Embracing the Good in Goodbye

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 feelings.

A Sense of Loss.

This moment took me right back to when I left Shanghai a couple of months ago after living there for two 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.

Before The Move:

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 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, anything! When the 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.

The Move:

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. Attend your favourite class again. 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 but you haven’t gotten around to visiting. 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 two years before, and going for a drink at their favourite Italian bistro.

Moving away is an emotional process regardless of 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. Feel like laughing? Go for it!

Relocating from London to China was one of the toughest decisions 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 but be temporarily overwhelmed. After talking all night long, I felt slightly better and was able to make a move I’ve never regretted.

The Future:

Don’t wait until you’re gone to think about what’s next. Before leaving, start planning cool adventures. 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 four of us first lived together in London more than four years ago. We’ve since 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.

Solène runs the blog, Be.Beyond.Borders, a fantastic resource for TCKs and global nomads. She is also the author of Where to Next? a memoir about travelling and living abroad and how that changes one's perception of where or what 'home' actually is. To read more of her work, visit Be.Beyond.Borders today!