100+ Insightful Jack Kerouac Quotes That Will Make You Go On The Road

by Team Scary Mommy
Originally Published: 
jack Kerouac quotes
Penguin Books and Jack Kerouac by Tom Palumbo

Jack Kerouac’s prose is like no other, and neither are these quotes from the famous beat writer. Kerouac, who died in 1969 at age 47, left us with a lot of wisdom. Thank goodness Kerouac left the world with several novels and notes of knowledge that can be applied to our everyday lives. He examines many relatable topics through his novels with refreshing honesty. Even if you’re not a huge On the Road fan or are just learning of Kerouac now, there is something here for everyone. These Jack Kerouac quotes are about love, life, writing, exciting travels, and so much more.

So, grab a cup of strong coffee, sit down, and let these inspiring words from the celebrated author of On the Road and The Dharma Bums take you away.

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1. “[…] The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'” — On the Road

2. “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” — The Dharma Bums

3. “Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”

4. “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.” — On the Road

5. “I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

6. “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” — On the Road

7. “The only truth is music.”

8. “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” — On the Road

9. “My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”

10. “The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.” — On the Road

11. “A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.” — On the Road

12. “The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view.” — On the Road

13. “Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great strange dream.”

14. “I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” — On the Road

15. “Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk — real straight talk about souls, for life is holy, and every moment is precious.” — On the Road

16. “Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.”

17. “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”

18. “I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.” — On the Road

19. “I don’t know, I don’t care, and it doesn’t make any difference.”

20. “Will you love me in December as you do in May?”

21. “I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.” — On the Road

22. “Because he had no place he could stay in without getting tired of it and because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rolling under the stars…” — On the Road

23. “I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don’t worry. It’s all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright, forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for three seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.” — The Portable Jack Kerouac

24. “It all ends in tears, anyway.” — The Dharma Bums

25. “I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”

26. “My witness is the empty sky.”

27. “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”

28. “My whole wretched life swam before my weary eyes, and I realized no matter what you do it’s bound to be a waste of time in the end so you might as well go mad.” — On the Road

29. “Down on the lake rosy reflections of celestial vapor appeared, and I said, ‘God, I love you’ and looked to the sky and really meant it. ‘I have fallen in love with you, God. Take care of us all, one way or the other.’ To the children and the innocent, it’s all the same.” — The Dharma Bums

30. “What’s in store for me in the direction I don’t take?”

31. “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” — On the Road

32. “It always makes me proud to love the world somehow- hate’s so easy compared.” — Big Sur

33. “I’m going to marry my novels and have little short stories for children.”

34. “Life must be rich and full of loving — it’s no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone.” — Selected Letters, 1940 to 1956

35. “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.”

36. “Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’

‘Where we going, man?’ ‘I don’t know, but we gotta go.” — On the Road

37. “On soft spring nights I’ll stand in the yard under the stars — something good will come out of all things yet and it will be golden and eternal just like that. There’s no need to say another word.” — Big Sur

38. “So, therefore I dedicate myself to my art, my sleep, my dreams, my labors, my sufferances, my loneliness, my unique madness, my endless absorption, and hunger because I cannot dedicate myself to any fellow being.”

39. “Happy. Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running—that’s the way to live. All alone and free in the soft sands of the beach by the sigh of the sea out there, with the Ma-Wink fallopian virgin warm stars reflecting on the outer channel fluid belly waters. And if your cans are red hot and you can’t hold them in your hands, just use good old railroad gloves, that’s all.” — The Dharma Bums

40. “Houses are full of things that gather dust.”

41. “One man practicing kindness in the wilderness is worth all the temples this world pulls.” — The Dharma Bums

42. “And the story of love is a long sad tale ending in graves.”

43. “Finding Nirvana is like locating silence.” — The Dharma Bums

44. “But why think about that when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you’re alive to see?” — On the Road

45. “I’m writing this book because we’re all going to die.”

46. “Pain or love or danger makes you real again…” — The Dharma Bums

47. “As I grew older, I became a drunk. Why? Because I like ecstasy of the mind.”

48. “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.” — On the Road

49. “Something good will come of all things yet.”

50. “My aunt once said that the world would never find peace until men fell at their women’s feet and asked for forgiveness.” — On the Road

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51. “They have worries, they’re counting the miles, they’re thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they’ll get there – and all the time they’ll get there anyway, you see.” — On the Road

52. “We turned at a dozen paces, for love is a duel, and looked at each other for the last time.”

53. “This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.” — On the Road

54. “Don’t touch me, I’m full of snakes.”

55. “I feel guilty for being a member of the human race.” — Big Sur

56. “Are we fallen angels who didn’t want to believe that nothing is nothing and so were born to lose our loved ones and dear friends one by one and finally our own life, to see it proved?” — The Dharma Bums

57. “We agreed to love each other madly.” — On the Road

58. “Offer them what they secretly want, and they of course immediately become panic-stricken.”

59. “A sociable smile is nothing but a mouth full of teeth.”

60. “Things are so hard to figure out when you live from day to day in this feverish and silly world.” — On the Road

61. “Maybe that’s what life is… a wink of the eye and winking stars.” ― Selected Letters, 1940-1956

62. “It’s not that I can’t fall in love. It’s really that I can’t help falling in love with too many things all at once. So, you must understand why I can’t distinguish between what’s platonic and what isn’t because it’s all too much and not enough at the same time.”

63. “I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another til I drop.”

64. “He saw that all the struggles of life were incessant, laborious, painful, that nothing was done quickly, without labor, that it had to undergo a thousand fondlings, revisings, moldings, addings, removings, graftings, tearings, correctings, smoothings, rebuildings, reconsiderings, nailings, tackings, chippings, hammerings, hoistings, connectings — all the poor fumbling uncertain incompletions of human endeavor. They went on forever and were forever incomplete, far from perfect, refined, or smooth, full of terrible memories of failure and fears of failure, yet, in the way of things, somehow noble, complete, and shining in the end.”

65. “My manners, abominable at times, can be sweet. As I grew older, I became a drunk. Why? Because I like ecstasy of the mind. I’m a wretch. But I love, love.”

66. “Be in love with your life, every detail of it.”

67. “Listen closely… the eternal hush of silence goes on and on throughout all this, and has been going on, and will go on and on. This is because the world is nothing but a dream and is just thought of and the everlasting eternity pays no attention to it.”

68. “Bee, why are you staring at me? I am not a flower?”

69. “The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nausea of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death. But who wants to die?”

70. “You’d be surprised how little I knew even up to yesterday.”

71. “Love is all.”

72. “And don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear?”

73. “I have nothing to offer anybody, except my own confusion.”

74. “It no longer makes me cry and die and tear myself to see her go because everything goes away from me like that now — girls, visions, anything, just in the same way and forever and I accept lostness forever.”

75. “I’m right there, swimming the river of hardships, but I know how to swim…” — Desolation Angels

76. “If you own a rug, you own too much.”

77. “My shoes are clean from walking in the rain.”

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78. “Don’t tell them too much about your soul. They’re waiting for just that.”

79. “Cliches are truisms and all truisms are true.” — Big Sur

80. “It is possible for the human spirit to win after all.”

81. “Be in love with your life. Every minute of it.”

82. “All of life is a foreign country.”

83. “Write in recollection and amazement for yourself. ”

84. “Something that you feel will find its own form.”

85. “Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child believing in everything under your father’s roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life.”

86. “And I will die, and you will die, and we all will die, and even the stars will fade out one after another in time.”

87. “If you’re not haunted by something, as by a dream, a vision, or a memory, which are involuntary, you’re not interested or even involved.”

88. “You guys are going somewhere, or just going?” — On the Road

89. “No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.”

90. “Accept loss forever.”

91. “And nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old.”

92. “Vanity of vanities… all is vanity. You kill yourself to get to the grave. Especially you kill yourself to get to the grave before you die; and the name of the grave is ‘success’, the name of that grave is hullabullo boom boom horseshit.”

93. “You can’t live in this world, but there’s nowhere else to go.”

94. “And I go home having lost her love. And write this book.”

95. “Dreams were so irrational, so gray with a nameless terror… and yet, too, so haunting and beautiful.” — The Sea is My Brother

96. “Every night I still ask the Lord, ‘Why?’ and haven’t heard a decent answer yet.” — Desolation Angels

97. “I believe in order, tenderness, and piety.”

98. “The dream is already ended and we’re already awake in the golden eternity.”

99. “We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move.”

100. “Everything fell apart in me. How are things with you?”

101. “Everything belongs to me because I am poor.”

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