I've learned to think in moderation.
I've learned things always work out eventually.
I've learned less is more. There is no material object I possess that I couldn't live without if I tried. (Yes, even toilet paper. Not ideal, but possible.)
I've learned a diet high in refined sugar and processed flour makes me sluggish.
I've learned I have friends and family who believe me capable of world conquest. Thank you all for your support and encouragement. Even when I was alone in a strange, unfamiliar place, I never felt like it. Because I knew you were each only a Skype call, e-mail, or Facebook comment away. I knew I could do this, because you knew I could.
I've learned smiling is more effective than raising my voice.
I've learned how to count to ten in Chinese.
I've learned not to fear the unknown. Each time I prepared to enter a new region, I was terrified. China? So scary. Until I was in China. Then I loved it. Time for India. India? So scary! What will become of me?? Oh wait... Love India, too. Europe? What will I wear??? You get the idea. Leave your comfort zone. It's nice out there.
I've learned how to surf.
I've learned traveling alone is easier, but sometimes traveling with someone is worth the hassle.
I've learned humans are inherently good. No infant is born racist or misogynist. It's not natural. It is taught and later exploited in times of fear. It is human instinct to help. Everywhere I've gone, good people have appeared and made themselves my champions.
I've learned not to analyze the world so much. When I first began, I would come to a new place and try to make pithy, Bill Bryson-esque observations about the quirks of each culture I visited. But around the 9th or 10th country, everyone started blending together into one continuous flow of humanity until all I could see was our similarities. The sun comes up. The sun goes down. In between, we all wake up and get to work. Whether it's from a rice field or an office high-rise, we go home at the end of the day and have dinner with our families. We enjoy a little music - either on iPods or hand-crafted instruments - and then we try to get some sleep so we have the energy to repeat the process in the morning.
And I, the tireless road warrior, on my great epic journey through distant lands, found myself in envy of these banal routines. I began to long for a morning when I might wake up, walk to work, stop along the way at my usual coffee shop where the barrista already knows my order, and not once wonder where the hell I'm going to sleep tonight.
So that's what I want you all to know: you're adventurers, too. Going on about your life, taking things as they come, having one experience after the next - that's all wayfaring is. Your geographic location makes no difference. Every time you learn something new, meet someone new, or taste a dish you were sure you'd hate, you're living. That's living.
Like I said, I've traversed 360 longitudinal degrees to arrive at the beginning.
I've learned the 361st degree is always the best.