A four step process to saying goodbye to the US for the next 27 months:
1. Say goodbye to the places that make the US home.
Scuba dive in a shipwreck in Hawaii. Hike up the ride of Half Dome at sunset. Backpack 120 miles through granite peaks and meadows of the John Muir Trail. On the trail realize that mosquitos do not leave bites- they leave welts. Keep on walking.
Deeply breathe in the clean-pine air. This breath could be the last for a long time.
2. Say goodbye to the food.
Feast on scallops, lobster, and sea bass. Enjoy freshly baked blue cheese rolls with melting butter and black sea salt. Smell strong, fresh artisanal coffee in the ferry building along San Francisco’s wharf.
Order a latte. Savor it.
Realize that most material possessions are burdens. Decide that someone else could use the junk you have accumulated better or at least appreciate it more. Debate over which book is worth the space in your suitcase. Realize that your former 12-year-old DVD collection has nothing that is worth 96 minutes and 32 seconds of your life anymore.
Donate the entire DVD collection to Goodwill.
Breathe a small sigh of relief as only 13 boxes of stuff make their way to the storage unit. Suppress a small groan as you realize you have 5 more boxes in storage to go through.
Nod in satisfaction when at 1 AM before your 6:30 AM flight two airport-ready suitcases jammed full of books sit by the garage door.
4. Now, say “goodbye”.
This part is by far the hardest.
Thinking about posting on Facebook how many days you have left in the United States.
Become overwhelmed that there are not enough hours to say all the needed good byes.
Start seeing friends for hikes, chai, and pizza-filled games of trivia. Make cornet jokes about who this is only “see you later”. Don’t laugh at the jokes.
Feel your heart get heavier with the understanding that years will pass before you see this amazing-wonderful person again. Accept that after the years pass this person could metamorphosis into something unrecognizable, for better or worse.
Wave to her bus window from the sidewalk after staying on the bus for four more stops than necessary.
Do not let yourself turn around as he leaves the airport.
Laugh that 27 months really isn’t so long.
Sing about the ridiculousness of good byes in opera voices.
Let your dad take silly pictures of you eating tomatoes in the backyard at 4:30 AM before your 6:30 AM flight.
Cry as your mom begins to cry in front of the airport terminal. Remember that she didn’t shed a single tear when you left for college but she is crying now.
Make your way through airport security. Watch planes pass in the pink-blue dawn. Pretend to read a book.