The Overheard Bin is a collection of Funny Travel Quotes, with sources and sometimes distracting commentary, updated daily as often as three times a week.
Tripped Up By Traveling
By Madeleine Begun Kane
It’s outrageous, a rip-off, a gyp
What we paid for that terrible trip.
And to make matters worse,
I lost baggage and purse.
I believe they went down with the ship.
From Mad Kane’s Humor Blog, April 27, 2008
The question here is if Robert Benchley Society Humor Award winner Madeleine Begun Kane (Mad Kane) is speaking from personal experience or was inspired by what is generally recognized as the worst sea disaster of all time. If the latter, she might have considered naming her abbreviated, five-line recounting of the event, “The Shrinking of the Titanic.”
There were so many motorcycles in Shenandoah National Park today it looked like a Viagra convention. — Matt Smith
From Dear Bob and Sue, 2012
You don’t need to be a participant in or observer of the motorcycle culture to know that the best humor is often a little bit mean-spirited. That’s evident throughout Dear Bob and Sue, a book compiled of e-mails Smith and his wife Karen sent home to their — one supposes — good friends, Bob and Sue, as they toured America – not by motorcycle — on a quest to visit all the national parks.
For example, as the Smiths are checking out of the Ahwahnee Hotel, in Yosemite, Matt feels justified in offsetting what he considers the outrageous room charge by stealing a Gideon Bible they’d found in a drawer.
“I asked Karen her opinion,” he says.
“She said, ‘I have three words for you: do not under any circumstances steal the Bible.’ She was very convincing, so I hid the Bible in our bag of groceries, and made sure she carried the bag out of the room when we left. As I thought about it more, I realized she was right; it would be wrong to steal a Bible. I’m glad I wasn’t the one who took it.”
[In India] pedestrians are on the bottom [of the traffic pecking order] and run out of the way of everything, bicycles make way to cycle-rickshaws, which give way to auto-rickshaws, which stop for cars, which are subservient to trucks. Buses stop for one thing and one thing only. Not customers — they jump on while the buses are still moving. The only thing that can stop a bus is the king of the road, the lord of the jungle and the top dog.
The holy cow. — Sarah Macdonald
From Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure, 2002
Macdonald’s views of India during her two years of living and travelling there are sometimes insightful and — because she is, after all, Australian — sometimes wise-ass witty. The Audible version of Holy Cow is worth listening to just to hear the narrator, also Australian, attempt to spit in the Indian manner.
Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation — Elizabeth Drew
Elizabeth Drew is a political journalist who has covered presidential politics from since before the Watergate years. Most likely, she made this quote as a result of following one campaign trail or another. But does anybody know the specific source?
I should be used to the way Americans dress when traveling, yet it still manages to amaze me. It’s as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw down his sponge saying, “Fuck this. I’m going to Los Angeles! — David Sedaris
From Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, 2013
This from a man who has admitted that his father would typically sit at the dinner table in shirtsleeves and underpants. An American humorist who has lived in France, Sedaris here expresses a typically Francophile view of his fellow countrymen that is found throughout his writing. It does not explain, however, what the shoe polish was doing on the pig.
It wasn’t until we were in college that we realized that anthropology is just travel writing about places with no room service — P.J. O’Rourke
From “It’s Over,” Men’s Journal, November, 1999
Conservative politically, but not in any other way you would notice, O’Rourke most shows off his travel writing humor in his 1988 book, Holidays in Hell. Or so you might believe from the book’s cover copy, which reads, “In which our intrepid reporter travels to the world’s worst places and asks “what’s funny about this?” For some tastes, though, O’Rourke may have been at his best during his days at the National Lampoon, when he produced such classics as “How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink”
In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language — Mark Twain
From The Innocents Abroad, 1869
The observations Twain made during his decades of worldwide travel often exhibited a deep understanding of human nature, mostly his own. His comment about the French might seem a little less incisive, however, when you realize that many Americans have had a similar experience when traveling in their own country.
In retrospect, I should never have given birth to more children than we had car windows — Erma Bombeck
This American humorist was more insightful about suburban life than travel, although anyone who has ever done a family road trip will recognize that she’s been there.
There are two kinds of cruises — pleasure and with children — George Burns
The cruise this American actor and comedian took to Hawaii in 1938 aboard the Matson Lines ship Lurline with his wife Gracie Allen and their two children must have been memorable.
The sentiment is an echo of one voiced in 1925 by humorist Robert Benchley, who said the two kinds of travel are first class and with children.
A lot of people ask me if I were shipwrecked, and could have only one book, what would it be? I always say, “How to Build a Boat” — Steven Wright
Although American comedian Steven Wright appears to be so lethargic in speech and action that you cannot imagine him covering much ground as a traveler, he does have a talent for deadpan non-sequiturs that would be ideal for frustrating border officials anywhere. He also seems like a good person to be shipwrecked with on a desert island, assuming you have somewhere else you need to be.
Never relinquish clothing to a hotel valet without first specifically telling him that you want it back — Fran Lebowitz
From Social Studies, 1981
Much of Lebowitz’ travel advice is based on experience she gained during book tours. Which is ironic, because except for the bestsellers Metropolitan Life (1978) and Social Studies (1981) most of her career has been based on the so-far unfulfilled promise of volumes to come.
Still, she knows hotels: “Under no circumstances order from room service an item entitled ‘Cheese festival’ unless you are prepared to have your dream of colorfully costumed girls of all nations rolling enormous wheels of Gruyere and Jarlsberg replaced by three Kraft slices and a lot of toothpicks dressed in red cellophane hats.”
And flying: You will be reassured you are traveling first class, she says, “…when the stewardess drops your drink, and the glass breaks.”
And dining out with kids: “Ask your child what he wants to eat only if he’s buying.”
The best time to go [to Disney World], if you want to avoid huge crowds, is 1962 –Dave Barry
Travel is a popular theme in the writings of Dave Barry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist who has been at it for so many years that his facts often need updating. For example, in a June 14, 1998 column for the Miami Herald Barry reported: “This year, U.S. airlines will carry a record 143 million passengers, who will be in the air for 382 million hours, during which they will be fed an estimated total of four peanuts.” Since then, however, the estimated total of peanuts has decreased.
The Hotel in Rio Pico was painted a pale turquoise and run by a Jewish family who lacked even the most elementary notions of profit — Bruce Chatwin
From In Patagonia, 1977
As an example, Chatwin recounts the argument he had with the matriarch of the family when he attempted to pay his bill.
“How much was the room?”
“Nothing, if you hadn’t slept in it, nobody else would.”
“How much was dinner?”
“Nothing. How could we know you were coming? We cooked for ourselves”
“Then how much was the wine?”
“We always give wine to visitors.”
The matriarch “a brave and sorrowful woman in black,” was typical of the offbeat characters Chatwin seemed to run into often during the South American journey he describes in the book Paul Theroux called a classic of travel literature.
Not everyone, however, has been so admiring. Some of the characters Chatwin wrote about have claimed that the conversations he reported were distortions or outright fabrications. And the bookish types have accused him, as one observer in the Paris Review so admirably put it, of “Crimes Against Nonfiction.”
To which many a critic might nod in agreement, and many a writer, of travel or whatever, might say: It’s hard enough to write without worrying about the crimes that might be involved.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance —anonymous
Although this is attributed to a number of sources, no one really knows when it first appeared. A good guess would be after ATM machines went into widespread use, in the 1980’s.
The saying is one of many twists on “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” attributed to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and appearing in the Taoist text, Tao Te Ching, which was published some time around the 6th Century BC.
It is possible, however, that both sayings are misquoted from the original, which may have been “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step to a cash machine.”
There are two kinds of travel in America — first class, and with children — Robert Benchley
From Pluck and Luck, 1925
It may not be coincidence that one of Benchley’s two children, Peter, would become the author of Jaws, which is on most lists of books you would not want to read in preparation for a family vacation.
I prayed that the hotel would be full, but it wasn’t — Eric Newby
From A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, 1958
This is from a scene near the beginning of British travel writer Eric Newby’s best-known book, when he and his wife are deposited by a sinister taxi driver and his equally sinister companion, a “brodder by other woman,” at a disreputable appearing Istanbul hotel permeated by the “unforgettable grave-smell of Oriental plumbing.”