A Response to “You Can’t Do It”

How many times in your life has someone told you something was impossible? Or you couldn’t do it?

“They won’t let you in,” he said. “That’s just how it is.”

That was the message that caused me to stop breathing for a few moments. It was what the liaison from the company said to us the night before we were set to leave on a four day hike in Peru. Josh and I, and two close friends – Aaron and Chelsea – planned this trip for eight months.

We were told in order to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, we’d need to book it nearly a year out, as it is a very popular hike and they only let 180 hikers (500 counting the guides and porters) on the trail each day. People come from all over the world to hike this trail.

So we booked it in October for a trip the following August. Paid our deposits, filled out all of the paperwork and started planning for it. In February the following spring, we found out Josh’s passport was expired, so we got a new one.

Then, on this night (around 8 PM), we are sitting in a hotel lobby in Peru listening to a hiking company representative give us our final set of instructions. We are supposed to be ready to leave at 4 AM the next morning. And he looks at the paperwork, and at Josh’s passport, and says, “Why are the passport numbers different?”

“His passport expired so we had to get a new one this year,” I answered.

“Well we booked his hiking permit with the old passport number. Do you have a copy of the old passport?” He asked.

“No. I’m not even sure they gave us the old passport back. And we didn’t think we’d have any need for a copy of it,” I said.

“Can someone send you a copy?” He replied. “They won’t let him in unless the passport numbers match.”

We asked if they could change the permit. He said no.

We asked if we could just explain what happened at the checkpoint (where they’d check the passport). He said no. “It won’t work”.


We had no way of making it happen the way he suggested

No way of getting a copy of an old passport we no longer had in the few hours before leaving for this hike we planned for, for months, and he assured us we would not be able to go without it. He was certain. We were screwed.

We had paid a good amount of money to be there. We bought the equipment needed for the hike. We brought friends with us who also paid. And we only had a few hours to figure it out. So, we decided, we’d go on the hike. Take our chances. Maybe the person at the checkpoint would just glance at the paperwork, check to see if there was a passport but not really check the numbers. That was our hope.

If Josh could get through, great. If he couldn’t, we’d decide what to do then.

We did not sleep much that night.


Trying a Different Approach

At 4 AM, the shuttle arrived to take us to the trailhead a few hours away. We piled in, chose our seats, and settled in for a nap. When we arrived at the checkpoint, we put our two friends ahead of us. We decided, it was an “Our friends are already in and we’re all together, so can’t you just let me through,” type of plan.

Then I went through the checkpoint. “See even my wife is going and this trip is to celebrate our 10th anniversary,” was another point for our rebuttal, if needed.

Then it was Josh’s turn. I stayed there in case I could help in some way… puppy dog eyes, begging, etc..

Josh stepped up, handed the guy his passport, and the man said, “Your passport numbers don’t match.”

Josh answered, “Yes sir. I booked this trip in October, and then my passport expired in February, so I had to get a new one. I have my new passport, my birth certificate, credit cards, and driver’s license.”

Mr. Check In looked at Josh, at the paperwork, and back at Josh, and said, “OK.” He stamped his passport, and told him to have a good day.

Josh and I bolted to where our friends were standing, waiting for us. We all high fived, danced around, and sang, “We’re in, we’re in, woo hoo!” I’m sure we looked ridiculous, but we didn’t care. The hike was on.

It occurred to me that any of the worry we did for the previous eight hours could have been avoided. When the company liaison told us we’d never get through, we believed him and our stress level rose dramatically. In hindsight, that was all unnecessary stress since Josh was allowed to hike the trail.


So I ask again… Has someone told you something was impossible? Or you couldn’t do it?

Each of us experiences naysayers at some point, I think. It’s up to us to evaluate their feedback and decide whether to take it to heart or ignore it. In a lot of cases, the naysayer may not be a very qualified source, which should make it easy to disregard their opinion. On occasion, you’ll have an experience like we had, in which a seemingly qualified person is the source of the information (ours being the liaison of the touring company who handles hundreds of travelers a year). When that happens, here are a few ideas to keep in mind when heeding their naysayingness:

  • What can you do to position yourself for success in spite of what they say? For example, we made sure to have at least five other forms of identification since we could not get a copy of the expired passport.
  • Make preparations for either outcome. We went ahead with our plans. If Josh couldn’t get through the checkpoint, we had prepared our friends for the worst, telling them to go ahead without us and we’d meet them on the other side. We still prepared and hoped for the best – that he’d get through – but it would have been silly to not at least discuss the possibility of a different outcome.
  • Fixate on the positive outcome you want, not the negative. It wouldn’t have been beneficial for us to give up or stress to a level of physical detriment. That sort of negativity is a waste of time and mental energy. Instead, we visualized Josh getting through and discussed all of the reasons they’d let him through. Basically, we made an effort to stay positive. After all, we wouldn’t know the outcome until we got there, so it made sense to see the outcome as favorable until proven otherwise.

We are glad we didn’t give up, and listen only our naysayer, because the hike was one of our favorite trips ever. We would have really missed out on something great if we didn’t try in spite of his certainty that we wouldn’t be able to make it happen.

Sometimes, as a young adult, you’ll get negative feedback on:

  • Your choice of career or field of study
  • Your choice of school
  • Who you choose to spend your time with
  • The job you choose to work
  • or many other things

And not ALL feedback should be ignored. Some of it can be useful – maybe things you haven’t thought of and are worth considering. And sometimes, it is up to you to ignore it and continue forward on your path regardless of someone else’s doubts. Only you can decide which is the right choice for you.

I’d love to hear of a time when someone told you it was impossible for you to do something and you did it anyway OR are still working on doing it now. You can share it in the comments below or send me a personal message by clicking on Ask Amiee or Contact.

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