Adapt, Improvise and Overcome: What the Marine Corps taught me about travel

Popularized by Clint Eastwood as Gunny Highway in Heartbreak Ridge, the Marine Corps phrase “adapt, improvise and overcome!” is really the rule of the road for life and travel, as both will throw you curve balls. When things don’t go as planned you can either shut down, or….

Adapt: Things are gonna be different when you travel, you can rage against the machine and ruin your vacation or you can adapt. When in Rome do as the Romans do (or when in Rome you are not in the midwest). The food won’t be the same, the coffee will taste different, and things will be done in a way in which you are not unaccustomed. That’s part of the allure of travel. Relax, go with the flow, you might just find a new way of doing old things, discover new foods and see things with a new eye. Don’t expect it to be like back home, because that’s the beauty of travel, it’s not supposed to be like “back home.” Partake in new experiences!

Improvise: The best laid plans can quickly go south fast, weather, political situations, and transportation delays can quickly destroy your carefully planned, color coded travel spread sheets. Have a plan, but leave room for flexibility. Rain? Switch to an indoor activity.  Weather better than expected?  Shift your plans to take advantage of the sunny weather. Itineraries do not need to be rigid, that awesome museum you have been dreaming about might be closed or not that interesting after all, don’t be afraid to ditch the plan for some thing more shiny if the opportunity arises.

Overcome: Murphy’s law states anything that can go wrong,  will go wrong. Be prepared by knowing  what other options are available. The most important thing you can pack is your brain, utilize it. Hit an obstacle go through it, around it or over it, come up with creative solutions if nothing else you’ll have a great bar story afterword.


Author outside the Marine Corps Museum Quantico, Va

Author in his Dress Blue Uniform

The USMC is the smallest branch of the US military and often works with “hand me down” equipment and left over budgets from the other services. The Marines have continually done far more with less than the other services owing a lot to their unofficial motto of “adapt, improvise and overcome”. It takes more than an attitude to make a Marine and make the Corps a legendary fighting force, but they are continued proof of the power of a proper attitude. That same attitude and motto will serve the adventurous traveler well.


Safe Travels and Semper Fi!


Related Blog posts The Iwo Jima War Memorial in Arlington, Va.

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