This weekend, we booked our one way tickets from London to Raleigh and started to clear our home of furniture that we won't be taking back with us to the USA. As I walked through our home just now, I got a bit emotional. But thankfully, I know that this is all quite normal.
A friend of mine, who was an expat in India, shared a book with me on life as an expat just before we moved here to England. One of the things that I learned from that book is that repatriating back into your home country is often more difficult than the move to a new country. In my experience, this is turning out to be very true.
When you are preparing to move to a new country the process is a bit scary, but its exciting, and full of adventure, freedom, and the wonder of what's to come. While away, you experience so many different opportunities that will most certainly change the person that you were. You meet people, you see history, cultures, and ways of life that you have never seen before. And if you're lucky, you are in that new place long enough to officially feel like a "local" and no longer a tourist.
The move home is tough - you are going home to very familiar places and people, but again, things have changed - you know you have changed, but because of the distance and inevitable disconnection with home, you don't quite know how "home" has changed. While you tell yourself you know what to expect, its almost scary to finally KNOW what to expect for a change - the roller coaster of wonder and new experiences isn't as thrilling as it was in your expat country...
I am sad today because I know that this journey is quickly coming to an end, and these two years have been the best two years of my life. Since August 2009, I have been engaged, packed up a house in NC and turned it into a rental property, lived and worked abroad, traveled Europe, prepared to purchase a second home, and married my best friend. If you had told me all of this was in store for me, I would have never believed you.
It's been amazing, and while I am so excited to get home, I will truly miss this place. It's going to be like saying goodbye to an old friend. I know we'll be back to visit, but wow, it won't be easy to say goodbye on August 21, not at all.
I have learned so much about myself and about people, I just hope I can hold onto these memories forever. I am not the person I was two years ago when I took the one-way flight from Raleigh to London, and the return trip will send me home as a new, more confident, more accepting, and compassionate person. It's bittersweet to leave, but I think we have laughed, learned and loved here in more than ever before - there's nothing bitter about that.
The next chapter is quickly approaching, and if the previous chapters of our story indicate anything about future, these next two years will be quite an adventure, perhaps not THIS adventure, but I guarantee you there will be one...or two :)