“It is better to travel well than to arrive.”

I found this one on “BrainyQuote“:

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

This seems to be a variation on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive,” which is from an 1878 essay entitled “El Dorado”).

“for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”
From “The Complete Works of Robert Louis Stevenson.”

Arthur C. Custance made an obvious reference to this saying when he wrote, in his 1978 Science and Faith, “To distort a well-known adage, It is better to travel well than to arrive at the right destination.”

Quite how this came to be attributed to the Buddha, I don’t know. The earliest link I was able to find in print between the Buddha and the “travel well” variant of Stevenson’s quote is from The Panic-Free Pregnancy, by Michael S. Broder (p. 153), from 2004, where the author attributes the saying to “Buddha,” but I’d imagine that Broder got the quote from the internet. Unfortunately Google’s not very good at identifying dates of publication on the web, so I haven’t been able to ascertain when “It is better to travel well than to arrive” became a Buddha quote.

A year before Broder’s book, Applied Economic Analysis for Technologists, Engineers, and Managers has the quote as a “Tibetan saying,” but (Google’s imperfections in ascertaining timing aside) it seems probably that the “Buddha” attribution was already in existence.

17 thoughts on ““It is better to travel well than to arrive.””

  1. Who came first: Buddha, or Robert Louis Stevenson? I would say your argument is backwards, and that Robert Louis Stevenson quoted Buddha.

    1. For Stevenson to have quoted the Buddha, the Buddha would have to have made this statement. If you can tell me where “It is better to travel well than to arrive” is located in the Buddhist scriptures, I’d be very grateful, but since it seems no one else has been able to locate this quote in the scriptures I suspect your search is going to be rather fruitless.

        1. It’s funny how much fortune cookie platitudes are improved when you add the words “in bed” to the end of them.

  2. Excellent point. However, I’m not so sure I would use the interwebs to do my research. If I do find it I would be happy to reply back to you. I appreciate your openness.

  3. According to another website Stevenson said “for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”
    Expressing the same sentiment as a Taoist saying “The journey is the reward”

    1. Yes, that’s the quote from “El Dorado” that I cite in the third paragraph. It’s definitely by him; it’s found in his “Complete Works.”

  4. I have always attributed this quote to Stevenson. Being a Scotsman, I can’t help be biased though. However, Paul Watzlawick, in his brilliant contrary self help book on how to pursue unhappiness ‘The Situation is Hopeless, But Not Serious’ attributes it to a Japanese proverb.

    1. “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive” is definitely from Stevenson. I have to say that self-help books are pretty bad when it comes to correctly attributing quotes, and I wouldn’t take the Japanese proverb attribution seriously.

  5. Wholeheartedly agree with you. I too would have dismissed without a second thought if it hadn’t been attributed by such an eminent theoritician on communication theory and family therapy. A surprising oversight on his part, I’m sure, but thought I’d furrow your brow anyway on your welcome site.

  6. It’s blind to say that only one person could come up with a quote, have you been to every stuppa or temple or whatever and made sure the Buddha did not say it? Just because Stevenson said it doesn’t mean the Buddha did not. Pretty awful epistemology here I’m sorry to say.

    1. Well, talking of epistemology, if someone makes a claim such as “the Buddha said X” it’s reasonable that we ask for evidence that supports that claim. If there’s no evidence, then the claim should rightly be dismissed.

      Just as evidence for Shakespeare having said Y would require reference to the Shakespeare canon, a claim that the Buddha said X would require reference to the Buddhist scriptural canon (or canons). This doesn’t require visiting “every stuppa (sic) or temple or whatever,” any more than dismissing the claim that Shakespeare said, say, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” requires visiting every library (or whatever).

      The quote in no way resembles the kind of thing that the Buddha said. Stylistically, it’s totally off: far too stylish. If it were taken as a reference to the goal of nirvana, then it’s contradictory to everything the Buddha said about the goal (arriving), which is that everything preceding it (i.e. the traveling) pales in comparison.

      So, no. This is no more possible of being a quote from the Buddha than a quote like “Ich bin ein Berliner” is capable of being a quote from Shakespeare.

  7. Yes Buddha didnt said that in English but its found in every Buddhist teachings and scripts. And please dont compare Buddha to any writer who copy paste thoughts on their books…

    1. Hi, Vir.

      My understanding is that this saying is not found in Buddhist scriptures. If you disagree, please provide a reference to let me know what sutta or sutra it can be found in and I’ll not only change the article but give you credit for your discovery.

      All the best,

  8. My word, Bodhipaksa, people certainly insist upon clinging to their modern-mind-candy quotes which have obviously been mis-attributed to the Buddha. Thank you for holding up the standard of TRUTH, and being willing to stand corrected if you are proven wrong. You didn’t say it was a BAD QUOTE. You only stated that it wasn’t from the mouth of the Buddha!!

  9. I think we should start saying “It is better to travel well then to arrive,” just to enrage both the grammar police as well as the citeless sightless. This way it also says it’s important to also arrive (for example: to arrive at the origin of the saying, not just search for it.)

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