When I was 26, I circumnavigated the globe by myself. I paid for it by saving a quarter of my wages each week from my job as a reporter at newspapers in New Mexico and Ohio. (It helped that neither of the towns where I worked offered much in terms of shopping or nightlife.) The trip covered 12 countries spread over four continents and six months. Though it imparted many gifts – everyone on Earth should see the Taj Mahal with their own eyes – the one that leaves me most grateful is the deep feeling of competence that it bestowed.
When you crash a car in the Outback, or screw up your visa to Indonesia, or simply find yourself in South America and more lonely than you ever dreamed possible, all of which happened to me, and you realize that everyone you have ever known is on the other side of the planet and that you alone are responsible for fixing the problem, you are thrown on your own resources in a unique and empowering way. Because in every one of those cases, I found a solution, and having done so, I returned home with a soul-deep assurance that in the future, when I needed other answers, I could find them.