From my own 193-country journey to the stories of many other people who were kindly willing to share, The Happiness of Pursuit attempts to extract and convey the lessons of modern-day quests. This series explores some of these lessons.
Lesson: Misadventures produce confidence.
At nearly every stage in my journey to every country in the world, something went wrong. I became stranded, was nearly deported several times (and then actually deported once), screwed up my travel plans, and generally caused havoc wherever I went. Ah well—it was all worth it.
One time I rented a car in Italy for a long drive to San Marino, a tiny republic six hours’ drive from Rome. A lot of things went wrong with the car, some of which were my fault. First, the window became stuck in a halfway down, halfway up position, which was great when it starting pouring rain. I didn’t know how to pay the tolls, so I ignored them and received a ticket.
Then, I got into a minor accident when I dozed off at the wheel and scraped the guardrail along the highway. Yikes! I pulled over in an attempt to nap, but this was during a European heat wave. I stripped to my underwear and laid down on the backseat, just in time to see a young mother and her child pointing at me.
Many hours later, I nearly ran out of gas and just managed to roll into the rental car return lot on fumes. I was worn out, but I’d made it.
Early the next morning I returned the vehicle with a note: “Had some problems with this car.”
I never sought out misadventures. They were always inconvenient and sometimes scary. But I also learned that when I encountered them, I’d probably survive. The experience gave me confidence to continue.
Getting stuck, detained, shut out, or set back is never fun, but these experiences are a necessary part of any long-term journey. When something goes wrong, seek to accept it as an investment in learning. Hopefully, you won’t make the same mistake twice… or at least, not over and over.
- Unhappiness can lead to new beginnings
- Everyone has a calling. Follow your own passion
- Before beginning, count the cost
- Every day matters. The awareness of our mortality can help us pursue a goal
- It feels good to check things off a list