Posted by: cousindampier | 16 November 2011

Saying Goodbye

Note: This was written during my last day in Wellington and on the flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles.  It remains the same as in my journal – I’m not still in NZ.

I find myself facing the moment of saying goodbye.  I’m frustrated – events were not supposed to work out like this.  I was supposed to have a job by now, be saving money, and be in New Zealand until January.

Like most people, I dislike goodbyes.  No matter the next event, I rarely like leaving where I am and the people I met.  That last part, especially, bothers me.  The goodbyes I said in Ohakune were temporary – “I’ll see you over Christmas” or “I’ll see you at New Year’s Eve!”  But then I was underpaid; and even with the rest of the money coming later, it was like a domino falling and knocking over the rest.  Suddenly I was faced with barely getting by through Christmas, of not being able to spend the holidays with anybody because I couldn’t afford to travel, and of coming home in serious debt.

People say it is easier to stay in touch now.  The reality is different.  How am I supposed to go from a daily, personal interaction with friends to an interaction through facebook, where each message is read at different times, the back-and-forth of getting to know somebody is gone, and the sheer enjoyment of hanging out with somebody is ruined?

This isn’t to say keeping in touch is impossible.  It certainly is easier than it used to be.  But the nature of travel – or the nature of my travel in New Zealand – was that friendships were intense, and formed quickly.  There’s not enough time to draw anything out, and more the point, there is no reason to do so.  The process of making friends speeds up. Basic introductions and small talk don’t matter.  Parts of your life are quickly shared, and nobody judges anything you say, waiting for a story or explanation only if you want to provide one.

And then, the place itself must be bidden farewell.  I am a novice about New Zealand still.  Most people I’ve met are travelers as well, yet living there for the better part of a year left its mark on me.   But how do I say goodbye to a place where I feel I grew up so much?

I’ve been in Wellington since the 26th of October, scheming of ways to stay and making plans for what to do next.  I’ve met a few people, talked with them for a few hours.  Yet, in the back of my mind is the knowledge I am gone soon; I’ll probably never see them again.  The approach is entirely different.  It’s short travel.

When you are going to be in a place for a long time, or even just in a country for a long time, every person you meet is a potential friend.  They are somebody who can share advice, listen to stories of struggle, help you adapt – especially when you first arrive somewhere.  But when you are leaving, staying in a place for just a short time, that impetus to go out and meet people dies a little – or it did for me my last days in Wellington.

Long travel.   I like that process of getting to know somebody, learning about them.  I like stories – I found it amusing when, in Ohakune, people would apologize for a story not being funny or stop in the middle of telling one.  The point of somebody’s story isn’t always to be funny, sometimes the point of a story is just to open up.  I don’t get enough stories from people when I spend just a week or two in country.

I’ve now taken five trips.  Three of them have been short trips, and two long.  I bring this up only because the places I want to return to are the places I spent more time in(London and New Zealand).  I find this interesting, because my assumption would be that I’d want to return to a place I didn’t get a full chance to explore.  This is not to say I don’t – I’d love to return to Colombia, for example – but I have a need to return to London and New Zealand.   I’ve already been back to London once.  The connection I form to the places makes returning a need as opposed to a casual desire.

I don’t think short travel is bad.  There is a lot to see in the world, and living in every place is impossible.  But long travel – you meet friends in one place you see again.  You put down roots and have a place to call ‘home’ for a short while.  You get to be known in a small town or in a bar you frequent or in cities you pass through multiple times.  You develop favourite places and coffeeshops and bars.  You’re still a traveler, leaving one day to go home.  But you know something more than just the bar around the corner and the pretty receptionist at the hostel.

So, I suppose that I did not say goodbye. I do plan on returning.  But that still does not make leaving any easier.
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