This post was contributed by Carla Abreu.
Grant, we’ll call him, didn’t play much of a role in my European adventure. Aside from one night of drunken kisses and an awkward but cozy morning in his arms (damn, we really should’ve done that sooner…), Grant remained the tall, friendly Australian. He loved politics, history, and a good laugh.
Maybe it’s the fatigue of travel or my tendency to idealize the men I’ve laid next to, but sending him off, along with the other Australians, has hit me with an overwhelming sense of melancholy. I think about how they must feel just as I did right before the holidays: eager to embrace their families after a whirlwind of months. The familiar smells of home beckoning them, the long intercontinental flight a testament to their love. I smile for them.
I think about how widely I’ve traveled. I’ve only been that far into the Eastern Hemisphere once — on a long journey from Paris to Seoul. It’s hard to imagine my feet landing on Australian soil for anything more than a quick vacation, or maybe a couple of weeks as a WWOOFer or as an au pair. When it comes to Europe and the other goodbyes I’ll go through here, at least I know (think) that we’ll all be back. And maybe Paris can be a real home for us all, but it feels so daunting to have someone I’ve met and admired be ~10,000 miles away. That’s a new record.
The Australians’ departure is but a fleeting moment, I know. Grant will become (or remain, tbh) his posts on social media, scant messages in an old group chat, and someone to visit someday some time. I’ll be wrapped up in my own stories by tomorrow, gearing up to see my Madrid-resident of a sister in London.
Truth is, the Australians leaving reminds me of how unsure I am at times about all this travel business. When does having the people we love spread all over the globe get to be too much?
I wish we could laugh at La Cordonnerie together for the rest of our days. I wish I could awake in my childhood bedroom for Saturday morning television with my mother. I wish I could run through Chicago, wreaking havoc, with all my former roommates. And maybe I do get all those things. Just not at once. Maybe I can learn to be content with the version of life I have right now. Grateful for the past and excited for what’s next. Maybe if I hold whoever is showing up, right now, close to my heart, I won’t ever have to worry about being alone again.
Because that’s what this is all about isn’t it? Blaming a big world for a fear of abandonment, I feel paralyzed. In an instant, I convince myself to assume a hardened exterior and concrete feet. If I can’t move or be moved, I won’t ever have to say another goodbye or long for yet another distant friend.
But I feel so beautiful in the moments that lead us to these goodbyes. When I looked up at Grant to kiss him after crying about a failed night out, when I awoke to the bright sunlight hitting his white sheets, when I ran from a concert to a bar just to hug him goodbye, I felt so alive. I got to choose these moments and, however bittersweet, I know they’ll come soon with the people who have been the pillars of these 9 months in Europe. Farewells are worth living for, as are the chance encounters between two traveling souls. I could stay put but the world will keep moving. So, I do too.
Tonight, I’m reminded that everything has an end. I don’t want to avoid intimacy with those I’ve met, I don’t want to turn my gaze from the instances that flicker by. Even if it makes for painful goodbyes, I want to be here, right now, as fully as I can.
See you later, Grant.
Meet Carla: My name is Carla and I’m a university student from Chicago, currently living in Paris! Growing up in the suburban Midwest, the 10 square miles I called home sparked an early interest in discovering a world beyond that which I knew. Thanks to my Latinx family and nerdy tendencies, I’ve always had a passion for learning languages and experiencing other cultures. Follow me as I try and form my own definition of success, being forever-overdramatic and moody along the way. For a look at the places I see, check out my personal photography on IG!