The beauty in saying goodbye, and looking forward

November 7, 2011 in Philosophy,Travel

I’ve never been one for goodbyes. In social situations, I’m notorious for pulling a Cinderella and simply disappearing into the night without a word. Whether I’m dead sober or sloppy drunk, I just hate going through the social protocol and saying a proper goodbye. I’d rather skip the awkward hug and excuses, and leave.

Sunset at St Kilda beach, Melbourne, Australia

The thing about long-term travel is that you’re forced to say a lot of goodbyes: goodbye to family and best friends and everything that is home, and then, goodbye to a new city and new friends and another incredible experience.

Arriving in Melbourne (and Nice), wide-eyed and overwhelmed, I poured my heart into making it my home. Happy hours with coworkers, making dinner with my flatmate, exchanging phone numbers and funny stories and rounds of drinks until I finally felt like I had supportive, interesting and incredibly fun group of friends.

And now it’s another last day at work, a going-away dinner, another round of going-away drinks. Repeat my future plans about 86 times and promise to come back one day (everyone swears that Melbourne suits me and that I’ll be back). Smile because I’m surrounded by so many freaking awesome people, laugh at a memory of a crazy night out—and then, suddenly, I’m holding back tears, only to go home and sob and ask myself a million unanswerable questions. Is this the right choice? If I’m this sad to say goodbye, why, exactly am I leaving?

Six months might be about as long as my attention span lasts, but it also ensures I’m leaving on a high. I still haven’t gone to every restaurant or bar that I wanted to try. I won’t be enjoying a St Kilda summer—the best time of year in this beachy suburb, as everyone is keen to remind me. I’ve finally established a routine that works, friendships that feel real—and I’m leaving.

Leaving now ensures that Melbourne will always be framed with a fuzzy golden hue, a permanent Instagram effect. I’m not leaving because I’ve gotten bored, or even because I’m truly ready for something else. In a weird sort of way, though, leaving can validate you. When people are sad to see you go, it tells you that you’re doing something right. You are living a life that people want to be a part of.

St Kilda Pier on a cloudy day, Melbourne, Australia

As I hugged goodbye this morning to the family who runs the café where I drink a pre-work latte every morning, the beautiful Greek owner told me to carry myself. Carry myself—those were the best farewell words I’ve ever received.

I’ll walk on the plane next week, and if nothing else, I’ll carry myself. Head high, eyes open: incredibly grateful for another experience that created difficult goodbyes and looking straight forward to the next adventure.

Previous post:

Next post: