Goodbyes are a reality of travel. 

To experience a new place, you first have to say goodbye to an old one. And no matter how firm your grip on reality, there’s no escaping the emotion a goodbye creates.

I don’t mind the long journeys, waiting around, questionable food or busy cities, but I’ve just never gotten a handle on goodbyes.

And today is one of those days, when the handle’s coming loose.

You’d think the final day at work ahead of my next block of extended leave would be a euphoric one. Punching the air, no regrets, seize the day and all that. Not for me. 

In retail, your team gradually become your extended family. You spend more time with them than at home: counsel them, coach them, protect them and support them in the same way you would a relative. That’s not an easy goodbye to say.

And on Sunday that will get worse. Goodbye to our home, to our family, to our country and most importantly, to the loudest moggie in the Northern Hemisphere, Smudge the cat.

I’ve been walking round in a haze for a few days now. My shoes feel heavier, my eyes less focused, my mood comparable to a minor hangover and my brain over-analysing every detail of the growing list of things that need to be done before we go.

The reality of travel is not what most bloggers try and project. Their filtered Instagram worlds mask the worried expressions. Have I done the right thing? Have I got everything? What if it goes wrong? Will I want to come back? As a long-term sufferer of anxiety, these moments are intense for me. Painful, nagging thoughts, my future self refusing to let my present self just be. A constant fight to not let this moment be swallowed by the ones that haven’t yet arrived. In a straight battle between the past, the future and the now, the now gets bullied, beaten and backs down. It shies away into a corner, while the other guys run riot and dominate the conversation. 

But let’s not get too melodramatic here. It’s only 15 weeks. I’ll be back. The cat will only notice if he doesn’t get fed (let’s not pretend for one second cats are loyal), my team will go through the normal ‘the king is dead, long live the king’ process, and with modern technology the way it is most of my family won’t feel any further away than a normal week.

So why does my brain insist on this process?

Well as a kid travel for me was bittersweet. When my dad moved to Africa, it changed our lives for the better. We had adventures that most children couldn’t even dream of let alone live. 

But the travel always meant saying goodbye. Heathrow was a place to say goodbye to mum, and O.R. Tambo meant saying goodbye to dad. Heathrow was for leaving behind friends, O.R. Tambo for closing the pages on another chapter of our secret African lives. It was quickly forgotten of course. As kids we were resilient enough to live in the moment, I didn’t even know what the word anxiety meant back then, but the subconscious has a way of not letting you forget.

So the goodbyes are tough. Leaving is difficult. Change is a bastard.

But staying put is boring. Routine is stifling. Life is for living. 

And as Teddy Roosevelt once said “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life”. 

So here’s to short term byes swapped for long term highs, short term ciaos for long term wows and short term toodle-oos for long term woo-hoos!

And most importantly, the realisation that, what follows the goodbyes is usually an unexpected, but very welcome, hello.

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