FACT: I have moved 14 times in the past 12 years…with at least another move scheduled for late 2015!
To say that I’m an expert at moving is quite the understatement. I’ve learned to pack a carry-on for a 10 day trip; a medium-sized suitcase for a year abroad; and, like a game of Tetris, have learned to pack up a whole apartment into just a few boxes. What I have yet to master is the art of saying farewell to people I’ve met while living abroad.
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Until you’ve lived abroad for a considerable amount of time (longer than just a year abroad), you can never fully understand how much the community you’re surrounded by impacts your global experience. It’s those people—the generous and hospitable people who welcome you into their lives–that make it impossible for me to leave my home abroad with dry eyes. Leaving Turkey was no exception…here’s why:
Living Abroad is Like Being a Child Again
No matter how old you are, how experienced you are or how adaptable you think you are…you’re not. When you move to a new place, you have a whole new infrastructure, set of social norms, language and culture to learn. This means you’re back at step one, trying to figure out how to do basic things like buying shoelaces, ordering still instead of sparkling water and asking for directions. But with the help of friends, colleagues and, more often than not, kindhearted strangers, you will learn the ropes quickly.
Signing Documents Written in a Foreign Language Can Be Daunting
When you live abroad, you have to set-up a ‘real life’. This means finding a home, setting up utilities, registering with the local authorities, etc. Without the help of our friends and coworkers, I wouldn’t have had an easy transition into my new life abroad. I couldn’t have imagined singing official documents (i.e., immigration documents, housing or cell phone contracts, etc.) without the reassurance of a local I trusted. I also couldn’t have imagined trusting a doctor’s diagnosis without the stamp of approval from a local I knew held the same standards as I, an American, did.
Everyone get’s homesick. Everyone.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived abroad. Sometimes you just miss home. I’ve found the times I miss home the most are when I am abroad and alone. Especially at night. So when the locals invite to me out for a coffee, to see a movie or to go for a walk, it’s those times when I feel less homesick. In Turkey we found nothing but gracious hosts who showed us the true meaning of Turkish hospitality. Whether it was our student who invited us into her home to break the fast during Ramadan; our co-worker who accompanied us to the many governmental offices to sort out or visa situation…on her day off, no less; the shopkeeper who gave us a whole cake for free simply because we were ‘guests in his country’; or countless other encounters we had with locals, it’s safe to say that we encountered enough hospitality to last a lifetime. These encounters made us feel like we were part of the local culture and community. An that made all the difference.
I’ve said it before, but it’s true: travel reminds me that the world is made up of good people. The more I travel, the more this is confirmed. But the only way I can continue meeting these amazingly kind souls is by saying goodbye to the one’s I already know. The one’s who have helped make so many places my home. This is why it never gets easier to say goodbye.