It’s Friday, we could use some feel-good inspiration, so we dug through our archives to find a list of great quotes for a little breezy early weekend reading. Travel feels just around the corner, doesn’t it? The world is opening back up, the idea of getting on a plane, or a boat, or even just driving somewhere really far away and dropping yourself into a foreign place, even in your own country, no longer seems like an impossibility. So we’re re-sharing this piece collecting a bunch of terrific quotes from travel writer Bill Bryson, to lighten the mood as we head into summer. Enjoy. – Ed.
Bill Bryson has been masterfully writing travel books since the late 1980s (or the early ’90s, according to a lot of folks who weren’t impressed with The Lost Continent), always funny, always with plenty of chin-rubbing thoughtful observations and theories. His book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail is perhaps his work best known by outdoorsfolk, and became even bigger after the movie based on it (and directed by Robert Redford) hit the big screen in 2015. Whether he’s walking the AT, driving around America, or finding his way around Europe or Australia, he’s dropped his share of literary gems. Here are 20 of our favorites.
1. “I mused for a few moments on the question of which was worse, to lead a life so boring that you are easily enchanted, or a life so full of stimulus that you are easily bored.” — The Lost Continent
2. “Black bears rarely attack. But here’s the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want. That doesn’t happen often, but-and here is the absolutely salient point-once would be enough.” — A Walk in the Woods
3. “That’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. 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.” — Neither Here Nor There
4. “Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old.” — A Walk in the Woods
5. “It is a curious feature of our existence that we come from a planet that is very good at promoting life but even better at extinguishing it.” — A Short History of Nearly Everything
6. “What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die of course. Literally shit myself lifeless.” — A Walk in the Woods
7. “Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, 10 miles whopping, 50 miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.
Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really.” — A Walk in the Woods
8. “I sat on a toilet watching the water run thinking what an odd thing tourism is. You fly off to a strange land, eagerly abandoning all the comforts of home and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile effort to recapture the comforts you wouldn’t have lost if you hadn’t left home in the first place.” — Neither Here Nor There
9. “I wanted to quit and to do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again. All of this all at once, every moment, on the trail or off.” — A Walk in the Woods
10. “I ordered a coffee and a little something to eat and savored the warmth and dryness. Somewhere in the background Nat King Cole sang a perky tune. I watched the rain beat down on the road outside and told myself that one day this would be 20 years ago.” — Notes From A Small Island
11. “What is it about maps? I could look at them all day, earnestly studying the names of towns and villages I have never heard of and will never visit, tracing the course of obscure rivers, checking elevations, consulting the marginal notes to see what a little circle with a flag on it signifies (a Burg or Schloss) and what’s the difference between a pictogram of an airplane with a circle around it and one without (one is a Flughafen, the other a Flugplatz), issuing small profound ‘Hmmmm’s’ and nodding my head gravely without having the faintest idea why.” — Neither Here Nor There
12. “In terms of adaptability, humans are pretty amazingly useless.” — A Short History of Nearly Everything
13. “To tell you the truth, I’m amazed we’ve come this far,” he said, and I agreed. We had hiked 500 miles, a million and a quarter steps, since setting off from Amicalola. We had grounds to be proud. We were real hikers now. We had shit in the woods and slept with bears. We had become, we would forever be, mountain men.” — A Walk in the Woods
14. “Traveling is more fun-hell, life is more fun-if you can treat it as a series of impulses.” — Neither Here Nor There
15. “A significant fraction of thru-hikers reach Katahdin, then turn around and start back to Georgia. They just can’t stop walking, which kind of makes you wonder.” — A Walk in the Woods
16. “Perhaps it’s my natural pessimism, but it seems that an awfully large part of travel these days is to see things while you still can.” — In a Sunburned Country
17. “There is something about the momentum of travel that makes you want to just keep moving, to never stop.” — Neither Here Nor There
18. “Most of the time I am sunk in thought, but at some point on each walk there comes a moment when I look up and notice, with a kind of first-time astonishment, the amazing complex delicacy of the words, the casual ease with which elemental things come together to form a composition that is-whatever the season, wherever I put my besotted gaze-perfect.” — A Walk in the Woods
19. “If there’s one thing the AT teaches, it is low-level ecstasy-something we could all do with more of in our lives.” — A Walk in the Woods
20. “I became quietly seized with that nostalgia that overcomes you when you have reached the middle of your life and your father has recently died and it dawns on you that when he went he took some of you with him.” — The Lost Continent