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Journey's End: How Seven Months On The Road Changed Me — Remote Encounters Diary, Part 6

We've come to the end of the road. After thousands of kilometers and countless Spanish conversations, here are the lessons I'm taking home with me.

We’ve just arrived in Cusco which marks the end of our journey. We’ve seen so many beautiful places and met so many inspiring and welcoming people — it’s almost too much to process. I feel like I’ve learned a million things, but I won’t know what they all are until I’m confronted with city life again. But there are some obvious lessons that I will be taking away from this journey:

1. Spending a lot of time in nature, and getting back into its rhythms — waking up with the sun, going to sleep when it goes down, moving all day long, seeing so many animals and interacting with them — this has done wonders for my health, physically and mentally. I’ve never felt this strong. It just seems like a better way to live than what I was doing before, and I’ve realized that I don’t want to lose the link to nature that I’ve established on this trip.

2. I’ve also noticed that I’ve wasted too much time in my life caring about what other people think: about how clean my apartment is, about whether I look presentable enough… For the past seven months I’ve lived outside, worn the same clothes for days at a time, and nobody noticed or cared. This traveling lifestyle helped me realize that there are much more important things in life.

3. The people we have met on our journey have been so inclusive and so generous to a pair of complete strangers. They have showered us with gifts, from homemade jam and hand-knitted beanies, to vegetables from their gardens and rooms for the night. This has made me question how I treat strangers, and made me realize that I could be doing a lot more to be a kind and generous person. I’m going to start by making giant batches of jam and opening my doors to couch-surfers and smelly cyclists!

4. My final lesson is to enjoy speaking Spanish regardless of how good my Spanish is. As an introvert, speaking without overthinking has been one of the biggest hurdles, and I am proud to have found the key to overcoming myself! It’s not that I suddenly speak fluent Spanish (far from it!), but I know that I have the hardest part behind me, and that’s no easy feat when learning a language. I’ve spent enough time practicing the basics to have them engrained and I know enough words now to be able to express myself around corners. And, more importantly, I have progressed far enough to really enjoy the challenge of conversation. I think that learning these lessons in a language class, without the experience of bicycle touring in South America, would have taken me much longer. From here on out, learning Spanish is going to be a lot more fun.

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