I looked at my calendar today, took in a big breath, and muttered: “13 days.” That’s when I get on a plane to my new home: San Francisco. It’s bittersweet. 8 months ago I set out from South Carolina with a backpack and laptop bag. I took a road trip from the east to the west coast, lived and traveled through Central America, and crossed a couple things off my bucket list. Yet it wasn’t about these things. It was what happened between September and May. It was the journey. These are 11 things I learned from the last eight months of living and traveling nomadically. What I learned. Don’t go off quitting your job and traveling the world because I did and if you show up at my house, knocking on my door and asking me why you didn’t learn these things while traveling, then I’ll come down with a sudden case of long-term memory loss. Nonetheless, I hope that even just one of these inspires you in a way that it has inspired me.

1. Food and alcohol abroad can often taste better and cost less, but not always at the same time. I haven't talk a lot about the food in Central America. That's because largely, there's not much to talk about. I had rice and beans for the first time in a couple months yesterday and it reminded me why I haven't eaten them since I left Costa Rica. However, I must say that Nicaraguan rum was cheaper, and better, than most rum I've had. You can't beat $7 for a bottle at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border.

 

2. Labels are overrated. I'm not a minimalist. I like having things. I'm not a backpacker. I rarely stay at hostels. I'm not even a nomad. "Well why'd you slap that word 'nomad' in the title?" Well, because it sounded better than saying "11 things from being a traveling" I find that I'm so eager to toss around labels, but not so eager to have one hanging over my head. For months I tried thinking of what I was. I wasn't anything. I lived, I traveled, I ate, I slept.

 

3. I'm finally coming to terms with the idea of wants vs. needs. I learned this lesson when I was like seven, but it's finally starting to come around for me. Like I mentioned, I'm not a minimalist. However, I have realized that I don't need as much stuff as I thought I did. I still like the feel of a book and magazine. I imagine I'll do more e-book reading and Netflix watching, but I'm sure I'll still have a sofa and a TV. I lived and traveled around for 8 months with a couple bags, which tells me I probably don't need as much as I thought I did.

 

4. The great travel paradox: To see more, yet to know less. I've never traveled as much as I have the last 8 months. I crossed off bucket list items, fed monkeys, and had conversations in other languages. However, all of this has taught me that I don't know shit. I thought I knew a lot. That a bachelor's degree, mastery of Google, and 28 years of living had given me some clout. It hadn't. Travel has humbled me in ways that nothing ever has.

 

5. A second paradox: Is having less, actually having more? I thought about this considerably while in Central America, but it really came home while watching and talking with people in New Orleans. I saw people that were so full of life, love, and happiness like no other that I've seen. This wasn't because of money, material wealth, or a great job, because many of the happiest people I met over the last few months didn't have any of those things.

 

6. The imitation never replaces the real thing. I think of all the photos I've taken and all the virtual relationships I've made in the last year. They've been incredible and it has often been overwhelming. However, it can't compare to the real thing. I met some special people that were a result of virtual relationships on Twitter. Upon meeting them, it was like we had been best friends our entire lives. Similarly, I saw some amazing scenery, some of the best, which I never took a photo of, yet very clearly remember those experiences. Technology can never replace that.

 

7. Stories help me make sense of the world. Degree, check. Management job, check. Car, check. My life had become a never-ending checklist. It was backwards. People don't remember checklists. They remember stories. This year has been a story, one in which I have evolved, experiencing highs and lows, and one that continues on.

 

8. I can largely do what I want. I can. I shouldn't speed, well too much. I shouldn't hurt anyone. But largely, I can do what I want. I don't have to do what everyone else is doing. I don't have to do what someone else wants me to do. And I don't have to do what's expected of me. So I've done just that, what I've wanted to.

 

9. Travel can be an education like no other. I learned and came to understand things that years of textbooks never taught me. Great Greek writer Eurpides said: "Experience, travel - these are as education in themselves." I may not be traveling long-term any longer, but I'm in no way slowing down. There are things to learn, languages to speak, and conversations to be had.

 

10. Long-term travel isn't for everyone. It's not even for me. Will I do it again? Possibly. I wouldn't mind doing so with someone else. I really like having a home though. Some people are long-term travelers, and that's great, but some are short-term travelers and that's just as important and offers the same types of experiences.

11. There is just something about home. That photo above; that'll be my new home in two weeks. Maybe for six months, but maybe the rest of my life. I got a taste of this when I had an apartment for a couple months in Costa Rica. I had a mailbox, a local bar, grocery store, and a birthday and going away party thrown for me. There's just something about that.