Expat Life: Always saying goodbye

Before I moved abroad, guidebooks, blogs, friends and travelers raved about all the incredible people I would meet. No one warned me about how many times I would have to say goodbye.

Making friends with expats is easy. Expats are vibrant storytellers with different perspectives to share. And they are just as good as listeners. They jump at any opportunity to explore, whether it be a hidden coffee shop in the city or the lonely roads of a rural countryside. They are accepting and eager to make friends from every corner of the world.

Most importantly, expat friends understand. They understand what it’s like to straddle two homes, on two continents. They understand how you can hate Chile one day and love it the next. They understand second-language blunders and cause to celebrate over seemingly small milestones like opening a bank account or finding Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They understand homesickness and lonely holidays and the pure giddyness that comes with any talk of travel. They understand because expats are adventure-seekers always craving to learn and experience more. And that means, at the core, expats rarely stay in one place for long.
Everything is temporary.

Goodbyes are sad! (Mike and Meghann's despedida)

Goodbyes are sad! (Mike and Meghann’s despedida)

In the two years I’ve lived in Chile, my social life has been a revolving door of friendships that have lasted anywhere from a couple of hours to the entire two years of my stay. Relationships here seem to be more intense because of the extreme ups and downs we’ve faced together while living in a foreign country, isolated from our “pre-Chile” lives and all the comforts of home.

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The girls at Katy’s despedida.

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Dave! Ray and I want you to come visit.

Brett and Ruby (left and center) both left Chile after our month of teacher training.

Brett and Ruby (left and center) both left Chile after our month of teacher training.

I am constantly reminded of the importance of sharing weekly lunch dates, Sunday fundays and even silly daily texts with the friends I’ve made here. Next week, they could be on the next flight out. I am constantly having to adapt, to embrace change. It’s good.

But it doesn’t make goodbye any easier.

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Roommates at our last gathering before Claudia (center) returned to Mexico.

The gang at Ali's birthday/despedida party. She's now in law school in New York.

Some of the gang at Ali’s (second to right) birthday/despedida party. She’s now in law school in New York.

As the friends I’ve met in Chile inevitably leave for the next chapter of their lives, I’m always excited to keep listening to their stories. When you have friends (promising free stays on their couches) living in so many places, the world seems a lot smaller. It’s good.

But it doesn’t make goodbye any easier.

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Dave now lives in Peru.

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Katy (center) is attending grad school in Boston.

And the list of those despedidas (going away parties) I’ve attended is a long one. Right before Christmas, I attended four in one week. (Talk about abandonment issues!) Mine too is now quickly approaching as I prepare to start my next adventure.

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Half the people in this picture don’t live in Chile anymore!

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Caitlin (left) and Meghann (center) left us in the same week.

I am so grateful for all the incredible people I’ve met here and how they’ve shaped my experience in Chile for the better.

Friends who have already left Chile: Know that you’re missed, send updates more often and don’t forget I’m still counting on that free stay on your couch one day! For us expats, goodbye, too, is temporary.

–JDF