I sit here at a café on my last day in Thailand while our rental car is being cleaned at a shop next door. Yesterday, we moved out of our lovely rented house and into a beach view condo, where we’ll stay until we head to the airport late tomorrow. Tonight, we’ll celebrate with friends at a resort, watching the sun disappear over the water; tomorrow, we’ll meet our housekeeper (our kids’ adopted Thai grandma) and her daughter at the airport to say farewell.
Goodbyes are hard. They aren’t meant to be easy. Saying goodbye is an act of love and gratitude—and an admission that you quite possibly may not see each other in person ever again. With each of the people we’ll say goodbye to over the next thirty-six hours, not seeing them again is a real possibility.
We are lucky. When we get off the plane on the other side of the world, my parents will be waiting for us. Friends will be eager for foothills runs, coffee dates, and get togethers. I’ll slide easily back into meetups with colleagues. We’ll celebrate fourth of July with our closest friends. I’ll throw a baby shower for my best friend. That community is always waiting for us, no matter where we are in the world.
Living overseas lends itself to a different kind of friendship than we have back home. I’ll be honest: it’s been harder for me to make friends here than any city or country we’ve lived in. With a relentless travel schedule, months of serious illnesses pulsing through our household (which brought with them six horrible seizures for my son), I’ve only truly connected with a handful of people. Usually I am quick to make friends; I ease right into conversations and fast friendships. It has not been that way this time.
In Boise, it’s rare for a week to go by in which I’m not getting together with a friend; in Thailand, I’ve only spent time one-on-one with friends a couple of times. My husband and I have gone on one date. For two hours. In the middle of the day.
Instead, I’ve spent days—weeks, even—with just my nuclear family. And rather than dinner with friends sans children, we have gotten together with other families, our kids playing on the beach or in the pool while we socialize. With no family or babysitter to watch the kids, they’ve been dragged along to every boring errand and unpleasant task. When my son was in the hospital, all four of us shared two smaller-than-twin beds. When we were in a small car accident, the kids sat for hours in the car. No grandparent swooped in and took them to ice cream. No friends came by to pick them up for a playdate while we went to the police station. This forced togetherness has made us closer.
For all my social loneliness, I’ve been rich in family.
Yesterday, as my husband and I stood outside our Thai house, looking from the lawn through the front windows to the now-empty living room, I surprised myself with tears. My throat tightened. We spent eight years dreaming of doing just this—of uprooting our lives, of living abroad with our kids. And now the first chapter has come to a close. It’s time to say goodbye.
We did it. We lived our dream. And with that experience, our dream has shifted, and we’re ready for the next adventure.
Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Thailand. Thirty-two hours later, we’ll say hello to Boise. And four months after that, we’ll board a plane to take us across the world once more—this time, to Portugal, where we plan to live for the next year or more.
As hard as goodbyes are, as tough as tonight and tomorrow will be, we feel complete. This experience was everything we’d hoped for. It was the first step, the launch we needed to get our little family out into the world, living the life we’d always dreamed of: location independent but anchored to home, experiencing the new but grateful for the old.
Farewell, Thailand. You have been magical and challenging and everything in between. Your people are beautiful; your landscapes are surreal; your soulfulness will live in my bones.
Sawasdee ka. We will be back.
P.S. If you want to watch one second of every day of 2018, check out my husband’s video, which includes lots of silly shots and inside jokes, plus plenty of footage of our early days in Phuket.