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Lessons from the Journey: Misadventures Produce Confidence

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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.

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Other lessons:

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The Happiness of Pursuit is available from Amazon.com 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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