Here’s the thing about expat life:
It sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s the ultimate fantasy– to travel the world and live abroad indefinitely, to be able to freely explore all corners of the earth, to dig deeper into different cultures and learn multiple languages and have friends on all corners of the globe. These are all the things about my life that I absolutely love.
But there are downsides to this lifestyle, and saying goodbye is probably the worst of them. It’s an art I have yet to master. I’m more for ghosting– skipping the awkward hugs lingering silences, and instead silently and invisibly slipping out the door.
But the fact is, living abroad means that you are forced to say a lot of hellos, and whole lot of goodbyes.
First, goodbyes to family, sick loved ones, best friends, and the comforts of home.
And then, goodbyes to new friends, current lovers, seas of acquaintances, new cities, familiar hangouts, and life-changing experiences.
Since May, it feels like it’s been a whirlwind of goodbyes: final soirées, going-away barbecues, cheers-ing another friend’s future endeavors over rounds of drinks, and waving Adieu from the platform at the train station, repeat about 20 times.
In short, Goodbye is a key part of expat life, and it never gets easier, no matter how many times you have to do it. You always feel like you’ll have time to prepare, to play it out in your head, to rehearse the right things to say, and face the fear of potentially never saying hello to that person again. And then later you find yourself crying in your room, and wondering why you choose to put yourself through this again and again.
Having been on both sides of the totem pole, I’m not sure what’s worse: leaving or being left behind. Perhaps it’s just having to say goodbye to the people and places you love most in the world, both old and new, and knowing that things probably aren’t going to be the same, no matter how well you stay in touch.
Perhaps it’s just knowing that saying goodbye just makes the next hello closer.