I assume that if you’re on my blog and reading this, you’re either a member of the family, a Facebook friend, or a person who is just genuinely quite interested in travel. If you’re a member of the latter category (in which case, welcome, and please follow me on everything), then I pose a challenge to you. Run through your Instagram account for a couple of minutes and count how many times you see an inspirational travel quote. You know the ones. My estimate would be between ten and one hundred and fifty thousand million.
Let’s pause for a minute and think about this odd phenomenon, and the type of person that would actually be inspired by one of these travel quotes. The type of person that would see a picture of an empty, country road leading into an orange sunset with a “get lost” caption hastily photoshopped onto where the Give Way sign should be, and immediately head off to SkyScanner to book a one way ticket to Cancun. Does such a person exist? I doubt it. I also doubt that inspirational travel quotes have ever inspired a single person to do anything other than attempt to kill themselves out of exasperation.
Here’s a run through of the most popular offenders.
Not all those who wander are lost
I feel it’s important to examine the source material for this one. It comes from a poem, written by J R R Tolkien, for use in the hit movie trilogy, the Lord of the Rings. Far from what many may imagine, it doesn’t pertain to a sense of unquenchanble wanderlust, but instead refers to Aragorn (son of Arathorn) regaining his title as King of Gondor and ruling over the legion of men from on high at Minas Tirith. You know, something we can all relate to. Aragorn was chief of the Dunedain, heir to Isiludur and integral to the successful result of World War II, sorry, the War of the One Ring.
He wasn’t bumbling round Fangorn Forest with a DSLR, making a mental list of the Top 5 Most Delicious Toadstools and taking candid snapshots of ents.
The other point I’ll make, is that nobody looks at a selfie taken outside a Cambodian temple, or a sunburnt backpacker on a crowded bus, or a woman in oversized sunglasses with an oversized camera in an oversized maxi dress and thinks “poor thing, they must be lost”. Unless you explicitly state otherwise, everyone generally assumes you know what you’re doing. How’s that for an inspirational quote.
Book a Ticket and Just Go
The problem with this one is a lack of clarification. Book a ticket? For what? We assume something travel-y, because the quote has a picture of the Great Wall of China in the background. But what if I put a picture of Les Miserables in the background instead, with the same quote? It would look like this.
What are you waiting for, BOOK A TICKET AND JUST FUCKING GO TO LES MISERABLES. But I don’t want to see Les Miserables, you say. I’ve seen the film, and that was enough to make me vomit up my own liver. I’m not going to pay £80 to cry at I Dreamed A Dream for the fifteenth time and mutter about how I preferred Susan Boyle’s version.
When you change the context, you immediately see how superior this quote is. It’s demanding. If you’re going to travel or see Les Miserables, you’ll do it on your terms and because you want to, not because everyone else says you should.
And that’s without getting on to the “going” part. What exactly are you going to do once you’re there? Things? You spent all your money on just booking a ticket. You didn’t book accommodation. You don’t have insurance. You don’t even know where you’re going. The quote hasn’t specified. Travelling is a privilege that some people just don’t have (as said excellently in this post). I can’t imagine this quote being so popular if it said “Just Buy a House and Live In It”.
Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer
I read recently that spending money on travel makes you happier than spending money on material items. So, I’m going to try not to be so literal this time, and take a stab at what this quote is really trying to say – that travel makes you richer in spirit. I’m not sure how this is quantified, as there is no real way to measure spirit. Mostly it’s detected in particle form by a 4 kilometre long machine underneath the Swiss Alps, but scientists still have no real knowledge of how to harness it.
Now whilst I do believe that travel enhances your life, there are some exceptions. I get infinitely more joy from playing the iPhone version of Final Fantasy 9, to the train journey I once took from London to Crawley for the same price.
So let’s cut through the crap here. Hard work and focus make you richer. Travel is awesome – when you can afford it – but it’s in no way the only thing you can buy that brings you happiness. Besides, everyone knows that real happiness comes from within (oh God, I’m turning into one of them).
I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list
So you’ve got the crappiest list in the world, with only one item? Just “everywhere”, written in delicate, curvy, mysterious script, probably in a leatherbound notebook, bought on a rainy day in a corner of Camden Market. Or wait – maybe you’ve got the longest list in the history of mankind, with literally every single place that has ever existed, presumably including fictional locations and places not on this earth, like some kind of Super Atlas. Either way, this is impractical.
I understand what the quote is actually saying. “Everywhere interests me! I want to go everywhere!” Can I interest you in Letterbreen, County Fermanagh, a small hamlet a few miles away from where I went to school? It’s got one shop, one pub, a few houses and a church. It’s not charming or quaint. There’s nothing to do, unless you’re really into fields. There might be a bus station there now I think of it.
Not everywere is great or fantastic or wow or even a “hidden gem”, so why waste your time and money. Take it off your list.
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page
Let’s imagine the world is a book, most likely called “The World” (as an aside, there is a book called The World, available on Amazon here – you even have the option to read a few pages before you buy). There’s chapters on Asia, Africa, South America, every place you can imagine. You read about the great food in Thailand, the incredible temples of India, the craziness of New York City, the best extreme sports to try in Mexico. It goes on and on. You are reading the shit out of this book. The world is, quite literally, in your hands.
But then you realise that the entire time, there’s been another book right beside you. It’s also called “The World”. You pick it up and flick through. There are chapters about marriage, having children, buying a house, looking after your parents, seeing your friends every weekend, and about how important stability and familiarity is for a happy life. You read a page, think “well this isn’t for me” and continue reading about riding elephants in Chaing Mai, and the most beautiful beaches in Brazil. Maybe there were some bits in that other book that really interested you. But you’ll find time to read it later.
It’s not that the world is one book. It’s that everyone has their own book. They might only have read a page of yours, and you might have only read a page of theirs. But it’s really important to remember that neither is more valid than the other.
Now over to you. Which quotes inspire you the least? Please post your bullshit in the comment section below.