I leave South Wales two weeks tomorrow, and the UK in just 20 days time, eek! Time has gone so quickly, and there are many people I’m still to say a proper goodbye to before I go. Leaving friends, family and work colleagues brings with it mixed emotions – on the one hand, I’m excited for this upcoming season in Central Asia, and on the other, it’ll be sad to say farewells and harder to keep in touch with everyone from home. This isn’t the first time I’ve left the UK, but it will be for the longest amount of time until I’m next back, and it’s a currently planned as a permanent move.
I’m very aware that the nearer to my departure it gets, the more of an emotional impact it will be for me to say goodbye to my nearest and dearest, particularly to my family and close friends. This morning my housemate Josh became the latest friend I’ve said goodbye to as he heads to the Middle East for the next three weeks; I’ve already said farewell to some of my good friends on recent visits to Bristol, Leeds and London. It will also be sad to finish working with a number of my colleagues in South Wales – they have played a significant contribution to my personal and spiritual development over the past four years.
Take Time to Celebrate Friendships
Before I go I want to try and spend quality time with those who I’ve become closest to here in South Wales and in London. Sometimes this can happen on an individual basis, whilst on other occasions it has to be a large group farewell. I’m now at the stage where I’ve completed most of my practical preparations for leaving the UK, and so have some space available before I head to London to meet up with friends for a coffee, meal or scenic drink on the Gower. I want to enjoy a final time of fellowship, thanking them for their friendship over the past four years I’ve been in South Wales.
However, when I get to London, it’s going to be a little different! I literally have four days before my flight, in which I need to pack, see friends and spend quality time with my family. Normally, I love going out for coffee or lunch with friends when I’m home, but with such little time, I’ve had to restrict my London meetups to a Friday evening celebration and an “open house” on the Saturday afternoon. Thankfully I’ve been able to see a number of my friends recently on trips to London in January and February, so this isn’t the only time we’ve had for a proper catch up before I go. I still hope these events are special; sadly the reality is that there isn’t the time to see friends on an individual basis on this occasion.
You Won’t See Everyone Before You Leave
I can name at least half a dozen of my friends who I wasn’t able to see in the two and a half weeks I was home over the Christmas holidays – the reality is, that with just four days in London, and two weeks of evenings left in South Wales, I’m not going to meet up with everyone I’d like to see before I go. Where possible, try and come up with a short list of those you’d like to catch up with, and make it clear to them that you’d like to arrange something with them. You might also get invitations from those you weren’t expecting – try to fit these in as well, as they probably care more about your friendship than you might have been aware of before.
Make sure you also keep some space available for any final preparations, and block out any times when you think you might need some personal space!
Long-Distance Friendship Expectations
Moving overseas to a different time zone makes it harder to keep in regular communication with your friends and family back home. It’s important to have realistic expectations of how often you’ll be able to have conversations on Skype – Kazakhstan is six hours ahead of the UK, which actually makes it quite inconvenient for me to contact people when they finish work, as it will be nearly midnight my time! Figure out what works best for you – it may be that you need to block out one Saturday a month to Skype with a few of your friends as soon as they wake up, or figure out if you can contact them on their lunch hour one day during the week.
I have some close friends in the UK who I normally call every few weeks, and others who I chat with every few months. Where possible, discuss with them in advance the best times to Skype with them, and set realistic expectations for how often you’ll now chat with one another. Facebook Messenger has an event reminder tool which is a great way of prompting you that you’re due a catch up. There may also be some friends who realistically you’re not going to Skype with – try to discuss with them in advance other ways you can keep in touch, such as email, Whatsapp or carrier pigeon.