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Mongol Rally: End of the road is the start of something good

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“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Our Nissan Micra after the crash in Romania. We were lucky to have escaped. (Leon Logothetis / For The Times / September 2, 2011)

In those moments when things happen—really bad things—we have a choice: Do we feel sorry for ourselves? Or do we grab the opportunity to reflect and grow?

I wish I could say I was immediately in that latter category, but I spent some time in the former.

Earlier this summer, I set a daring goal: I would embark on a 10,000-mile road trip from London to Mongolia, across desert and hostile territory in a tiny car on a quest for adventure.

Steven Priovolos, my friend and cameraman, and I would face danger and drama in our Mongol Rallyquest, along with more than 400 other teams, to reach our goal, but we never dreamed ours would end in near-disaster.

On Day 8, we were to drive 625 miles from Budapest, Hungary, to the capital of Moldova, Chisinau, on the next leg of the rally. After 12 hours on the road, we found ourselves in the leafy Romanian town of Campulung Moldovenesc.

I was fully invested in finishing the rally. Completing an improbable goal. Feeling proud of an achievement.

As dusk approached, a black Volvo 4X4 veered toward us from a side street. The driver was going the wrong way down the one-way street and blew onto the main road--and into us.

Our little Nissan Micra didn’t stand a chance.

The Romanian driver shattered my dreams. Or did he?

I emerged from this crash intact (a small fracture of my collarbone notwithstanding).

I emerged from this crash with my future still very much in my own hands.

I emerged from this crash.

My goal of reaching Mongolia was thwarted, but I am now asking myself what lessons I’ve learned from this whole escapade--lessons that can shape a life. Here's what I know now:

--I am not immortal. I know this sounds obvious, but until one is within inches of death, it’s tough to realize because denial is so comforting.

--Sometimes trying is enough. I wanted to march into Ulan Bator, head held high, after having conquered a third of the Earth’s surface. Instead I found myself in a Romanian hospital bed 8,000 miles shy of my goal. I finally realized that the simple act of attempting this crazy journey was sufficient and that my ego needed to be stripped of its megalomania.

--I am grateful I got to play at all. And I’m delighted I found my way back home in one piece.

Life will always bring up nasty little surprises. When we find our way out of our comfort zones, these surprises can be greater and more ferocious. It shouldn't stop us from living fully or exploring. It shouldn't stop us from the joys of traveling the world.

What it should do is remind us that with all great adventures in life comes risk. The magic lies in finding the balance between that risk and living fully.

Leon Logothetis

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