15 literary travel quotes

15 literary travel quotes

You might not want to go on an actual road trip with these tortured writers. But you'll love reading what they thought about their trips
travel quotes
Something about looking out at a view in a foreign place turns everyone into a poet. Or at least a sentimental Facebook-poster. (Photo: Charles Dickens' writing desk)

Sometimes, the greatest travel books are the inadvertent kind, such as “The Mind’s Eye,” Henri Cartier-Bresson’s musings on his life as a photographer. Or “A Moveable Feast,” Ernest Hemingway’s account of his life in Paris.

The latter is particularly notable for its hilariously disgruntled account of a road trip to Lyon with a whiny, drunk and delinquent F. Scott Fitzgerald. (The literary giant's conclusion? “I learned one thing. Never to go on trips with anyone you do not love.”)

Fiction or nonfiction, road trips with tortured, brilliant writers make for great quotes about strangers in strange places.

Here are some of the ones that stick with us.

New things

“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." -- Alex Garland, "The Beach"

Perfect moments

"I hadn't had a perfect moment yet. And it's very important for me to have perfect moments in exotic countries like that ... it kind of lets you know when it's time to go home ..." -- Spalding Gray, "Swimming to Cambodia."

travel quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald and their daughter Frances step off a European liner (1925). Drifting

"You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby."

Culture shock

"Culture shock is often felt sharply at the borders between countries, but sometimes it doesn’t hit fully until you’ve been in a place for a long time." -- Henri Cartier-Bresson, “The Mind’s Eye.”


"Why think about that when all the golden land's ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see?" -- Jack Kerouac, "On the Road."

Internal discoveries

"One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things." -- Henry Miller, "Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch." 


"The most difficult task for anyone wandering through a foreign land with the hope of gaining some insight into it is the profound need to come to terms with the lives and thoughts of strangers." -- Simon Winchester, “Korea.”


"What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies." -- Jack Kerouac, "On the Road."


"Packing up. The nagging worry of departure. Lost keys, unwritten labels, tissue paper lying on the floor. I hate it all. Even now, when I have done so much of it, when I live, as the saying goes, in my boxes. 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." -- Daphne du Maurier, "Rebecca." 

Our true selves

"At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves -- that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. 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." -- Alain de Botton, "The Art of Travel."

graham greene English screenwriter, playwright, essayist, novelist and travel writer Graham Greene (1975).

"There is so much weariness and disappointment in travel that people have to open up –- in railway trains, over a fire, on the decks of steamers, and in the palm courts of hotels on a rainy day. They have to pass the time somehow, and they can pass it only with themselves.

"Like the characters in Chekhov, they have no reserves -– you learn the most intimate secrets. You get an impression of a world peopled by eccentrics, of odd professions, almost incredible stupidities, and, to balance them, amazing endurances." -- Graham Greene, “The Lawless Roads.”

More on CNN: In the footsteps of Graham Greene at the Continental Saigon

Let go

“Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.

"We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip.

"Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” -- John Steinbeck, "Travels with Charley: In Search of America."


“Everything you're sure is right can be wrong in another place. ” -- Barbara Kingsolver, "The Poisonwood Bible." 

Joy of ignorance

“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."

And finally, our favorite: 


“Eating in Sweden is really just a series of heartbreaks.” -- Bill Bryson, "Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe"

More on CNNGo: 20 funniest travel quotes you've never heard

Have a favorite travel quote from a heartbreaking work of staggering genius? Tell us in the comments below.