The Universal Truth About Expat Life: Goodbyes

on July 5, 2017

They say the one constant in life is change, and if that’s true then the one constant in expat life is goodbyes. I had a different post planned for this week but I wanted to write about this instead: the universal truth of expat life. I’m not the first person to write about it and I won’t be the last, but that doesn’t stop me wanting to put my words out into the ether of the Internet.

Having now, essentially, been an expat twice, I have written quite a bit about saying goodbye… to places. I get quite attached to places and find it difficult leaving – I always have to do a grand tour, visit my favorite restaurants, take photos of my favorite (usually mundane to the average eye) sights.

But maybe my preoccupation with saying goodbye to places I’ve lived or loved is hiding a much more difficult goodbye. The people.

I’ve been through my fair share of goodbyes: best friends, roommates, family and boyfriends. It doesn’t get any easier, in fact, unlike most things in life, I think the more you do it the more difficult it gets.

But it’s part of the reality of living in a different country than you come from. The holes in your life that are created with each person you say goodbye to are never quite filled in – but even so, after each goodbye you will continue adding new people to the metaphorical cloth of your life. I think of it a bit like lace – the beauty of expat life actually lies in the holes that get left behind.

This week I said goodbye to my lovely friend Vaish, one of my first friends in Plymouth who I found two years ago when I was feeling particularly new and foreign. Vaish is from India, and a lot of our bond is built over laughing at Britishisms, poo-pooing the rain, comparing our traditions from home, etc. Expats often befriend other expats for this very reason – it’s nice to relate to someone going through a similar experience (I mean… look at this great expat blogging community!). However, when you befriend other expats, that just makes the goodbye-conundrum even worse: even if you don’t leave, they will. 

Last year I said goodbye to dozens of friends who were in Plymouth on the Erasmus study-exchange program. It was sad to say goodbye, so this year I buckled down on my MSc coursework and strengthened the friendships I already had. In a way I avoided making new friends because I wanted to avoid having to say the inevitable goodbyes.

But of course goodbyes aren’t all bad. In the spring, Vaish and I traveled to Girona together to visit our friends who we said goodbye to last year. And even if expat life has taken friends far away, it has also gifted me with those friendships that I know defy geographical boundaries. I have couches to stay on and kitchens to eat in in India, Spain, Hungary, France, Norway, Italy…

It’s a difficult thing to balance: of course you want to live life to the fullest, but what does that mean when you know every relationship is transitory? Do you make attachments or do you deepen what you already have? I don’t know… I’m still figuring it out, I suppose. I’m curious to hear your thoughts!

Sarah xx

**photos taken from one of our final (for now!) southwest England adventures in St Ives this past weekend <3

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