Lessons from the Journey: Misadventures Produce Confidence


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.


Other lessons:


The Happiness of Pursuit is available from or your favorite local bookseller. You can also join me on tour in your choice of more than 40 cities.

Image: Yannis

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