Travel Quote Tuesday | Vladimir Nabokov

I really identify with this quote by Vladimir Nabokov, a Russian-American novelist born in 1899.

I can see just why he’s used the word nostalgia to portray that diametrically opposite longing for somewhere you’ve not yet been; nostalgia often paints an inaccurate picture of the place you long to revisit – tinted by the rose-coloured spectacles of happy memories, and remembered just as it was in that past moment of time, no doubt quite different now.

That’s often how it is when you long to visit somewhere you’ve never been – the image you carry in your head is based only on what you have read in books and magazines, watched on the television or in films, or gleaned from those who have travelled or live there. That mental image may make the place out to be far more exotic than it proves to be, an exaggerated version of itself, and an out-dated one in many cases.

For me, reading James Clavell’s Shōgun before a visit to Japan engendered exactly this kind of nostalgia for a place I didn’t know, even though I knew that the account was not only fictional (albeit based loosely on a mingling of real stories, and upon plenty of historical research) but set in a Japan that had long since disappeared.

Are there places you have felt nostalgic for even before you’ve ever visited them?

(c) Kavita Favelle - Vladimir Nabokov - Hikone Japan

On our latest trip to Japan (the third we’ve made since 2012) we were fortunate to arrive in Hikone at the very peak of cherry blossom season, and visiting Hikone castle with the sakura in full bloom was just magical, a nod to that nostalgia I carried for my fictional image of a feudal Japan from centuries past.

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76 Comments to "Travel Quote Tuesday | Vladimir Nabokov"

  1. Julie

    I can definitely relate to the images you create in your head of a place you’ve never been…and Japan is def on my bucket list. 😀

    Reply
  2. Sam

    This is a beautiful quote, I am surprised that I havent heard it before- thank you for bringing it to my attention 🙂

    I think I have a similar fascination with Egypt the way you say – “based loosely on a mingling of real stories, and upon plenty of historical research) but set in a Japan that had long since disappeared.” This has really made me think and I may very well write about this. (obviously I will credit you XD)

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Oh that’s lovely, thank you! Can’t ask for more than to plant the seed of a thought in someone and can’t wait to read what you write. Do let me know? x

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    kaveyeats

    Oh my goodness. That’s just… WONDERFUL! Sorry to have made you cry but thrilled that I’ve helped push you to take that dream trip! So excited for you!

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  3. kaveyeats

    Yes indeed. For me it’s also his concept of nostalia-like yearning for a place one hasn’t been but which is somehow imagined in the mind!

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  4. Victoria

    What great quotes! My favorite is ‘not all who wander are lost!’ It’s so true!

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  5. kaveyeats

    Yes, that is true all year round. But the idea of nostalgia in reverse is what attracted me to this quote!

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  6. Christina Pfeiffer

    I’ve never heard of Vladimir Nabokov and probably should have. That’s a lovely quote. Japan is beautiful in spring but I particularly like it in winter too.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    We have never been in winter, but our first two visits were during autumn and we loved it then too. Winter next, perhaps!

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  7. Inge

    I had the exact same feeling about Machu Picchu. It turned out to be crowded and full of tourists. In my head, it had been quiet and magical, but the crowds took away that magic. Still loved it anyway and I would definitely go back there! Great post!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I was very very lucky in that when I first visited Machu Picchu as a teenager in the 1980s, it was extremely quiet, I think it had been closed to visitors and reopened not long before we went; anyway whatever the reason, there were very few people there. I went again a few years ago and it was a completely different experience, as you say so full of people. It was still an amazing site, still inspiring and beautiful, but it wasn’t quite as magical as wondering around almost on one’s own.

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  8. Mark

    We’ve also never heard of this quote, but it makes complete sense. Spring is a time for growth, discovery and exploring pastures new!

    It’s also our fave time of year!

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  9. Peter Korchnak

    Nostalgia for the unknown. It is a thing. I’ve been writing a piece about it for the past three years, am nowhere near finishing it. Alas.

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    kaveyeats

    Oh but how wonderful. I’m full of curiosity about your piece! Best of luck finishing it! 👍

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  10. Emily

    It’s a lovely quote and one that I haven’t heard before. Do you know, I felt the same way about Japan. I’d always wanted to go even before I knew much about it. And it didn’t disappoint when I went, though I went in autumn not spring.

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    kaveyeats

    Yes, I also went in autumn for my first visit, in 2012. We adored it, went again a year later and then once more in 2016 but this time in spring for the blossom. Hoping to go back soon.

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  11. Donna Meyer

    I’ve never seen this Nabokov quote, but I love it. It is excellent truth. And I love the idea of a regular travel quote feature.

    Reply
  12. Kellyn

    These cherry blossoms are so beautiful. I’ve always wanted to experience them in Japan. Inspirational travel quotes are the best.

    Reply
  13. Gareth

    I absolutely adore Nabokov and while I don’t think “Mary,” the book from which the quote is taken is his best work, it is packed with these eminently quotable lines. Certainly, I can completely emphasise with what he is saying here and for all the “great travel quote” I come across in Google Images, this is a truly beautiful one

    Reply
  14. wanderlust vegans

    We try to avoid this by keeping our expectations of places low and not doing too much research on a place beforehand. We’ve never been to New York City but I can see this being the case with NYC as we have a vivid picture of it from all the movies and shows that take place or are filmed there. We hope that it lives up to the hype in our minds.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I know what you mean but I find it impossible not to build an image in my mind, especially as I love to research a place before visiting!

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  15. Tom

    I’ve found Clavell’s works (especially Tai-Pan) to be some of the best airplane books ever. Partly because the action moves along, and partly because, eh, you really can’t believe what happened in the prose. He was writing in a James Bond type of period, of Nietzsche-style Superman types that never happened, but they’re fun reads.

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    kaveyeats

    Agreed, perfect travel reading. It’s very fictionalised but has some historical lessons within, as long as you don’t take the characters too literally, more the descriptions of the times… I loved all the books, but Shogun is the one I loved most. King Rat also very good.

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  16. Vicki Louise

    This si such a great quote – and so true! I can’t believe I haven’t heard of it before. Love that you paired it with the Japanese Cherry Blossoms too – a true sign of Spring!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Thank you! Glad you like the quote / image pairing, I love choosing the right photo for each quote!

    Reply
  17. Megan Jerrard

    I hope your image of Japan in your head lived up to what the experience actually was – I completely understand this quote and message – many times I have built a destination up in my head and the fantasy becomes so that I doom the destination itself to live up to the version in my mind. So I’ve learned to try and travel without expectation 🙂

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    So far we’ve not had too much trouble with places living up. Japan exceeded all our expectations, it just blew us away. After that first trip in autumn 2012 we went again in autumn 2013 and then in spring 2016. I can’t wait to go again!

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  18. Danijela WorldGlimpses

    Oh yes, beautiful quote. And I can relate! I felt that way about Petra in Jordan for many years, couldn’t wait to get there. Even though the idea of the place was somewhat ruined by the bustle and.. well, let’s say, the reality of the place, it also gave it an additional charm. So, this reversed nostalgia is actually a real deal, the place is not “calling” you for nothing! 🙂

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I was fortunate with Petra in that when we went, America was about to invade Iraq and most visitors cancelled their visits to Jordan. We checked the FO advice and while it said take caution, it didn’t advise against travel, so we went ahead. It meant Petra was nearly empty. It was awful for those making their living from tourism but for us, selfishly, it was amazing to see Petra almost empty of tourists.

    Reply
  19. Ana Ojha

    What a beautiful quote! I can totally relate to it! There are certain time in your life when your body is craving for a perfect getaway!

    Reply
  20. kaveyeats

    Thank you Arnav, I’m not sure where I came across it, was one I had noted down in my collection of quotes, sometime in last several years. I’m so glad you liked it and the image as well.

    Reply
  21. Jen Joslin

    I loved reading this post. I totally know that feeling! So interesting that we cling to what we imagine a place to be, and how different that may be from reality.

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    kaveyeats

    Yes, it’s a natural thing I think, but it’s good to have a way to express it and perhaps the reminder to allow a place to be what it is, rather than feel disappointment that it’s not what you imagined.

    Reply
  22. Heidi Roberts

    A very poignant quote – especially for us travellers! I am driven to travel and get real withdrawal symptoms when I don’t have a trip planned!!

    Reply
  23. Kelly

    I really love this post and never thought about it this way but that makes sense to have nostalgia for somewhere we have never been. For me it was Paris and longing for the place in my dreams. Thanks for a great post.

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    kaveyeats

    I’d never thought about it before I found this quote either, but really love the concept – it feels so right.

    Reply
  24. Iza Abao

    That was a nice quote. I can still remember the time when I went to Magens Bay on St. Thomas island in 2015. I have been wanting to go back. I felt like that it was a paradise. I really enjoyed my vacation there.

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    kaveyeats

    Sounds like regular nostalgia rather than nostalgia in reverse, but whichever it is, I hope you make it back there!

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  25. Laura Lynch

    How great that you got there right at the peak of the cherry blossoms. I’m sure Hakone is a great location to see them. It’s beautiful there already.

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  26. Haze Tolentino

    I’ve always been a daydreamer. I love the feeling of imagining what memories I can make before I actually make the. It gives so much excitement and energy!

    Reply
  27. Amy

    Oh definitely feel this. Nostalgia for places —even those I have yet to visit— is what keeps me wandering 🙂

    Reply
  28. Stacey Veikalas

    What an awesome quote, and I can totally relate! I had some expectations a few times and felt let down. Of course then you always have those places that exceed expectations! Love the cherry blossoms!

    Reply

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