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Panic at the Airport (saying Good-bye to your Time Abroad)

The moment you start your adventure as an expatriate you are aware of the fact that usually after a few years you will move again. Maybe you move back home, maybe you move to another country, but you will leave this place that you called home for the last years.

There are some expats who literally can't wait to get on the plane and leave this city behind and continue their lives back home, but the majority of us is confronted with some weird feelings. Of course we expect that saying good-bye is not easy, but we don't expect those feelings of confusion, helplessness, disorientation and pain.

A. G. James may have found the right words to describe what you are feeling:

There was no funeral.

No flowers.

No ceremony.

No one had died.

No weeping or wailing.

Just in my heart.

I can't...

But I did anyway,

and nobody knew I couldn't.

I don´t want to...

But nobody else said they didn't.

So I put down my panic

and picked up my luggage

and got on the plane.

There was no funeral.

I know some people may think "don't be so dramatic", but others will be comforted by the fact that you are not alone. So this one is for you. And maybe the message here is that it is completely normal to have those feelings. You still have to pick up your luggage, you still have to get on the plane, but you can do so by acknowledging the fact that you are literally loosing a lot and the pain you are feeling is not uncommon but necessary.

And if you have children I would like to encourage you to think about how they are feeling. It doesn't make saying good-bye easier because they are younger. Actually quite the opposite might be the case. (Read more on the challenges of raising third culture kids here.)

Saying good-bye in most cases is a very emotional process especially if you are saying good-bye to a place that you called home, that shaped and formed you, where you met people who have had a lasting impact on you, where you were living a different lifestyle, where you saw your children growing up, but saying good-bye is part of the deal of living the expat lifestyle. There is no other way.

So on the day when you head to the airport and you feel like that you can't get on that plane but you do nonetheless, rest assured that you are not alone with those feelings. And acknowledging those feelings is the vital fact to actually move on.

COACHING because you and your family don't have to leave this place in panic.



- N. Hanh -


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