What J.R.R. Tolkien Can Teach Us About Travel and Life

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Chances are, if you consider yourself a reader, you probably have a favorite author.

I actually have a few favorites — and one of them is J.R.R. Tolkien.

Now, you might be wondering how Tolkien fits in to a travel blog. And it's a valid question. I would argue, though, that Tolkien is not only relevant to my blog, but also a PART of it. The very name of my blog — A Dangerous Business — comes from a Tolkien quote, and I often think back to memorable lines when I'm out exploring the world.

Even though I'm sure the Professor would hate to see a list of “inspirational Tolkien quotes” on the Internet, too bad — that's exactly what you're getting below.

Inspiring JRR Tolkien quotes

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

I have this quote tattooed (in Elvish, of course) around my wrist; a constant reminder that, even if I'm not happy with a situation I'm in, the only thing to do is make the best of it. Whether it's a bumpy, sweltering, nausea-inducing bus ride, or a business deal that falls through, I try my best to always look on the bright side.

When you travel as often as I do, you learn quickly that things NEVER go as planned. You can either choose to throw a tantrum and let a setback ruin your whole trip, OR you can just accept what's been given to you and make the best of it. I definitely choose the latter — because life is way too short to sweat the small, stupid stuff.

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

Truer words have never been spoken. Just think how much less stress we'd all face if we measured success in the number of hours spent enjoying good food and the company of close friends rather than the number of dollars in our bank accounts.

It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.

If I close my eyes and listen to this quote spoken, I'm immediately swept away. It's the quote that inspired the name of this website, and I still love it after all these years. Travel works exactly this way if you let it — you head off on an adventure expecting to experience the world in a certain way. And then of course you throw your plans out the window, meet new people, and fall in love with places you never expected to.

As soon as you let your feet stray from the path, travel really CAN sweep you away to the most incredible places.

The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.

I get this question a lot: Aren't you afraid to travel alone? From people who assume that the world “out there” is inherently dangerous. And sure, there are corners of the globe that I probably wouldn't venture to right now. But for every truly “dangerous” place out there, there are 5 or 10 others the are beautiful and perfectly safe. The world is not divided into good and bad — and that's part of what makes it so interesting.

Not all those who wander are lost.

Some people assume that people who travel a lot are running away from something — from a bad relationship, from job troubles, because they never want to grow up… But this definitely isn't always the case. In fact, I would argue that traveling has lead me to discover more about myself and the world and the human condition than anything else I've done in life. I may wander a lot — but I'm certainly not lost.

The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.

To all the people out there who are scared of others based on their religion or race or where they were born: get over it. The world is in a constant state of flux and is getting smaller every year thanks to technology. This quote is so true — eventually the scary, dangerous world “out there” will reach you, no matter how much you try to keep it out. So you may as well embrace it now.

Little by little, one travels far.

I view this one as a variation on another famous quote: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You don't have to spend 10 months circumnavigating the world in order to be a traveler. You first trip doesn't have to be a solo jaunt to the heart of Africa. Travel on your own terms and within your own comfort levels. Over time, you'll become more confident, and those baby steps will turn into longer strides.

There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.

Oh how true this is. When you travel, you often arrive in a new destination with expectations. Sometimes you're certain you're going to love a place, while other times you're a bit more skeptical. And, inevitably, you are almost always surprised.

You are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!

The more of the world I see, the more I realize how little of it I've seen. There are so many places to visit and customs to learn about and foods to eat — my bucket list has this funny talent of getting longer instead of shorter.

The longer I travel, the more I realize that I'll never be able to go everywhere or see everything. Realizing just how BIG the world is makes me realize how small I am. But that's okay. I'm just a tiny speck in the Universe, after all, and traveling helps keep me grounded on this.

Don't adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on on the story.

Once you start traveling — once you get bitten by the travel bug — it's very difficult to stop. Once your eyes have seen foreign lands and been opened to different ways of thinking, a part of you will always yearn to GO. For a traveler, the adventures definitely never end — we're always looking ahead to the next one.

Hobbiton Tolkien quote

Which quote is your favorite? Which one can you relate to the most?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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45 Comments on “What J.R.R. Tolkien Can Teach Us About Travel and Life

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  1. I like all the quotes very much indeed, and at 72, and still travelling, I know they are true! My teacher, Mr. Haffenden, told me in grade 7 that, “if you go out your front door, no telling what adventures you might have!” I’ve had a few!

    Do this one:

    This task was given to you. If you don’t do it, no one will.

    I want that drawing of a girl on a hike as a poster! Where can I acquire a copy?

      Hey Christopher! I’m guessing you’re referring to the watercolor-style photo towards the bottom of the page? Unfortunately this was something I had commissioned specially for my site, and it’s not available for purchase anywhere.

    Dear Amanda,

    I just happened across this post while (weirdly) trying to find instances of environmental scientists like Elizabeth Rush who might have appreciated Tolkien (yes, they’re definitely travelers). I just wanted to say that yours is imho the best post on travel and jrr I’ve ever read. As for Tolkien being difficult to read at times, I understand. I will diffidently suggest that you might like to browse some of the chapter-by-chapter new-ways-of-reading-Tolkien pieces I have started posting at Daily Kos that may give you reasons for greater interest in some of those passages. In any case, as someone once said about Tolkien, yours is “a cracking good blog post!”

      Thanks very much, Wayne! I’ve pretty much read everything Tolkien wrote about Middle Earth, but certain stories were definitely easier to get through than others. 😉 Glad you happened upon my post!

    I’ve started a travel blog and yours is inspiring! I always worry that there are too many out there–but each has something unique to offer.

    Shirley Drew

      The thing about blogging is that each blogger has their own unique voice and perspective – so I don’t think we ever need to look at one another as competitors!

    oh my goodness, I was going to compliment you on the name of your blog (I almost chose a Tolkien inspired name for my blog too) when I spotted this excellent post! Honestly, well done!

    I enjoyed reading the quotes and your interpretation of them, very cool. My favorite quote is “The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out”. I like this quote because in my understanding he is saying that we are projecting our world from our inner self, then the world mirrors back to us a world that match our vibration. In my understanding he is taking about the holographic Universe and the law of attraction.

    Well, we must remember if our ancestors didn’t go “On an Adventure”, we might have become extinct by being in the middle of food chain.

    I liked Thorin’s last quote and especially his transformation from a corrupt king to the son of Durin.

      Wish there was a place like middle earth, small enough to travel on foot (in few months maybe) but full of wonders.
      Btw today is Christmas,
      Merry Christmas to all, maybe Santa Claus is on an adventure now.

    We are all travelers, whether we go abroad or not. I have been fortunate enough to visit the UK (including Tolkien’s grave), but my finances do not permit me to travel abroad as I would like, but I have learned a truth about travel that Bilbo learned in his old age.

    “In every wood, in every spring, there is a different green.”

    Stand in one place long enough, and you will still find you were not where you used to be, even though you never left. The world is always changing, and one can find a new world to explore where the old one used to be.

    (PS My quote is from Bilbo’s song “I Sit Beside the Fire and Think”)

      Also a very good and truthful quote.

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