This time last year, I boarded a plane to the UK.
This time this year, I'm plain bored in Peru.
Hahaha. Oh that was good.
I'm not bored. I'm writing from a beautiful restaurant in Cusco. There's stone walls, meticulously woven chairs, colorful knit pillows in maroon, green, blue and yellow, and they recently removed the daytime table cactus plant to make room for the nighttime table candle. I have pork belly, andean potatoes, agua con gas, and cappuccino in my belly.
3,399 meters (and
3.28084x that in feet) above sea level, I've weathered through some minor altitudinal difficulties with sleep, coca tea, and a mindfulness to take deep breaths. Learning how to cope with the increased altitude is no different than learning how to live anywhere else. And learning is all I've been doing for the past year.
93% of my life over last 12 months has been overseas. It doesn't matter how many countries I've been to (13), or how many women I've charmed (450), or how many men I've accidentally charmed (451), or how many bottles of wine and port and sake I've downed (600), or how many bars and restaurants I've been denied entry to in Japan (10), or how many Chromecasts I've forgotten in Airbnb TVs (1), or how many books I've read with my eyes (2), or how many books I've read with my ears (15), or how many airplanes I've been on (25), or how many backpacks I've replaced because I have a weird thing with buying backpacks (2). None of that matters.
What matters is what I've learned along the way.
I learned that I could get rid of mostly everything I owned - and that once it was gone, none of it was as important as I once thought it was.
I learned how to read ひらがな (Hiragana).
I learned that eating coconut rice, coconut pudding, durian with coconut milk, coconut ice cream, and then drinking a coconut and then eating it is too much coconut for one afternoon.
I learned that parents have the absolute worst Google Hangouts cinematography.
I learned that Buenos Aires ATMs never have money.
I learned how to use Japanese onsen and sentō.
I learned that some sentō baths have electric current.
I learned that stepping into a pool of water with an electric current is startling.
I learned that it's funny to be startled when I'm naked and surrounded by naked strangers. Everyone laughs and is naked and having a good time.
I learned that all of the wineries in Mendoza are supervillain lairs designed as wineries.
I learned that I can actually enjoy an opera (or the architecture of the venues, at least).
I learned not to throw trash into a garbage can while holding coins in the same hand. Thank you to the helpful employee at the Lawson's Shinjukugoen Center branch. You really didn't have to. Really. I told you multiple times that it was okay and that I would just leave. Don't make this any more embarrassing than it already is.
I learned that the dulce de leche flan at Proper in Buenos Aires is my greatest weakness.
I learned that every table in Peru has uneven legs.
I learned that, in Japan, nobody thinks you're lost - they think you're looking for Pokemon.
I learned that it's legal for me to use the name "Jay" at Starbucks to avoid confusion over the spelling and pronunciation of my real name.
I learned that nothing in this world is truly waterproof.
I learned how to read Korean. 안녕하세요
I learned that if a plane explodes on the runway at the Dubai airport to change my Dubai layover flight scheduled for the next day.
I learned that one of the worst things you can do to a human is make them wait in multiple long lines - at the end of each line is a person that cannot help you - at the end of the last line is a person that tells you they switched your flight and you're at the wrong terminal.
I learned that the quietest floor to sleep on at the Dubai airport is right outside the metro terminal.
I learned that Argentina has an unfair amount of beautiful people.
I learned enough about cryptocurrency and security to be dangerously prepared for danger.
I learned to not listen to anything anyone tells me about how far I am from my destination while on a long hike.
I learned more Spanish than I ever expected to. Gracias por todo, mis amigos y profesores en el BAse Institute en Buenos Aires.
I learned that losing my bank card, breaking my phone, spraining my knee, getting eaten alive by bed bugs, suffering a severe reaction to black mold and being forced to move to a new apartment, having my apartment's water supply cut for multiple days, and getting electrocuted by a shitty oscillating fan all in the span of two weeks will not kill me.
I learned that I could live out of two backpacks for over a year.
I learned how to love sparkling water.
I learned that testing a diet, like the slow-carb diet, is the best way to reinforce conscious eating, discover new foods and ways to cook, and find new restaurants.
I learned how to get a Chinese visa at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo - and it only took me three tries.
I learned that merino shirts (like this one) are the best clothing you can buy. They never smell. At least I don't think they do. I really hope I don't smell.
I learned how to count to 9,999 in Japanese. Do not ask me how to say 10,000 because I truly do not know.
I learned that blood sausage, sweetbreads, intestines and other disgusting things are delicious.
I learned that freezing water bottles and placing them all over my body before going to sleep is a complicated, yet convenient, alternative to air conditioning.
I learned that if I want to buy a ticket for the Bangkok BTS metro, the employees in the kiosks only give me change. No, I didn't lose my ticket - I never got one in the first place.
I learned that it's possible for me to be so confused that a nearby policeman thinks it's necessary to ask if I'm okay.
I learned that my knees will hurt when I do things that make knees hurt.
I learned that Cremia is the best ice cream in the entire world. Ohhhh fuck it's so good.
I learned that my favorite restaurant in the world is Maido, which I visited a record five times over two months.
I learned how to read カタカナ (Katakana).
I learned that Yuengling sounds like a beer from Asia if you've never heard of it before.
I learned that Apostoles Gin and tonic with pomelo (kinda like a grapefruit) makes the best gin and tonic.
I learned that I want to be Francis Mallman when I grow up.
I learned that the best burger outside of the United States as at Carnal in Lima.
I learned that Starbucks is my best friend if I'm trying to get work done in Japan.
I learned that if a bartender in Bangkok yells to you, "if you don't come back here.. I'LL KILL YOU!", he's just kidding around.
I learned that, in China, it is customary to eat pizza while wearing plastic gloves.
I learned that, in Japan, it is customary to eat burgers in a paper wrapper.
I learned that La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is one of the few attractions in the world that actually exceeds expectations.
I learned that it is impossible to turn off the camera shutter sound on Japanese phones.
I learned that Kyoto is the most peaceful city to ride a bike.
I learned that if my rental bike's light goes out, a headlamp works just as well.
I learned the real way to drink yerba mate.
I learned that everyone operating a vehicle in Naples, Lima, and Bangkok wants to murder me.
I learned that Apricot kernels are delicious, but not too delicious because they can cause cyanide poisoning.
I learned that everything in Switzerland is hilariously expensive.
I learned that I really enjoy walking around cemeteries.
I learned that I need to watch my step when walking around cemeteries at night, in the rain, when there are frogs everywhere.
I'm sorry, frog. Really. But also - you need to watch your step when hopping around cemeteries at night, in the rain, when there are people around.
If you'd like to learn more about anything that I've learned, I would love to share.
If you'd like to share anything that you've learned, I would love to learn.