What is it that happens to us when we have to say goodbye? What good is a treasure you know you are about to lose? And why do we still keep leaving? A personal account.
I was standing in the airport and looked into the faces of all the people who came out to say goodbye to us. Our families, our friends, our roommates. They were here because we mattered to them, because we lived our lives together, because they felt we were important. They were here because we had wonderful moments together, and laughed and were happy with each other’s company. But now, this time, would not be one of these moments. This time, we would have to make them sad. I looked into their faces, and I saw pain, tears in the corner of an eye, and I felt how my throat clogged up and tears were rushing into my own eyes. Fight it! Not yet. Don’t cry yet. This is the hardest part of leaving. Hurting the people that stay behind, seeing the sorrow in their faces. I am sad too, but I get to go somewhere new, and I can’t take them with me. We promise to skype soon, but it won’t be the same, not like seeing each other every day. It will never be the same as it used to be.
Goodbyes suck, but with what we are planning, we will see a lot more of them. A life on the road, no strings attached, floating from one place to the next, the goal being to eventually have traveled from the very northern tip of North America to the very southern end of South America. In between, there is no fixed route, no time frame, nothing but the call of the road. If we like a place, we stay a while. If we don’t, we go somewhere else. But one thing always stays the same: whoever we meet, whoever we enclose in our hearts, we will eventually have to leave behind. Whoever decides to come travel with us, at some point they will leave – and then there it is again: saying goodbye. This feeling in your throat, like a string wrapped around it on the inside, pulling it shut. That ache in your stomach, like a piece got ripped out to stay behind. The tears. The love that you feel the strongest when you are about to lose it.
But that is all part of the deal we are making with ourselves. Not growing up just yet, living life to the fullest, screaming our hearts out in the middle of the night on an unnamed field, be wild and careless and live and love and just be, defying the rules of adulthood a little longer. For this, we forsake job opportunities, social security, being close to our families and friends, and we accept saying goodbye. Constantly. Again and again.
We left home to travel and live in a VW bus. Is it going to work out? Don’t know. Will we have enough money to complete the trip? No idea. Will there be bad shit happening along the way? Yes, definitely. Will it be worth it? I don’t know. Maybe we end up in a ditch somewhere with no money to buy food and an engine that won’t run again. But what I know is this: if we don’t try, I will keep asking myself these questions, and I won’t have an answer. And although I can probably push them away and drown them in everyday life, they will still be there. What happened to your dreams, they will ask. Why didn’t you go? And so we decided to go. Let’s find out, let’s find the answers to these questions.
I looked into the eyes of my friends and parents. “Okay”, I said. “It’s time to do this.” I went to my roommate and hugged her, I tried to speak but barely could. I went from her to the next roommate, and then the next and so on down the line. Last came my parents, and if I had had a chance fighting the tears before, I didn’t now. I wouldn’t see them, see any of these people in a long time, and the thought of it hurt. The not-knowing-how-long part hurt.
But all things in life come to an end, and if we’re honest, the ending is an essential part. What would a good story be without the final twist? What is luck, or happiness, if it lasts forever? Only an ending provides perspective, only an ending can make it count. This what I thought when I walked through the security gate and waved one last time. This won’t have been the last time I got to see these people, but it was the end of an era. And it was the beginning of something new. A new life so daring and interesting it was worth losing the good stuff for. Will this promise hold? I guess we will find out.