As a wanderlust, I’ve faced too many goodbyes. The first few times were the toughest, but that doesn’t make every time easier. When it’s time to separate, I will feel that familiar dread in my gut, along with a heart so heavy that it takes all my willpower to go through those gates without having a million thoughts racing through my mind. So many things can happen during the time till our next meeting—people can change, places can change, circumstances can change, and there is always the possibility that the goodbye will be the final one. Airports are so bittersweet—they host too many goodbyes, yet they witness the most amazing reunions.
I’ve come to expect the dread and the heavy heart during separations, so I guess that makes the separation a little more manageable, however “manageable” separations can be. There are so many reasons for the dread and heavy heart, but I’ve come to realize that the worst part about separations is the knowledge that the things and people you’ve left behind will continue to take on lives of their own—that things will never be the same again. Things will lurch forward and full speed, people will carry on with their lives, and although social media, chat apps and video calling make staying in touch so much easier than before, the fact that you aren’t physically present in their lives means that things will never be the same when you’re back. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to fly back and forth every few weeks of months, good for you, but for most of us who leave family and friends behind in search of something else, something different (note that I don’t say “something better” because really, the point isn’t to escape from reality but to explore)—we’re often gone for months and years.
Without a doubt, I hold the friendships I make in different parts of the world very close to my heart—these people are highly important to me and have taught me many invaluable things. But every time I’m back in the place I call home, I find myself trying to search for something within that void of time that I’ve been away. I know the relationships I always go back to are relationships that will remain for decades. The distance has made it difficult to maintain the same level of closeness as before—we still keep in touch and up to date on important events in each others’ lives, but that unspeakable void is always so jarring for me. There is a certain sadness in how you’ve missed so many important things in their lives—being there through texts messages and fuzzy Skype conversations just aren’t the same.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for change and I sincerely believe it is necessary for progress. Since change is the only constant, we can only embrace it. But when it’s time to separate again, another part of me still struggles with the knowledge that things will not remain the way I remember them to be. Things from my childhood, from our years of friendship will shape-shift and take on another form—sometimes the differences are subtle, nothing that keeping virtually in touch can’t handle. But other times, the memories you’ve packed away in a precious part of your mind will be upended. They will be overturned and leave you scrambling to piece the pieces back together. You will doubt yourself, question yourself, doubt the other person, and question the other person.
Yet, this has not stopped me from travelling. Yes, the knowledge that things will lurch forward without you and change is hard—but it is part of the contract you’ve agreed to when you decided to travel and move to another place. The possibility that all you’ve known can be turned upside down when you’re back is harsh, but that helps me live in the moment more—to truly appreciate each and every relationship you have back home and abroad, to never judge but just be accepting and welcoming of the people you love. At the end of the day, that’s what makes travelling so worth it. The life experiences you gain will be out of this world and these experiences cannot be gained elsewhere. These experiences make you a little stronger, a little fuller, a little wiser, and a little better.
All content © Carissa Tham 2017