I will preface my insights on saying goodbye to your new beloved home with this: behind my sassy, sarcastic exterior is a big sentimental baby, and no one hates goodbyes more than big sentimental babies. I just, like, have a lot of feelings. Okay?
Reality is a cruel and relentless broad, and the moment she rears her ugly head for the first time in months (let’s be serious, you left all things associated with “real life” behind when you boarded your plane in January) will forever haunt you. Cue the anxiety, the whirlwind of overwhelming emotions, the sheer panic. Instead of enjoying your last few days abroad, you’re consumed with worry.
Perhaps thoughts such as these are swirling around in your head: How am I going to find time to take five finals, rage every night, see the museums I put off going to all semester, and pack? What souvenirs should I bring back for my family? When do I break things off with my new European lover? What in the world will I do without my beloved Vodafone/Orange/Movistar phone? (Jk, I know exactly what I’m going to do with that obnoxious brick of “technology”) How do I properly thank my homestay family for putting up with me? How do I put into words what this experience has meant to me, and how do I make my friends and family “get it”? And how do I even begin to plan a ceremonious goodbye grand enough to mirror my vast appreciation for the city that has stolen my heart?
So maybe you’re not stressed out about fitting 12 pairs of shoes in a duffle bag or deciding which post card to send your Grandma, but chances are you are dealing with at least some pre-departure anxiety. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom that I’m clinging to get me through.
- Relax, dude. Stop stressing yourself out with the checklists of all the things you have to do before you go. If you pack three hours before your flight, then you pack three hours before your flight. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You forget a pair of shoes? So be it. Better one thing forgotten than days spent sweating the small stuff. (By the way, the worst thing that can actually happen is, in your haste to pack, you forget your passport and miss your flight. So, don’t do that.)
- Possessions Don’t Matter. People and Places Do. This is how I feel about buying souvenirs for people when traveling: if you see something that reminds you of a specific person and is meaningful, by all means go on with your bad self and make a purchase. If someone has helped fund your trip, then a gift to demonstrate your appreciation is in order. If your grandparents cherish everything you’ve ever gotten them, then they deserve something too. People who don’t need a two-dollar bracelet or a tacky magnet: Your hairdresser. Your mom’s best friend. Your roommate from freshman year who you’ve spoken to five times in the last two years. If you are even remotely stressed out about buying souvenirs for people, stop. The people who care about you would rather you spend your last days abroad at your favorite park or with friends you’ve made. They don’t want you wasting it navigating tourist traps trying to find them cheap gifts. I promise.
- Embrace a Little Secrecy Your friends at home and a lot of your family members aren’t going to “get it”. You’ll do your best to describe your experience abroad but unless they’ve done it themselves, it might not click. Don’t let that frustrate you; not everyone in your life has to completely understand, and it’s almost better that way. This was your adventure, and you know exactly what it meant to you. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. Do, however, tell everyone and their mother that you saw Afrojack for free and casually ran into Shakira and Akon at the club. Or that you went to the FC Barcelona v. Chelsea semi-final game. (See what I did there?). But be subtle, or people might think you’re bragging or something.
Alexandra Ruby is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Notes from Abroad: Travel Tips appears on Thursdays.