Having checked, and double-checked, dates, times and names on your flight itinerary, you are now satisfied that everything is in order to teach English as a foreign language. Your luggage is sporting an impressive yet worrying bulge, and looks every ounce of the maximum allowance as it waits patiently in the hallway. You hope that perhaps it’s just sitting in an unflattering light, but decide against packing your favourite underwear regardless, for fear that they will tip the scales out of your favour.
Oddly enough, you find that your passport is exactly where you remember leaving it, and you open the first page to be reminded of how fresh you looked some years previous. You tell yourself ever so modestly, that you are ageing like a fine wine, before lobbing it in your carry-on. You have said the last of your “So longs” and “See you laters” to friends and extended family over the past number of days and weeks, and decide to make it official by posting a heartfelt status update. An empowering sense of emancipation descends with a click of the mouse, and you begin to consider what to do with the rest of your final day on home soil, before embarking on your new adventure.
It can be somewhat of a bittersweet feeling waiting for the last of the remaining hours of relative normality to tick on by. The excitement, peppered perhaps with an odd hint of nervous apprehension, has been building for weeks. To borrow a phrase first coined by Dr. Norman Amundson, a professor of Counselling Psychology at the University of British Columbia, it’s been an emotional roller-coaster in many ways…naturally.
I say naturally, because it is most definitely in our nature to feel enthused about the prospect of experiencing something new. On the flip side of that precious coin, a whisper of self-doubt, or slight hint of uncertainty, is completely normal. Any attempt to try something new, or step into unchartered territory, creates discomfort. As much as we humans enjoy comfort, as most of us know, it negates growth.
I’m sure we’d all like to make the most out of every minute of those final few hours pre-departure, so that when the time comes to set sail from the shores of our homeland for the foreseeable future, we can do so in the right frame of mind.
Much like the professional athlete who goes through their methodical pre-game routine as a form of mental preparation, I have found that a sort of final day “pre-game ritual” has developed as a consequence of spending the latter part of my 20’s living and working abroad. Nothing more than a beautifully simple and modest undertaking, designed to warm the heart and clear the mind.
I’d love to share with you the bones of my final day ritual, on the off chance that you may be able to take something from it.
- A visit to a treasured place
It’s funny how time spent abroad makes you appreciate the simple things from home, things that you probably would never have thought you would miss. There is a small forest in my hometown, in the midlands of Ireland, where my brothers and I used to train together during pre-season; a haven of peace and tranquility that also functions as a therapist’s couch of sorts. Corrig Wood is the first and last place I visit whenever I return home, and it always leaves me feeling rejuvenated.
If you have a special place that you hold dear, why not swing by before you leave.
- Coffee with loved ones
Making a visit to a nearby cafe with my parents is less about the coffee, and more about the chat that unfolds. More often than not, the topic of conversation isn’t of any great importance, nor do we talk about anything in particular, but it’s enjoyable to be in each other’s company. It’s something that no amount of Skyping or Facetiming can substitute for: presence.
An hour or two spent with your nearest and dearest will be time well spent on that final day.
- Time to ponder and reflect
It’s likely that the weeks leading up to departure have been pretty hectic, and you’ve probably had little or no time to just take a step back and process everything. I always find moments of solitude in the lead up to be empowering and energising. Not only are we afforded time to reflect on all that has gotten us to where we are at this present moment, but we also get the opportunity to look ahead and envisage what exists on the other side of our comfort zones.
Embrace those precious moments of solitude.
The very act of saying goodbye to loved ones and bidding farewell to all that you hold dear, before taking a giant leap into the relative unknown, is a deeply profound emotional experience, the likes of which cannot simply be articulated in a few words. As much as I could try to, I could never do it justice, you just have to experience it for yourself. It is just one of the many instances in which you will be nudged further away from the clutches of your comfort zones, as you take your first steps into great and mysterious new lands.
I would like to also suggest that before you leave, you take a brief moment to examine the person looking back at you in the mirror. Appreciate their wonderful journey thus far. Consider all that makes that person uniquely special, and then bid them farewell, because what lies ahead will expand your mind and nourish your soul beyond comprehension.
An intriguing prospect, indeed.
Whatever you do decide to fill your final hours on home soil with, I hope you are left feeling excited to turn the page on your new chapter, and eager to make the most of the life changing experience that undoubtedly awaits you.
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Patrick Hyland is an Irish native who now lays his hat in Shanghai, China where he works as an English Language Teacher at English First. He looks to seek out new experiences, learning processes, and methods of progression- physically, mentally, and spiritually- in ways that bring happiness and joy. You can check out his blog, The Irish Introvert, a personal development website created to help inspire, motivate and educate, through the sharing of significant experiences, and reflections upon those life defining moments.