The Hardest Travel Lesson is Learning to Say Goodbye

Taylor Smith

Settling in abroad may not be mutually exclusive with routine. Taylor explains why.

When I left home, I left mentally prepared to build a new life in a new location. I knew it would be unfamiliar and different, but I was ready to take on any surprise.

I fell into my new life with surprising ease; one month in and I had a set routine and a core group of good friends. I was comfortable—too comfortable. I thought I had trained myself to accept the unexpected, but I wasn’t prepared to uproot my life time and time again beyond the initial move to Iraq.

In the past two weeks, three of my close friends have left and one of the local non-profits I work with is going into hibernation. I’ve found myself exactly where I started four months ago when I moved here, something I was not prepared for. Being left behind in a foreign country is a strange feeling. I’m the one who moved away from home, but now I’m experiencing some quasi feeling of what my friends and family felt when I left.

You can never get too comfortable, because your life is constantly going to be in flux. It’s a difficult thing to make peace with, even for those of us who consider ourselves fiercely independent.

It’s a lesson I didn’t really expect to learn during my time here, but it’s an important one nonetheless. If you choose this nomadic life of picking up and putting down roots all over the world, you have to be prepared for the constantly inconstant. In the words of one of my favourite quotes from the film Stand By Me, “People come in and out of our lives, like busboys in a restaurant.”

In a way, you can never truly get too comfortable, because your life is constantly going to be in flux. It’s a difficult thing to make peace with, even for those of us who consider ourselves fiercely independent. A solution could be to never put down roots or build close relationships at all, but I don’t think that’s a solution at all.

The constant change and shift in life abroad doesn’t devalue the relationships you build or the work you do, in fact I think it may add to it. If you’re aware that every friendship you build or job you start could be over at any moment, you can train yourself to appreciate every second no matter how fleeting.

Take comfort in the fact that you can create, destroy and rebuild a life over and over again with new people and new experiences. Reflect on the benefits of stretching your mind and heart to encompass all these different versions of your life rather than wallow in the sadness of losing the semblance of what you considered normal.

You moved abroad to challenge yourself in the first place, why get comfortable now?

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith is an Italian American living in Erbil, Iraq. She recently graduated from Emerson College with two degrees in Multimedia Journalism and Political Communication. Currently, she works as a teacher, freelance journalist, and documentarian for local NGOs.


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