenge! 🙂

      Here’s mine:

      “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single credit card.” — American Express

  14. Oh my gosh, I had no idea! I’m a travel blogger and I’ve seen most of these on other travel sites and social media. Now I’ll definitely question every single one I read. And in keeping with your theme about real quotes attributed to the wrong source, here’s my contribution:
    “You’re now free to move about the country.” – Air Koryo
    And here’s my husband’s contribution:
    “Visit New Zealand, land of shear romance.” – Man on the Lamb


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