Last Friday, my partner and I said goodbye to two of our closest friends. Waving at the taxi that drove them away and walking back into their empty flat that’s now ours left us both with the strangest feeling.
This moment took me right back to when I left Shanghai a couple of months ago after living there for 2 years. And it reminded me that saying goodbye is an inherent part of living beyond borders.
Goodbye to a place that was home for a while.
Goodbye to the people who brought it to life.
Goodbye to a version of yourself.
Leaving knowing that you won’t ever be able to relive or recreate the experience you’ve just had is the toughest. Sadly, I don’t think it gets easier with time. But I thought I’d share some tips to embrace the good in goodbye.
~ Past ~
The weeks or days leading up to your departure are a great time to reflect on what you’ve learnt and how this experience has changed you. Ask yourself, who you were when you arrived and who you are now that you are leaving. In which ways have you surprised yourself? How have you grown?
After living in Norway for a year, I couldn’t believe myself how much I’d changed. I felt so much stronger and couldn’t wait to continue to explore the world one country at a time.
No matter how short or long you’ve lived abroad for, I’m sure you’ve done plenty of exploring. Treasure these memories and defining moments. If you like writing, list them on paper. If you like taking photos, save the most meaningful ones in a separate album. If neither takes your fancy, perhaps simply make a list in your head. Whatever feels right for you.
At the beginning of each year, no matter where in the world I am, I start a memory box. In there, I put postcards, souvenirs, tickets, letters, brochures, … When time comes for me to leave, I look through the box and thoroughly enjoy being reminded of all the little things I’ve had the chance to see and do.
~ Present ~
In the days prior to moving, take the time to say goodbye to all the places and the people you love. Sip on your favourite drink. Dig into your favourite dish. Run along your favourite route. Join your favourite class. Catch-up with your friends and your colleagues. Have a memorable goodbye party. If you have the time, add in a couple of last trips to the places that have been on your list for ages but you haven’t gotten around to visiting yet. Who knows when you’ll be back…
A couple of days before they left, we spent a lovely evening with our friends eating at the local restaurant where they’d had their first meal 2 years before and going for a drink at their favourite Italian bistro.
Moving away is an emotional process regardless how close or far you’re heading. Take in all the emotions as they come. Try not to judge yourself or tell yourself how you should be handling it all. Feel like crying? Let the floods of tears come out. Feel like laughing? Go for it!
Relocating from London to China was one of the toughest decision I’ve ever made. The night before my flight, I suffered from a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe, was in tears and kept asking my partner “why am I doing this?”. Deep down, I knew the answer. But I couldn’t help to be temporarily overwhelmed. After talking all night long, I felt slightly better and was able to make a move I’ve never regretted.
~ Future ~
Don’t wait until you’re gone to think about what’s next. Before leaving, start planning cool adventures ahead. Are you moving to a new country? Are you returning to one you’re familiar with? Regardless, book a weekend trip with friends, a nice meal with family members, a pampering treat for yourself, whatever brings you joy and excitement. Looking forward to the future will make taking the leap a little easier.
A tuk tuk tournament in Sri Lanka is what our friends are planning on doing next. How awesome is that?
Finally, as you’re waving at those you’re leaving behind, remember that travel makes the world smaller. You can always come back. Or you can plan to meet your friends elsewhere. Perhaps you’ll even end up bumping into each other somewhere unexpectedly!
The 4 of us first lived together in London more than 4 years ago. We’ve then met twice in Brazil, including once for their gorgeous wedding! Randomly, we ended up living together again in Melbourne over the last few months. So, who knows where we’ll meet up next?
~ On Friday, what my goodbye to them truly meant was ’till we meet again! Four simple words that capture the essence of the good in goodbye ~
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What a lovely blog! I can really see how this would be tough but bitter sweet
Bitter sweet is a very accurate choice of words to describe the feeling of saying goodbye to a place and getting ready to greet a new one. Thank you so much!