The Art of Saying Goodbye | The Mochilera Diaries

The Art of Saying Goodbye

The art of saying goodbye is an art I have yet to master.

“Practice makes perfect,” they say; Lord knows I’ve been practicing for years.  The Goodbye is a cornerstone of a nomadic lifestyle, equally as important–more so, perhaps–than The Hello.

The act of saying “goodbye,” is indeed one of the few constants in my life.  What most people likely don’t suspect, however, is that The Goodbye never gets any easier.  In this case, practice doesn’t make perfect.

What makes the art of The Goodbye so difficult to master, you ask?

The Goodbye, though constant, is never the same twice.  Each goodbye is a snowflake, unique in the way it wounds the heart.

Some goodbyes are voluntary; while these goodbyes are often the easiest to execute, make no mistake–even The Voluntary Goodbye leaves its mark.

Some goodbyes happen too soon.  The Too-Soon Goodbye is quite common in the life of a traveler; when we meet someone with whom we connect on a profound level, the time we have with that person never quite feels like enough.  But people have plans they can’t always change; obligations they cannot shirk.  Valiantly though we may fight to avoid The Too-Soon Goodbye, rarely do we emerge victorious.

The Not-Soon-Enough Goodbye is another vicious breed.  How do we possibly perform such a goodbye with any grace?  With tact?  With kindness?  When I ferret out that secret, I’ll be sure to let you know.

You might think when you know a goodbye is coming you’ll have time to prepare.  Time to guard your heart. Time to think of the right words to say.  Time to come to terms with that person’s absence.  But even The Imminent Goodbye weighs heavily on the heart.  It does little more than induce stress, anxiety, apprehension.  The Imminent Goodbye might be the goodbye I abhor the most.

And what of its counterpart, The Unexpected Goodbye?  The goodbye that leaves you with no time to prepare–the goodbye that leaves you reeling, leaves you with nothing but questions?

In truth, there probably isn’t any single goodbye that I care for.

Plans, Changes, Goodbyes

This week has been awash with goodbyes.  More goodbyes will follow next week.  Plans have been extinguished, others changed; goodbyes are resulting in more goodbyes.

Saying goodbye to a loved one this week means saying goodbye to Medellín a bit earlier than planned.  My sweet grandmother Polly, a decided contributor to both my dimples and petite stature, will be very dearly missed.

This coming Monday I’ll be boarding a flight to the US and saying goodbye (perhaps just a Goodbye-For-Now?) to Colombia for the chance to be with my family during this vulnerable time.

Leaving Colombia was always an Imminent Goodbye, but all it took was one moment for it to morph into an Unexpectedly-Too-Soon Goodbye.  It’s easy to see now that I was never really going to be ready.

As I dole out goodbyes left and right in the coming days–to the city I’ve come to call home, to the country that has captured my heart, to the friends who’ve grown dear to me in the blink of an eye–I’ll strive for grace, for tact, for kindness.  I’ll strive to guard my heart against the unique pain of each subsequent goodbye.

Perhaps I’ll exclusively wield the Spanish nos vemos  instead, in hopes that we really will see each other; I don’t like the idea of The Permanent Goodbye.

I’ll take solace in the fact that goodbyes beget hellos.  To see my family again, despite the poignant circumstances, will put a smile on my face; and, more importantly, help to soothe my aching heart.  My family deserves more hellos.

This barrage of goodbyes stings, to be sure.  Mastery of The Goodbye continues to elude me, and the possibility remains that it can’t truly be mastered at all.  Until I know for sure, though, there’s not much I can do but practice, practice, practice.

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  • Reply Dennis Fahey March 5, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Another beautiful post. You have such an authentic voice. Condolences on your loss…

  • Reply Polly March 5, 2015 at 11:15 am

    My condolences for your (beautifully named) grandmother. I hope you can embrace spending time with your family until your next adventure.
    Polly recently posted…My favorite road trip recipesMy Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera March 5, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Thank you, Polly! Beautiful name indeed 🙂 I’m quite looking forward to some time with family.

  • Reply Ashley March 5, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Beautifully written post, Leah. And I’m so sorry for your loss.
    Ashley recently posted…4 Days in Magical UdaipurMy Profile

  • Reply Andrew and Emily @alongdustyroads March 5, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Beautifully written post Leah – safe journey home.

    • Reply La Mochilera March 5, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      Thank you guys, I’m so grateful for the time I got to spend with you. Safe travels, and please keep in touch.

  • Reply Sarah Elizabeth March 5, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Leah. And I’m sorry for your coming-too-soon goodbye. Stuff like that is never easy, and it disrupts our plans for who we think we are and where we wanted to go. But they always change us, and probably, eventually, with a little work and some growing pains, for the better. xx Beautifully written, and safe journey!!
    Sarah Elizabeth recently posted…You Know It is Springtime in Ireland When…My Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera March 5, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      Aw, thank you so much for the kind words, Sarah. I agree, there’s always a silver lining in goodbyes, even if we don’t know what it is at first.

  • Reply Caroline March 5, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I’m so sorry about your loss. I’m sure it’s extra emotional to have to leave to say goodbye to her, but also because it means having to leave a city that you so deeply fell in love with. I hope you have a safe journey home and enjoy some time with your family.

    You summed it up so beautifully, though. Saying goodbye has always been so hard for me; I always like to hold out hope that goodbyes are temporary, and that I will always find a way to reunite with people (and places!) who are important to me.
    Caroline recently posted…10 Movies That Will Make You Want To TravelMy Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera March 5, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      I’m typically the hopeful type too, Caroline. I will never admit that a goodbye is forever, even if deep down I know it probably is. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  • Reply Justine March 5, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    This is beautiful, Leah. I’m so, so sorry to hear about your grandmother. And while it must be hard to have to say such an abrupt goodbye to Colombia, it’s really good that you will be reunited with your family sooner than expected. Colombia will always be waiting for you 🙂 Safe travels home.
    Justine recently posted…9 Fun & Weird Things to do in JakartaMy Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera March 6, 2015 at 10:01 am

      Thanks, Justine, I couldn’t agree more. I’m very happy with my decision to leave early. I actually do feel like I’ve had plenty of time with Colombia…and I can always return in the future.

  • Reply Miquel March 10, 2015 at 2:54 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a loved one while abroad is never easy. I also loss my grandmother years ago while I was living in Germany and things were never really the same.

    Nevertheless, your writing is stunning. I will also me say many goodbyes this week as I leave Bangkok. Goodbyes can be so bittersweet. I wish you healing and joy during the time spent with your family and that you find comfort in the hellos.
    Miquel recently posted…Story of a Thai Seafood SmorgasbordMy Profile

  • Reply Lavi March 10, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Saying “goodbye is always sad, but it also means there’s another “hello” around the corner. I’m sorry for your loss, Leah. Safe travels and hoping good things are on the horizon for you!
    Lavi recently posted…Through My Eyes: February 2015My Profile

  • Reply Jason March 11, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    This is beautiful, as I hope the celebration of your grandmother’s life and time spent with your family will be. Even if it’s a sad beauty 🙁

    • Reply La Mochilera March 11, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      Thank you, Jason. I’m very much looking forward to the time spent with my family. And still hoping to see you in New York, by the way! Don’t forget!
      La Mochilera recently posted…Friday Snapshots: My Final Days in MedellínMy Profile

      • Reply Jason March 12, 2015 at 2:47 pm

        4/20? It’s in my mental calendar. I’ll shoot you an email to make tentative plans!

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