Riding Shotgun with Kerouac: 15 Inspiring Quotes on Travel From the Greats of Poetry, Philosophy and Literature 12

My view 2

My Top 15 Inspiring Travel Related Quotes

#1 “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” –Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

I want to ride, shotgun, with Kerouac, for a week. That’s right, we’ll be beat versions of Thelma & Louise; drinking coffee, reciting American Haikus and snapping along, as the pavement turns to gravel, then sand, then sea. I plan on my ending, however, being much happier than Thelma’s (fiery crash). Or Louise’s (fiery crash). Or, poor, Jack’s (cirrhosis of the liver!), for that matter.

(Click album cover for audio of Kerouac reading aloud)
I’m tempted to allow that single quote above to be my weekly contribution.  I could just hit ‘post’ on my blogging platform and turn off my computer.  Job, done. It’s a brilliant excerpt and demonstrates my own feelings on travel, adventure and life.

In fact, it’s my number one pick!

Why am I not making you wait until the end of the list for the big reveal, all top-twenty-countdown style?

Because, if that quote isn’t a jumping off point for an amazing list, I don’t know what is.  Besides, we have fourteen other beauties for you. These ARE some of the greats of poetry, philosophy & literature, after all!

Kerouac starts things off with a bang, as well as providing several more of today’s top picks (hey, he did write “On the Road” too). However, we also have a quote from D.H. Lawrence,  renowned for providing no-holds-barred assessments on the nature of humans that left his readers uncomfortable but enlightened (he wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover …scandalous!). Maira Kalman offers up an independent, yet feminine, fantasy of how a true traveler (NOT tourist), ideally, should pack. Steinbeck, Vonnegut and Buber demonstrate the importance of NOT making plans and letting the journey take you. Matsuo Basho offers the very zen perspective that the journey, itself, is home. Robert Penn Warren’s decadent imagery captures the essence of why we travel and the appeal of heading West (“thar’s gold in them-thar hills!“). Finally, the great, Spalding Gray tells us when it’s time to go home. (Wait, what, already?)

No, silly…read on!

How Do These Travel Quotes Differ From All of the Others?

Look, honestly, I’m no fan of those same-old-same-old lists churned out on mirrored blogs everywhere. Sure, they have their purpose in providing a way to quickly find travel-related quotes to share with followers, friends & family (though I will say that, from my research, many are misquotes, without any hint to the source from which they are derived, so beware!). I’m digging a little deeper. I’ve compiled fifteen quotes that, I believe, capture and inspire wander-lust in traveling adrenaline-junkies everywhere. I’ve also provided some handy-dandy links, via Amazon, to purchase the books in which these quotes originally appeared. I think the authors would approve. I was careful to get accurate quotes, to the best of my ability, with perhaps the exception of Basho, whose works have been translated from Japanese to English by various people, resulting in slight differences, depending on the source.

So, with that warm-up, let’s immerse ourselves in more amazing travel quotes, shall we?


 #2 “When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.”

–D. H. Lawrence, The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence

#3 “I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.”

– Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

#4 “My dream is to walk around the world. A smallish backpack, all essentials neatly in place. A camera. A notebook. A traveling paint set. A hat. Good shoes. A nice pleated (green?) skirt for the occasional seaside hotel afternoon dance.”

— Maira Kalman, The Principles of Uncertainty

#5 “The bottoms of my shoes

are clean

from walking in the rain.”

— Jack Kerouac, Book of Haikus (Poets, Penguin)

#6 “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

#7 “The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.”

– Jack Kerouac, On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Kerouac, Jack (unknown Edition) [Paperback(2008)]

#8 “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”

– Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle: A Novel

#9 “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)

#10 “The moon and sun are eternal travelers.  Even the years wander on.  A lifetime adrift in a boat or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

Matsuo Basho, Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics)

#11 “All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road.”

– Jack Kerouac, On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Kerouac, Jack (unknown Edition) [Paperback(2008)]

#12 “I was headed out down a long bone-white road, straight as a string and smooth as glass and glittering and wavering in the heat and humming under the tires like a plucked nerve. I was doing seventy-five but I never seemed to catch up with the pool which seemed to be over the road just this side of the horizon. Then, after a while, the sun was in my eyes, for I was driving west. So I pulled the sun screen down and squinted and put the throttle to the floor. And kept on moving west. For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.
It was just where I went.”

– Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men

#13 “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

#14 “The secret of this kind of climbing, is like Zen. Don’t think. Just dance along. It’s the easiest thing in the world, actually easier than walking on flat ground which is monotonous. The cute little problems present themselves at each step and yet you don’t hesitate and you find yourself on some other boulder you picked out for no special reason at all, just like zen.~ Japhy”

-Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

 #15 “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

– Martin Buber, The Legend of the Baal-Shem

What was your favorite from our list? Have you experienced similar feelings, thoughts or experiences?


 Want to share your favorite inspirational travel quote from a legendary writer, poet or philosopher?

I’d love to hear from you!

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Have a great weekend. Enjoy your travels and “climb that goddamn mountain.”











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