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Feature photo by Bob Milsom. Photo above by dnhoshor.

The literary works of these five writers expresses the importance of travel.
Mark Twain

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Writer of The Great American Novel (or one of them), friend to presidents and royalty alike, Twain chronicled his journeys through Europe and the Middle East in his best selling work, The Innocents Abroad and then again in the follow up, A Tramp Abroad.

Twain succinctly captured the importance of spreading one’s wings when he famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

Interestingly enough, despite the huge critical success of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Innocents Abroad was the best-selling work of Twain’s lifetime.

Maya Angelou

I do know, however, that being exposed to the existence of other languages increases the perception that the world is populated by people who not only speak differently from oneself, but whose cultures and philosophies are other than one’s own.

In Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now American poet Maya Angelou named travel as the one hope we have to recognize “that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die.”

She believed that if we could recognize these shared experiences, we would be more likely to “understand each other [and] even become friends.” How often have you looked around a café, pub, or park in a foreign country, and realized this is so very true?

Photo by Urbanworld Film Festival.

Margaret Mead

As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate lovingly, our own.

One of the biggest rewards of traveling is developing a deeper understanding of your own home as you adjust to the patterns and realities of other cultures.

Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist best known for her book, Coming of Age in Samoa, reminds us that when we sharpen our ability to observe another culture, we’ll also be able to apply that level of perception and appreciation to our own roots.

Samuel Johnson

Every nation has something peculiar in its manufactures, its works of genius, its medicines, its agriculture, its customs, and its policy. He only is a useful traveler, who brings home something by which his country might be benefited; who procures some supply of want, or some mitigation of evil, which may enable his readers to compare their condition with that of others, to improve it whenever it is worse, and whenever it is better to enjoy it.

In a 1760 column for The Idler, English writer Samuel Johnson identified one of the richest rewards of traveling: applying new knowledge of different ways of life in a way that benefits your own country. Even if it’s only on a small scale, both you and those around you are all the richer for it.

Photo by Tara Chambers.

Rosalia de Castro

I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I am going is what inspires me to travel it.

The best time to travel is always in the moment. And even if it means you don’t know where you’re heading, it is not knowing that makes it so much more exciting. Rosalia de Castro, Galician poet and writer, understood it is the unknown path that is the most inspiring one. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t get lost.


The history of literature and philosophy is filled with writers whose thoughts on travel remain relevant today. Check out 5 Eastern Thinkers Who Understood Inner Travel and 5 Western Thinkers Who Understood Inner Travel for some of their timeless, universal ideas.

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About The Author

Olivia Hambrett

Olivia is a Sydney-based writer and editor who spends most of her time plotting new trips, getting excited over airfare sales, and drinking from a seemingly bottomless cup of tea. She is the Co-Editor of Australian web-mag, Trespass and as a freelance writer, has contributed to numerous online and print publications. Right now, she is quietly plotting a return to the Greek Islands.

  • Rebecca

    Thanks for this post. Many people who travel or write travel may not have read anything by Mark Twain, Maya Angelou or Samuel Johnson; it may be a small number of people.

  • Claudio

    Really good post, Olivia. Not only do certain writers tell us about the importance of travel, but they also inspire people to hit the road. It's similar to the effect certain music has on us as travelers. just as there is that one song that puts you right in the middle of a past travel experience, there is that one book that inspired you to drop everything and go. On the Road by Jack Kerouac comes to mind :-)

  • michaela lola

    Cool post…yeah, I've always believed that "travel writing" is not just limited to guidebooks or modern adventure trips. Almost all classic authors believed that travel was important in the search for the "self" …
    I also believe that works dont always have to necessarily have to be about a particular trip to emphasize the importance of travel…I think that most writers understood that the value of our existence isn't just limited to our town or country, that the world is so big and we have so much more to learn….

    I recently read this book by Jean-Paul Sartre entitled "Nausea," wherein he narrates a conversation he had with the Autodidact whom he promised to show his travel photographs to (Sartre was well traveled: Morocco, Vietnam, Spain, Tokyo, etc)

    Man: "….Travel is the best school…It must be such upheaval. If I were to go on a voyage, I think I should like to make written notes of every aspect of my character before leaving, so that on my return I could compare what I used to be and what I have become. I've read taht there are travellers who have changed physically and mentally to such an extent that their closest relatives did not recognize them when they came back."

    Sartre: "Something begins in order to end: an adventure doesn't let itself be extended; it achieves significance only through its death….But an adventure never begins again, never prolonged."

    hehehhehe…let me insert a bit of self promotion, but check out my list of the Best 50 Travel Books:”_blank”>http://

  • Kelly Rice

    I loved Innocents Abroad! I havn''t read anything by Rosalia de Castro–but I will now! In school about 12 years ago I took a class called "Travelers, Tourists and Expatriates" where we also read travel writing by notable authors–some of my favorites were Paul Theroux's 'Pillars of Hercules' and Pico Iyer's 'Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World'–if you havent read them, check them out!

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  • Olivia

    Thanks guys and girls. I agree, the best and most inspiring travel writing is rarely found purely in guide and adventure books. These writers all capture the spirit of travelling, which is what it's all about.

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  • Martinha

    Really nice all that.. is really need for our inspiration in travels.. good weekend.. =)

  • tawan

    Thanks for taking the time to explain this in a way thats so easy to understand…

  • Paris

    I would also add Jules Verne to this list. The first his book I read was “The Mysterious Island”. I was so impressed by picturesque flora and fauna description! Those times I wished I hade been with the heros of the book.

  • NigeriaMogul

    Great. I really enjoyed this. I am in Malaysia right now. Coming from Nigeria, I have recently learned a lot about my culture. A lot of things I was blind to due to crass familiarity, are now being distinguished because I keep on meeting new people, new food, new lifestyle and new culture that are really different from my background Nigerian-African culture.

  • Sbraun0307

    I this is exactly how I feel. The more I travel the more I realize that people are people no matter where we go. We feel. We laugh. We cry. We love.  In every part of the world. It’s such a beautiful thing.

  • Nga Kange

    I travel with no fear because I send God ahead, no mather the kind of journey I have.

  • Tanya Sachdev

    Travelling is the food for the pen, for what will I write if I don’t see the new, don’t feel the new and remain in my own closet and count the same clothes till I die.

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