In Venice, I have never sipped a Bellini at Harry’s Bar or ridden a vaporetto to Murano to buy glassware. Instead, my focus has been more on searching for the marbled paper for which the city is known. Let’s just say that I’m a self-admitted stationery junkie.

Love him or loathe him, philosopher Alain de Botton has gotten a couple of things quite right. “There is psychological pleasure [during] takeoff,” he writes in The Art of Travel. “For the swiftness of the plane’s ascent is an exemplary symbol of transformation.”

I am in the Florida Keys. I am driving a Cadillac equipped with a state-of-the-art navigation system. But there is really only one place to go: the Overseas Highway, running over a long causeway from Key West all the way to the mainland, with the waves of the Atlantic lapping on my right and the warm Gulf of Mexico to my left. My challenge: Can I still manage to get lost?

Imagine for a moment the Earth’s political history as an out-of-control Veg-O-Matic that has sliced and diced the continents and far-flung archipelagos into 872 small administrative pieces called countries, colonies, islands, states, provinces, or, in one case, the dozens of regional oblasts that form Russia. Now imagine there’s a global adventurer’s continuum that begins, at one end, with the world’s most lethargic and non-dead dull person.