1. I’m out.

I’m a stubborn dude. It’s highly unlikely I would have stuck through some of the things I’ve done – eating the hottest chili on Earth, twisting my ankle jumping off that bridge – if I was more willing to just admit that I didn’t want to do them. I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like if I had been better at simply walking away.

I stuck with traveling constantly for three years. I lived out of a backpack that entire time, eating ¢19 noodle packets and free hostel bread. I lived in a car for five months. By the time I decided to find a home base, to settle down and transition my trips into shorter, more manageable beasts, I had utterly destroyed my body, my health, my sense of civilization. I’m now teaching myself how to live in a world I won’t be leaving anytime soon. It’s going… okay.

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy my time abroad, or that I wish I had cut it to an end sooner. But from now on, I’m definitely going to have no problem realizing that my time could be spent in other ways

2. How about Friday at 8?

If I broke up with every girlfriend I’ve had just because I wanted to go on a long-term trip with the option of learning something new about myself (which, fundamentally, is the reason behind all my breakups thus far), I’d never get another girlfriend in my life. In a successful relationship, sacrifices have to be made for the health of what you’re building together. Abandoning something good for the sake of what else might be out there isn’t always right. Sometimes you really do need to just settle down.

I wish I’d learned this sooner. To the amazing women I’ve taken for granted in the name of improving myself, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be an asshole. I’m trying to be better. And to the next woman to enter my life – I’m ready for you now.

3. Yes.

I was always a bit of a sheltered kid. My world was rigidly scheduled, climate controlled, built for track. I never studied abroad in college. I was fully prepared to go straight into a career I already knew I’d hate, settle down with somebody I’d learn to resent, pop out 2.5 kids, and live that apple pie life of the American Dream. I never broadened my horizons; I said “no” far too often. Then, I said yes. I said yes to doing something outside of my comfort zone, traveling to Thailand after graduation. This one trip, this one word, changed the course of my life and showed me the ocean of possibilities that lie beyond the trickling life that comes from “No.”

4. Fuck off.

Misery loves company, and I’ve had my fair share of company. Sometimes, “friends” are only people you get drunk with, and in reality they keep you around to make themselves feel better about their own failings. It starts small: “God, I hate flossing, I never do it, right?” Tiny things for which they seek reinforcement. But it scales up. You tell them about your coming travels and, unable to bear being faced with somebody accomplishing something, they try to drag you down. “It’s dangerous, you know.” “What about your career?” There’s only one thing to say to these people, and I wish I had said it before I let them influence my choices.

5. You’re wrong.

After around three hours of huddling under a tree in the Cordillera of Luzon in the Philippines, I started to doubt my guides knew where they were going. They were Filipino, but not local to the area, and they had promised to lead me to on foot from Banaue to the legendary village of Batad. The storm broke out after the second time they decided to retrace their steps. Now, we had vines wrapped around our arms to prevent us from being washed down the sheer cliff to the left of us, praying to any God that would listen that the storm would pass before it became too dark to see the rice terraces we had been tromping across for the last four hours.

Eventually, a local woman walked past with her dog and, laughing hysterically, offered to lead us the rest of the way. And while I cherish the memory of that adventure, I can’t help but think that had I simply had the balls to call out my guides in the first place, I could have saved myself the replacement fee for a few soaked through electronics. It makes me wonder just how many grievances I could have been spared had I the courage previously to tell somebody they were wrong and take control of a situation. The blind leading the blind will lead somebody right off a rain-soaked cliff.

6. No more for me, thanks.

If I tallied the amount of money I’ve spent on alcohol in the last few years, I’m fairly certain I’d die. The only thing stopping me is the knowledge that I probably blew my coffin fund on shots of bottom shelf tequila.

Now that I’ve finally developed emotionally past my 18-year-old self, I can go out for a few beers and return home with my memory and my rent money intact.

7. You’re right.

I really wish that I had some grand encounter that finally taught me to accept the error of my ways. Some romantic lesson of bravery, betrayal, and redemption. But really, I’m just stoked I finally got around to accepting that pineapple on pizza is the fucking bomb.