163 quotes from some of history’s greatest adventurers

Need an escape? Allow yourself to be transported and carried away by these inspiring quotes from these very well-traveled adventurers and explorers! By traveling the world in its most hostile and remote environments, from one pole to the other, across every corner of the planet, and even beyond Earth, these travelers have pushed their limits and have extracted invaluable life lessons from their adventures, which they’ve graciously shared with us over time.

history’s greatest adventurers

The golden age of explorers is not dead. In our era of technological revolution and high-speed transportation, travelers are a symbol of resistance, making time and their human condition the heart of their adventures. Given the times we live in, this can only be a source of inspiration for they echo this ever-more-present need to reconnect with nature and humanity.

From New World sailors to space explorers, from traveling writers to extreme adventurers, solo, in teams, on foot, hitchhiking, by bike, or by boat, globetrotting explorers are all, in their own unique way, consciousness-raisers. They instill in us the values of personal achievement, work ethic, and humility. They inspire us to be curious, to take risks, to be challenged, and to have the courage to go beyond our wildest dreams.

Fuel your desire to travel with some of the most inspiring quotes from 23 adventurers and explorers of today and of the recent past: Sarah Marquis, Sylvain Tesson, Mike Horn, Nicolas Vanier, Antoine de Maximy, Jean-Louis Etienne, André Brugiroux, Youri Gagarin, Nicolas Bouvier, Wilfred Thesiger, Jean-Yves Cousteau, Ella Maillard, Théodore Monod, Alexandra David Néel, Marco Polo, Ibn Battûta, Christopher Columbus, Vasco de Gama, Fernand de Magellan, James Cook, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, Jean-Baptiste Charcot, and Roald Amundsen.

The 163 quotes impart the wisdom that these adventurers have gained through their experience of traveling the world, interacting with others and discovering themselves, their commitments and, above all, their passion.

1. Quotes from Sarah Marquis, wilderness adventurer (1972-)

  • “No matter what you do, there is no such thing as zero risk. Trying to control risk-taking is a pipe dream sold to us with insurance. It’s a cage, which deprives us of what we hold most dear: freedom.”
  • “There is much more to see than what the eyes perceive.”
  • “Definition of adventure: any undertaking where the risk is considerable, and success is doubtful.”
  • “I have learned over time to feed off my encounters, each of which has the potential to open a new secret passageway within me, giving me access to a previously unknown area. We all complement each other at a given moment, each on our own path.”
  • “The greatest gift you can give someone is to listen to them.”
  • “You don’t steal the story of people, plants, trees; you wait patiently for them to be so kind as to share it with you.”
  • “The universe is in all of us, we just have to be willing to go out and discover it.”
  • “You can’t control your destiny; you can only savor it as if it were your last meal.”
  • “Over the years, I have learned to stand still and observe when a problem rears its head. In the wild, animals do the same thing: they stay still as long as the predator threatens them. Running around is useless.”
  • “Sensitivity is the only answer to understanding any given landscape. Logic, theories, common sense, and everything else must be left aside. The blockades of the mind are essentially imaginary barriers that we self-impose and that prevent us from seeing.”
  • “With each step, a little bit of me becomes part of the Earth. With each step, the Earth gives me a little of herself. No step is in vain, everything has meaning.”

2. Quotes from Sylvain Tesson, traveling writer (1972-)

  • “Reading confirms that solitude is a treasure. A book can be life-changing. And to think there are no warnings written on the cover!”
  • “You have everything you need when you build your life around the idea of owning nothing.”
  • “That urge to turn back when you’re on the verge of seizing what you want.”
  • “Overpopulation: the Earth did not foresee its success.”
  • “Thinking you should take a picture of it is the best way to kill the poignancy of a moment.”
  • “Nothing beats spending a good moment with yourself browsing the shelves of your internal library.”
  • “Societies do not like hermits. They cannot understand why they run away. They condemn the flippancy of the loner who casts his ‘go on without me’ in the face of others. To withdraw is to bid farewell to one’s fellow men. The hermit denies the role of civilization and is its vivid critic.”
  • “It is good not to have to sustain a conversation. Where does the difficulty of living in society come from? From this imperative to always find something to say.”
  • “The curse of man is that he is never satisfied with what he is.”
  • “From my comforter, I can hear the wood crackling. There is nothing like solitude. To be perfectly happy, I only need somebody with whom to share such solitude.”
  • “Between envy and regret, there is a spot called the present. You should train yourself to remain poised there.”
  • “Some men hoped to be part of history, others preferred to fade away in time…”
  • “As long as there are cabins in the woods, nothing is completely lost.”
  • “Every morning, dawn offers us a new chance.”

3. Quotes from Mike Horn, extreme adventurer (1966-)

  • “The impossible exists only until we find a way to make it possible.”
  • “The Arctic reminded me of the relativity of things, and the self-evident fact that the Earth will continue to rotate with or without me.”
  • “Wealth is less about accumulated possessions and more about the ability to live with little.”
  • “You can never win if you are afraid of losing. In the beginning, the desire to win must be much greater than the fear of losing.”
  • “You can jump higher, go further, show more courage, improve endurance, but you must never, ever forget to remain humble.”
  • “I don’t set new records to break, I alter reality: what was theoretically impossible is now possible.”
  • “Many people ruin their day – and everyone else’s – over small details. I’ve learned that the things worth complicating our lives about are few and far between.”
  • “Nature is the ultimate arbiter. And – let all the world’s polluters remember – sooner or later, she will severely punish those who do not respect her.”
  • “Suddenly, I don’t know anymore. A little voice tells me that I should just back off, that everyone will understand, and that no one will be angry with me. Maybe, but me… what will I think of myself?”
  • “For me, birthdays aren’t just a celebration of birth. It’s a reminder that you’re one year closer to realizing how much you have left to do. That means get off your ass, buddy, and get moving!”
  • Having a one hundred percent positive mindset is the secret. The key to all victories.”
  • “You don’t climb with your thighs and arms. You climb with your heart.”
  • “I navigate between violence, splendor, and legends.”

4. Quotes by Nicolas Vanier, explorer of the Far North (1962-)

history’s greatest adventurers

  • “The land should not have a market value. It should be like a child, belonging to those who love it without the possibility of buying or selling it.”
  • “All your life, you are a student of nature, for she never stops teaching.”
  • “The important thing is to arrive. It doesn’t matter how long the journey takes.”
  • “Everything that happens to the earth happens to the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
  • “It’s -55 C and even the wolves are silent.”
  • “I feel this exciting, somewhat intoxicating sensation of being part of nature, which is so dear to me and in which man rediscovers the use of his senses that have been crippled by civilization.”
  • “You don’t always do what you want, but you should always want what you do.”
  • “I know how serious the situation is and how fleeting this life is, which is under constant threat. I no longer travel for my own pleasure and to share it with others, but with the will to demonstrate the importance of taking action, so that future generations will be able to see polar bears in a way other than in a book, under the column: extinct animals.”
  • “The ominous cracks of the ice bending, lifting, and contorting, sounded like the moans of a dying beast. It resisted, but nothing resists the breakup. Winter could refuse to give way, fight and rebel, but it would be in vain, for spring was coming.”
  • “I kiss the mountains with my eyes. Could they hear my silent but profound thanks for having blessed me with such an experience? If happiness was a ladder, I would have lost my balance as I had climbed too high.”

5. Quotes from Antoine de Maximy, backpacker and producer (1959-)

  • “If what you need does not yet exist, you make it.”
  • “When you want something, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for it. What do you risk but a mere refusal?”
  • “When you are on your own, you are a target.”
  • “My parents appreciated people who, like them, enjoyed life to the fullest. For them, the priority was not to establish a social position but rather to exchange and interact.”
  • “I have no spare time because I always have things to do.”
  • “Everything I do has a purpose.”
  • “People who are poorer are more hospitable.”
  • “At 18, ten years after May ’68, young people wanted to change the world, they were in a battle against society.”

6. Quotes from Jean-Louis Etienne, physician, and lone explorer (1946-)

  • “Everything seems impossible to those who have never tried anything.”
  • “Deprivation is not simply living with little, it is the art of living each moment to the fullest.”
  • “Continue on the path of your dreams, no matter how difficult the path may seem. We all have a destiny to discover, to create, and to build upon.”
  • “I am fortunate to have been born before television when we didn’t even have telephones. That’s how free we were with our time and our thoughts.”
  • “To dare is to engage your imagination beyond mere certainties.”
  • “Life always happens where you are. The difficulty in experiencing it comes from the fact that in this world of hypercommunication, our minds are always focused elsewhere.”
  • “We so heavily focus on the material that we accumulate out of convenience and out of weakness. Our most important asset is found within us.”
  • “I was now measuring the power of those blind forces that drive beyond reason, that give you the audacity to convince and that some call passion.”
  • “I am not sure what happiness is. But I know what makes you happy. – Oh, tell me! – The key is to do what you love.”
  • “Each person’s inner peace is the first act of calming the collective chaos.”
  • “You don’t push the limits, you discover them.”
  • “In children, learning to walk follows very precise stages: they crawl, walk on all fours, stand up, put one foot forward, followed by the other, clinging to anything that reassures them. One day, the child accepts the imbalance, that split second when the body is supported on only one foot. Then they understand that it is the very movement that puts them back on their feet. The child walks! The achievement is now definitive.”

7. Quotes from André Brugiroux, globetrotter and hitchhiker (1937-)

history’s greatest adventurers

  • “Affection presents a certain danger for the person who always wants to go further.”
  • “Hitchhiking is bullfighting, big game fishing, Zen philosophy, applied psychology, art. Hitchhiking is the royal road of the traveler, an initiatory path mixing meditation with the most determined action. The paradox of hitchhiking is that it renders you both completely free (you don’t need anything to practice it) and totally dependent: the very essence of the human condition.”
  • “Well, there you have it; I’ve realized my childhood dream: I’ve visited every country in the world!”
  • “The tragedy of our educational institutions and those of the vast world, in general, is that they instruct, but do not educate. No individual is trained to become a universal citizen, otherwise contemporary problems would vanish on their own.”

8. Quotes by Yuri Gagarin, space explorer (1934-1968)

  • “Looking at the earth from afar you realize it is too small for conflict and just big enough for cooperation.”
  • “I could have gone on flying in space forever.”
  • “Nothing will stop us. The road to the stars is steep and dangerous. But we are not afraid… Space flights cannot be stopped. It is not the work of one man or even a group of men. It is a historical process that humanity is carrying out in accordance with the natural laws of human development.”
  • “The development of science and technology opens up boundless possibilities for the domestication of the forces of nature and their use for the benefit of humanity. For this to happen, peace must be preserved above all.”
  • “To be the first to enter the cosmos, to engage, single-handed, in an unprecedented duel with nature — what more could one dream of?”
  • “The path of the cosmos! How happy I am to have been the first to commit myself to it, to have been the first to make a flight that men had long dreamed of! The greatest minds have tried to trace the difficult path to the stars. The flight of April 12, 1961 was, on that path, a gigantic first step.”
  • “When I circled the Earth in a spacecraft, I saw for the first time how beautiful our planet is. Let’s preserve and enhance that beauty without destroying it!”
  • “The journey of a cosmonaut is not an easy, triumphant march to glory. You must learn the meaning of not only joy but also sorrow, before you climb into the cabin of the spacecraft.”

9. Quotes from Nicolas Bouvier, poet and adventurer (1929-1998)

  • “We travel so that things happen and change; otherwise, we would stay at home.”
  • “Here, taking your time is the best way to not waste any.”
  • “On the road, the best thing is to get lost. When you get lost, your plans give way to surprises, and then, but only then, does the journey begin.”
  • “A journey is not about motives. It soon proves to be sufficient in itself. You think you’re going on a journey but soon it’s the journey that makes or breaks you.”
  • “The hallmark of a great traveler is to bring back anything other than what was originally sought.”
  • “The way a person describes his or her existence sometimes tells you as much as how he or she lives it.”
  • “The journey will teach you nothing if you do not also allow it to break you. It is a rule as old as the world. A journey is like a shipwreck, and those whose ship has not sunk will never know anything about the sea.”
  • “But nothing of this nature is permanently acquired. Like water, the world passes through you and for a time lends you its colors. Then it withdraws and puts you back in front of this emptiness that we carry in ourselves, in front of this kind of core insufficiency of the soul that we must learn to deal with, to fight, and which, paradoxically, is perhaps our most effective driving force.”
  • “We deny ourselves all luxuries except the most precious: slowness.”
  • “It is the silent gazing at the atlas, flat on the carpet, between the ages of ten and thirteen, that makes you want to drop everything right there.”
  • “You don’t travel to experience exoticism and anecdotes like a Christmas tree, but so that the road plucks you, rinses you, wrings you out, makes you like those laundry-worn towels that are handed to you with a splash of soap in the brothels.”
  • “One often has more to gain in reading travelers who write than writers who travel.”
  • “Health is like wealth; you have to spend it to cherish it.”

10. Quotes from Wilfred Thesiger, desert adventurer (1910-2003)

  • “Who would dispute that it is more satisfying to climb to the top of a mountain than to go there in a funicular railway? Perhaps this was one reason why I resented modern inventions; they made the road too easy.”
  • “For this was the real desert where differences of race and color, of wealth and social standing, are almost meaningless; where coverings of pretense are stripped away, and basic truths emerge. Where men become closer to each other.”
  • “In the desert I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a life unhampered by possessions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance.”
  • “I had learnt the satisfaction which comes from hardship and the pleasure which derives from abstinence; the contentment of a full belly; the richness of meat; the taste of clean water; the ecstasy of surrender when the craving of sleep becomes a torment; the warmth of a fire in the chill of dawn.”
  • “I went there to find peace in the hardship of desert travel and the company of desert peoples. I set myself a goal on these journeys, and, although the goal itself was unimportant, its attainment had to be worth every effort and sacrifice… No, it is not the goal but the way there that matters, and the harder the way the more worth while the journey.”
  • “In those empty wastes I could find the peace that comes with solitude, and, among the Bedu, comradeship in a hostile world.”

11. Quotes from Jacques-Yves Cousteau (known as Commander Cousteau) – explorer of the seas and oceans (1910-1997)

  • “The impossible missions are the only ones to succeed.”
  • “Although it has been observed that some dolphins could recognize up to fifty words of our language, no human has ever been able to understand a single word of theirs.”
  • “When a man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”
  • “Seen from the front or from the side, no two waves are exactly alike. They come into the world, they grow more or less, depending on their destiny, and it is this aspect that people, if they were waves, would call ‘social success’.”
  • “Biodiversity applies not only to ecosystems, but also to human cultures. To survive, a human civilization, like ecosystems, needs diversity.”
  • “I am a discoverer; my goal is to amaze.”
  • “For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century, he is beginning to understand that, to survive, he must protect it.”
  • “We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.”
  • “No sooner does man discover intelligence than he tries to involve it in his own stupidity.”
  • “We live in an interminable succession of absurdities imposed by the myopic logic of short-term thinking.”
  • “Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”
  • “Even those who know the sufferings of a terminal illness and never stop complaining cling to the last breath in the hope of savoring once more the brilliance of the sun.”
  • “From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”

12. Quotes from Ella Maillart, adventurer and sportswoman (1903-1997)

  • “Running around the world is just a way to kill time. You return as dissatisfied as you left. Something more needs to be done.”
  • “I want to forget that I must inevitably return.”
  • “Happiness is the intoxication produced by the moment of poise between a satisfactory past and an immediate future, rich with promise.”
  • “Monotony gives an extraordinary relief to the smallest events.”
  • “Why do you travel? – To find those who still know how to live in peace.”
  • “You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, which reveals you with yourself.”
  • “Why travel so much when you can find answers and wisdom in books? I am not a bookworm; words are not enough for me. I needed to meet people who were living out their wisdom.”
  • “Where to fit in? It’s always the same problem and each of us has to come up with our own answer.”
  • “Shall we ever see the 10 million things of the universe simultaneously in order to be the all? I am convinced that to live is to travel towards the world’s end.”
  • “I can see now that a concept or even a feeling makes no sense unless out of our substance we spin around it a web of references, of relationships, of values.”
  • “Being accepted by the earth. To understand its meaning, then to feel how it is a whole, and to live the strength of this unity. Only then will it be time to love each part of that whole, finally free from the blindness inherent in partial love.”
  • “The wideness of the horizon has to be inside us, cannot be anywhere but inside us, otherwise what we speak about is geographic distances.”

13. Quotes from Theodore Monod, humanist and explorer (1902-2000)

  • “It is only after you’ve made the right choices that you will be able to make the most of your life. It is only after the fork in the road that you discover that you were at a crossroads.”
  • “Modern man dreads silence because he senses, confusedly, that silence is a land of confrontation with the essential, with ourselves, with our vocation as men. We must dive into silence as we venture into the desert. We must find the path of silence.”
  • “For me, there is a mountain, the same for all, that we climb each taking different paths. Some go up this way, others that way, but we all have the ambition or the hope to find ourselves at the top, in the light, above the clouds.”
  • “The great features of destiny are never sought or wanted. They are accidental. The important things in life are decided elsewhere. We think we are acting, but we are being acted upon. I don’t know by whom, however.”
  • “You should learn at least one thing every day. That would make three hundred and sixty-five per year, which would be pretty good.”
  • “At a time when the reign of monotony and uniformity is taking hold in so many fields, perhaps it would be beneficial to meditate for a moment on the virtues of diversity. Union is not uniformity.”
  • “Utopia does not mean the unattainable, but the unattained. Yesterday’s utopia can become the reality, the practice of tomorrow.”
  • “Give in to curiosity and the desire to learn, to know things. In my opinion, there is no greater joy, in the realm of the mind, than to succeed in grasping some of the world’s mysteries.”
  • “I left as an ‘oceanographer’ for Mauritania and returned as a ‘Saharan.’ But I remained a sailor, having changed nothing but my mounts.”

14. Quotes from Alexandra David Néel, free-thinker, traveler, and feminist (1868-1969)

  • “Things considered difficult and terrible usually become quite simple when faced with them.”
  • “Those who travel without meeting others do not travel, they move.”
  • “Why do you pray if you doubt you are heard?”
  • “At the origin of all knowledge, we meet curiosity! It is a prerequisite for progress.”
  • “Choose a star, do not let it out of your sight. It will take you a long way, without fatigue and without pain.”
  • “Intellectual is not always a synonym for intelligent.”
  • “We must be careful not to standardize any way of thinking.”
  • “If you don’t take advantage of your free time, you won’t take advantage of it any more when that time is ten times more abundant.”
  • “True companions are the trees, the blades of grass, the rays of the sun, the clouds that run across the twilight or morning sky, the sea, the mountains. This is where life, real life, flows, and one is never alone when one knows how to recognize it and feel it.”
  • “Neglecting small things under the pretext of wanting to accomplish large ones is the excuse of a coward.”
  • “You must not wish good to people in spite of them and against their will. Each person knows, better than anyone else, what is best for him or her.”
  • “Life often acts towards men as it does towards animals. Tormenting them too much so that they live, and too little so that they die.”
  • “Weep with those who weep.”
  • “It is cold and sad when people are asked to support you, to warm you up, to lighten the burden of misery inherent in all existence. No one of them really cares about doing it, no one of them really can. It is in itself that one must cultivate the flame that warms, it is on oneself that one must lean.”

15. Quotes from the adventurers of the past, explorers who set out to discover the world

Roald Amundsen (1872-1928), who led the first expedition to the South Pole

  • “With sufficient planning, you can almost eliminate adventure from an expedition.”

Jean-Baptiste Charcot (1867-1936), who explored the poles and seas

  • “It is not even a question here of ‘win or die’, it is necessary to succeed at all costs because our very loss would justify all that has been said and would not make up for the sacrifices made.”

Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811), who discovered many islands in the Pacific Ocean

  • “I am a traveler and a sailor, that is to say, a liar and a fool in the eyes of this class of lazy and superb writers who, in the shadow of their cabinet, philosophize as far as the eye can see about the world and its inhabitants, and imperiously submit nature to their imaginations. A very singular and inconceivable process, on the part of people who, having observed nothing for themselves, only write and dogmatize according to observations borrowed from these same travelers to whom they deny the faculty of seeing and thinking.”

James Cook (1728-1779), who explored the Arctic Circle and the Pacific Ocean

  • “Do just once what others say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.”

Fernand de Magellan (1480-1521), who made the first circumnavigation of the globe

  • “The church says the earth is flat, but I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more confidence even in a shadow than in the church.”

Vasco da Gama (1460-1524), who discovered India

  • “I am not afraid of the darkness. Real death is preferable to a life without living.”

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), who discovered the West Indies and explored America

  • “You never go so far as when you don’t know where you are going.”»
  • “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
  • “Those that are enlightened before the others are condemned to pursue that light in spite of the others.”
  • “Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent.”
  • “Life has more imagination than we carry in our dreams.”
  • “Wealth does not make a man rich, it only makes him busier.”

Ibn Battuta (1304-1368), who ventured into Africa, the Middle East, and Asia

  • “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Marco Polo (1254-1324), who discovered the Silk Road and Central Asia

  • “I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed.”
  • “Without stones there is no arch.”
  • “I speak and speak … but the listener retains only the words he expects … It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.”

There are still so many other adventurers I could have mentioned: polar explorers like Paul-Emile Victor and Jules Dumont d ‘Arville, more contemporary explorers like Christian Clot (who leads scientific expeditions in extreme climatic environments) and Robyn Davidson (nicknamed the Camel Lady) or nomadic photographers Roland and Sabrina Michaud (specialists in the civilizations of Islam, India, and China) and Chris Burkhard (famous instagrammer).

So, if you also know of some interesting quotes from adventurers to add to this article, do not hesitate to share them with us in the comments!

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