Thoughts from the road – Saying goodbye never gets easier


2/11/2011 – Today I had to return home after a short stay of two and a half weeks in Madrid. Despite constant travel as a part of my professional life, I am always anxious and restless –“inquieta” is really the right word! — before a flight. As I got ready to leave my host family’s home this morning and felt the familiar and uncomfortable sensation of my chest constricting (as if something were squeezing my heart and lungs tighter and tighter), my mind transported me back to the moment of my departure from Ecuador as a study abroad student. I remember the excitement I felt knowing that I would soon see my family in the U.S. after a year of being away, but I also remember the pain of having to leave my host family and Ecuador behind. Of course I had no idea if I would ever have the opportunity to return to Ecuador. I remember reading a parting letter from my host mother as the plane took off and all the wonderful memories I had of my year abroad flooded my memory. Whether I recognized it then or not, my life as an international traveler had begun in earnest and the future would bring many more joyous reunions, along with many painful departures.

It is true that every time I leave colleagues, new friends and loved ones behind, my body experiences the same physical response. Over time, I have come to recognize the throat tightening and constricting feeling in my chest as signs that I am leaving behind something or someone that I love. It is a sad and beautiful feeling all at the same time, because it reminds me of how amazing it is to open oneself to new experiences and new cultures, and in doing so, fall in love over and over again.

Once at the airport in Madrid today, I witnessed a man openly crying as he said goodbye to his girlfriend or wife. As he separated himself from the last hug for who knows how long, he wiped his eyes and laughed sheepishly. Having experienced the same sadness of separation on countless occasions, I couldn’t help but shed a few extra tears on their behalf! As almost every aspect of life, the world of international travel implies both positive and negative changes, both intense joy and at times, intense sadness. But when all is said and done, I would never give up the opportunity I have had to make new friends and share my life with loved ones around the world!

By: Courtney Greene, API Vice President of Student Services and Policy, API Texas

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  1. A beautiful post Courtney. I know that tightening feeling in the chest and throat so well.
    But I got so allergic to it that I decided to stay!
    Come visit Paris again soon!!!

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