If you do a search for travel quotes, you will find the same 100 quotes copied and pasted from here to the Timbuktu of the internet. With everyone copying and pasting from each other in this global game of telephone, errors have slipped in and been repeated thousands of times. Thanks to social sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter a single error can be retweeted, repinned, and reblogged into a thousand errors in a matter of seconds. Just like those fake news stories that one gullible friend of yours keeps posting on Facebook, some of the most famous travel quotes are even entirely fabricated.
If you’ve spent any amount of time browsing travel blogs, one much-loved travel quote you’ve no doubt seen is,
It is better to travel well than to arrive.” — Buddha
A lovely sentiment indeed, but the trouble is…Buddha never said that. But it sounds like something he might have said, so most people never question it, just copying and pasting away in a blissful trance of fortune cookie wisdom. In this digital era where the quaint tradition of fact checking has become all but a faint memory, many of these quotes have even found their way into print.
Another famous quote that you’ve probably seen somewhere is attributed to Saint Augustine.
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
Again, we have a very lovely sentiment, but unfortunately Saint Augustine never uttered these words. In fact, Saint Augustine was not much of a fan of traveling for pleasure at all, regarding the inquisitive observation that tourists practice as a sin. Can you imagine how surprised he would be to learn that in this day and age he is now being hailed as a champion of travel with 2,670,000 search results for this misattributed quote?
If you try to find out exactly where many of the most circulated travel quotes are actually from, you’re going to have a tough time too. “The journey not the arrival matters,” is something supposedly uttered by T.S. Elliot…somewhere. Try to figure out where he said it though and you will hit dead end after dead end, because he didn’t.
Even the quotes that are more-or-less real are often modified. Take for instance this oft-repeated one, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” — Henry Miller. Pretty close, but what Henry Miller actually said in his book, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch was, “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.” Sure — these quotes are pretty similar, and you might even argue that the meaning hasn’t been changed…but what good is a quote at all if you’re modifying what the author actually said, even if only by a few words?
Perhaps most dubious among all the quotes are the ones attributed to ambiguous sources like this one, “He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” — Moorish Proverb
Try to find a source for it and you’ll find yourself stuck in yet another infinite loop, with hundreds of blogs and even articles in the mainstream media sharing the admittedly very wise sounding quote, but not a single one listing a source for the so-called “Moorish Proverb”.
In the end, does it really matter if a quote is real? The world won’t end if these people didn’t say any of these things. On the other hand, quotes are all about sharing wisdom and timeless knowledge. If we’re willing to accept wisdom from anywhere and anyone, we’d all do just as well to start including fortune cookie wisdom in our favorite quotes lists… unfortunately, from what I’ve found, it looks like that’s already the case.
(We’ve combed through the best travel books around, in search of some genuine travel quotes. Check out our favorites here!)