Airport goodbyes

From a distance I could see the tears welling up in her eyes, and as they began to roll down her cheeks he leant closer and stroked her hair, whispering softly, “I love you, mum. Be strong. Remember, it’s not a final goodbye. I will miss you, but have a wonderful time”.

As mother and son listened for the final call over the airport loud speaker, I heard her say, “I love you too” and then she was gone – her first journey as a solo traveller. It’s a scenario which happens every day around the world, saying goodbye to loved ones as they set out on journeys.

Airports are emotionally-charged places, just like hospitals with departures and arrivals; sadness and joy. Emotions can run the whole spectrum: people weeping as someone leaves, people jumping for joy when someone arrives. Travellers bleary eyed because of boredom and jet lag. Old ladies and newbies wringing their hands worried if they have the correct gate. Airports are great places for people watching and I often think back to the times when my family would turn up at the airport to see me off. On my first trip to Asia, my mother, who was very emotional, cried and said I would have my kidney stolen by a ‘foreign’ person and she would never see me again. My ‘then’ boyfriend was convinced I would meet a handsome young man and never come back. (Note: I did meet a handsome young American man and dumped the old boyfriend on my return). I was on an emotional roller coaster until I landed in a new city, country and continent to begin my vacation which I had scrimped and saved for. Saying goodbye as you depart for a much anticipated holiday should not be attached to someone else’s insecurity!

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Times have changed where international travel is more accessible to a larger slice of the population and, like dressing up for the occasion, the big family send off at the airport is not so important. Now with age and experience, I do things a little more differently when departing for a vacation.

I am now one of those people who would rather arrive at the airport three hours early, grab a chai latte and relax, knowing I only have to wait until my flight is called without worrying about my family taking time off work (and the cost of airport parking) to put me safely on the plane. I also can do without the emotional manipulation. That might sound ungrateful, but you see, I hate public goodbyes and farewells. I much prefer to be in the background and slip quietly into the airport and start to prepare myself for the next four weeks of adventure. I also need time to quiet that inner voice of doubt who continually asks if I have ticked everything on that checklist: passport, credit cards, phone, SD cards, batteries – and are you really sure the cat was out before you locked the back door? That inner voice needs to understand I am the one in control and it has to “get a life” and leave me alone to get on with my adventure.

I am now one of those people who would rather have a passionate kiss on the curb in the “no waiting zone”, than have a drawn out farewell in the departure lounge, where small chit chat can become exhausting and lead to silly arguments and spats about nothing. Believe me, you don’t want to have a misunderstanding with your better half at the airport, just before boarding a nine-hour QANTAS flight to Bangkok!

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Finally, I have also become one of those people who believes you should tell the people you love how important they are to you whenever possible and not just before the “final call” is made and this doesn’t necessarily refer to saying goodbye before you leave on vacation. If you cannot say “I love you” face to face, then send a text, email or do it the old fashioned way, write a letter. It’s a two way street: you need say it and they need to hear it. Don’t wait until you are giving a eulogy.

“Travelling solo” means I have to be confident and resilient enough to cope with life’s little twists and turns and the best place for me to start is when I arrive at the airport to begin my journey. Don’t leave the goodbyes and final farewells too late, tell the people who are important to you that they matter and you care and love them.

And by the way, I much prefer to say, “See ya, I love you”, rather than “goodbye”, because just like Peter Pan said, “Goodbye means going away and going away, means forgetting” and I don’t ever want to forget those important people and wonderful moments in my life.


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