This past summer I had the opportunity to be part of Roadtrip Nation’s Innovation Roadtrip. Along with two other college students and two cameraman, we embarked on the adventure of driving 5000+ miles, from west coast to east coast, for 47 days in a 36-foot green RV.

During this trip, I had the chance to talk to Leaders in the Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math (STEM) fields. In each conversation, I listened to their stories as they shared their struggles, successes, and risks they had to take in their careers.

At first, it was strange to hear all of these leaders, very different from each other, coinciding in one thing: Failure. All of them, in one way or another, advised us to not be scared of failure, that it is OK to do it, the importance here is to learn from it. It is very common that we let ourselves down when we fail and feel like we are not worth it, but truth is, everyone fails, and in the positive note, failing is just another way of learning.

Thanks to this trip I became comfortable with the unknown.  I always want to be prepared for what it is to come but, I found out that, very often, I encountered myself in situations that were not predicted or even thought of. Here, is when one comes to shine, in those moments on the edge, and one becomes stronger and achieves more than one had thought of.

Another thing I learned from the trip is taking side roads, literally and figuratively. First, it is worthy changing the common route once in a while and stopping at random places. It is worthwhile talking to someone, getting lost trying to find a gas station or, some sort of civilization, and it is amazing to see all the things mother nature has to offer. Now applying it to the real world, when getting to your destination/goal/dream, sometimes you may need to take a detour.  I am talking about side roads, let yourself to not take the path most people have taken to get to where you want to be. If you are the lucky person who gets everything right and lands at the perfect opportunity don’t miss it, take it! but if you are trying to get to a place and plan A is not working, don’t be afraid to do plan B, C, D…Z, it will take you back to where you want to be and, it will  prepare you more or in a different way than if you were just waiting stagnant for the right opportunity.

As I start a new adventure in my life, I am excited to take the advice and lessons learned from the road and apply them. Change is the best part of this world, we are constantly changing and with change comes uncertainty;  it is much better to adopt it and enjoy it than be scared of. Take the risk to the unknown and immerse in the opportunities that brings.

Click here to learn more about Roadtrip Nation.

To see our team and people we interviewed go to Roadtrip Innovation. Our trip will air in Fall 2013 on public television. Be sure to check it out!

Jacqueline Gamboa Varela has been a member of NSCS since 2008. She recently graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a bachelor’s in chemistry and has served as the NSCS chapter president and also on the NLC. She is starting graduate school in chemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia and is also part of the Alumni Board. She loves traveling and volunteering, as well as playing the violin. Follow her on twitter at @jgamboa6.