2016 was a year of exponential growth.

The Top 9 Things I’ve learned this past year backpacking around the world were:

9) You become like the people you surround yourself with whether you want to or not, so surround yourself with people you want to emulate, as they will help you become a better version of yourself.

8) Learn to self-soothe. After being Inflection’s Happiness Engineer, I traveled solo to be my own “Happiness Engineer”. I wanted to become more self-sufficient and discover what I need to soothe myself, so I wouldn’t have to depend on others to heal me.

7) Be comfortable being alone. If you really sit with yourself and your own thoughts, you will slowly learn to love yourself, and then you’ll never be truly alone.

6) “Be” vs. “Do”. I used to think my worth was tied to my productivity. If I wasn’t being productive at every second, then I was of no value to society. Thus, I was always constantly doing something. I’ve learned this year that I need moments of relaxation to heal myself, and I don’t always have to be “productive” to still be valued in society. It’s like Yin & Yang, we need to be able to relax to do more and vice versa.

5) Our bodies are resilient. If we trust and listen to our bodies, they will take care of themselves. I’m a gym rat, but while traveling I rarely had access to a gym and didn’t always have the healthiest food options. Thus, I had to adapt to the situations and be even more compassionate with myself. Listening to my body, I turned out ok!

4) We don’t need as much as we think to be happy. For the past 15 months, I’ve essentially been a turtle with my home on my back. We’re very adaptable creatures and can become accustomed to almost any situation given time. I’ve changed from being “maintenance” to “low maintenance” this year–wearing the same clothes every week, sleeping across three plastic blue seats at the bus terminal–and am much happier for it! It’s nice to be more minimalistic, not focused on the material things in life. Apart from our basic needs (water, food, shelter), good company and experiences are pretty much all we need in the end!

3) You can’t schedule magic. I’ve learned to go with the flow and see what feels most right in the moment. We are exactly where we’re meant to be at every given moment. This year has taught me to move out of my mind and into my heart, trusting my intuition and the Universe which leaves room for magic to happen.

2) Our time is precious and finite. We only have one wild and precious life, and for me, people are everything, so I’m only going to spend time with the people who matter most to me.

1) I am completely and unapologetically ME. Before this year, I didn’t believe I was lovable or deserved love. I rarely looked at myself in the mirror as I was invisible even to myself. I used to try to take as little space as possible or speak as quickly as I could to not take up others’ space or time. I was a people-pleaser, caring too much about making others happy. But through caring for myself this year, I’ve learned I deserve to walk on this earth as much as anyone else. I now love myself and am comfortable in my own body; I actually see myself in the mirror and don’t care what other people think. I dance and sing anywhere, doing what makes me happy. I am ME, completely and unapologetically me because I have no reason to apologize. The people who matter in my life will be ok with my quirks, and the ones who are not aren’t meant to be in my life anyways. When we are completely ourselves, we can live our lives exactly how we want to, making every moment our own.