When Goodbyes Hinder Hellos

Istanbul - Galata Bridge

I’ve had very little desire to learn Turkish or get close to new people. Like someone going through a tough break-up, I’ve kept this new and beautiful prospect at an arm’s length.

I’ve been in Istanbul for over a month and I’m just now getting settled. For the first few weeks in town, I rarely picked up my camera, wrote for this blog, or cared to talk about this place. I went out, ate food, and aimlessly wandered around the city. I didn’t speak with anyone back home, and I didn’t make an effort here. I was lost.

Nepal hit hard. Saying goodbye to those people was difficult.

I travel the way I do because I want to be a part of something. I want to get a sense of how locals feel, and try to understand these foreign places on a deeper level.

The biggest problem with this lifestyle choice is saying goodbye.

I grow attached through genuine relationships, and as a result, when it’s time to leave, it hurts.

Sometimes I wish I were more like other travelers, and just pass through a place, see the sites, collect good Instagram photos and check off another country.

Like sleeping around, it’s fun for a while but eventually the lack of substance and intimacy would bore me to death.

The more I travel, the more I realize that this life is about people, not places.

And it’s for that exact reason why each new adventure has become increasingly difficult.

How would you feel if you knew that the relationships you started came with an expiration date?

Would you protect yourself and your feelings more? Would you grow colder?

I know social media makes it easier than ever to stay connected, but nothing compares to being present.

And the only answer I have to “why does there have to be an expiration date” is the ultimate internal battle between ambition and relationships.

The devastation we witnessed in Nepal, and bonds formed as a result, were no doubt the most dramatic I’ve ever experienced – but this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way.

Feeling cold and detached is a topic I’ve been trying to write about for a long time.

Saying goodbye to amazing people has made it harder for me to meet new ones. This includes leaving family and friends back home for months on end.

On this trip to Istanbul in particular, I’m crippled by the thought of leaving again, and I question the point of getting too involved here.

That’s not good. I’m stuck between not being present and not wanting to get too attached.

I know relationships come and go, and that’s a part of life, but I’m pushing the action at a much faster rate than normal. That’s because my success with this social experiment called Tourist2Townie.com is directly related to the connections I’ve developed while living abroad.

So, what’s the point? Besides the therapeutic act of writing this down, where do we go from here?

I guess my biggest concern is that the people I’ve “left behind” don’t know how much they mean to me.

Each and every relationship has been unique, and they’ve all been either a blessing or a lesson.

I don’t look back very often, but every now and then it’s good just to see who got you here. I cherish the memories I’ve made with the people I’ve been so fortunate enough to meet.

They’ve all helped me develop into the person I am today, and they inspire me to do more.

I strive to create a life filled with substance, based on authentic relationships and experiences.

As for my time in Istanbul, I’m sure this uninspired feeling will subside. I wont let this opportunity be hindered by my precautions…

I’ve started meeting people through pick-up basketball, and just last weekend I shot a crazy food video with a great group of local friends.

I just hope, while I’m constantly traveling and forming new bonds, that the people in my life, both past and present, understand how grateful I am.

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!

17 Comments

  1. I nearly cried upon reading this. I was trying to write something similar two years ago when I had to leave the UK after five months of staying. I met a lot of new friends, created special bond and saying goodbye is always the hardest. We’re lucky because of the existence of social media, but it is not enough and it can be frustrating.

    I’m not so sure if you have plans in the near future to settle down or just stay in one place mostly, but I’m sure you’ll get there. 😀

  2. Thanks for this post! You’ve summed up my recent feelings. I’ve been living in Japan , but I want to get back on the road!!! I keep prolonging my stay because I don’t want to leave anyone. I’m glad its not abnormal. you’ve given me strength!!! Thanks Gareth

  3. Very honest post. As a fellow solo world traveler I can relate. I just spent a week in Santiago de Cuba dancing salsa. I believe it is the personal connections with the Cubans and their willingness to open up to us and give us all they had even though they have so little is what made the experience so unique and memorable. I was bawling my eyes out the last day more than any other trip!

  4. Love this post, Gareth! I’ve been ”struggling” with the same feelings and thoughts every single time I meet someone I get along with or visit a new place … it’s actually getting worse and worse :/

  5. One of my most moving connections happened while chatting with a Turkish man. I felt I needed to share even though it’s a bit of a read.

    I am often asked why I love to travel and I usually respond that “travel is the death of ignorance.” My friend, Laine, and I met this wonderful old man at the Bazaar who sold linens at a very fair price. He believed that work and sweat on your brow, basically honest work, would bring him profits. Not, swindling a potential buyer due to their ignorance. I always love running into people like this and hope that I can carry the torch of this mentality. As Laine proceeded to buy multiple items from him, I was quite impressed with this viewpoint, especially since he worked at the Bazaar for over 40 years. But the story doesn’t end there. I then asked him if he knew any other honest people in the Bazaar that sold lamps. Of course he had a family friend, introduced us to him and firmly stated “Give these ladies the turkish prices and I will except no commission for bringing them to you.” He then went on to explain how he feels the commission system is corrupt and creates distrust amongst buyers and seller. Now this is where is gets interesting:

    The new shopkeeper, of course offered his best prices to us. He even went to far as to bring out the paperwork for his items and show what he paid and his profit margin. Immediately I could tell that this man, while was still a businessman, was a honest man. I casually asked if he went to university. He freely told us that he did and that he studied archeology, specifically Greek history. His academic path was not too surprising since Istanbul is the cradle of civilization and religion. We then had a short talk about god and how he is atheist, but believes in the principles that Jesus teaches, specifically around non-violence. I tentatively asked if he served in the military, since most Turkish men do. He said that he did because he was to much of a coward at the time to reject the government. He then enraptured me in a story about how he found the strength to stand up for his beliefs…

    He was one of hundreds of thousands that marched to Taksim Square to protest the government on June 1st. While the proceedings were meant to be peaceful, they then turned to riot and my sweet shop keeper was tear gassed for standing up to the government. While all of this was happening, the government ran penguin reals on television to keep Turkish citizens and the word uninformed (which ironically became the uprisings symbol of resistance). He ruefully asked me, as if I has insight, “Why are the Jews not unifying and standing up to this government that has spewed antisemetic propaganda?” And then he empathetically showed me some graffiti from his phone that read “Hey! We are Christians here too!” I could tell that he was pleased that another group of souls found their voice. He was outwardly frustrated with the Muslims for turning a blind eye, and couldn’t be sure if both a democratic and Muslim state could truly ever exist. As I was emotionally torn for this individuals plague that is felt by so many liberal Turkish people, he then he explained something to me that has been etched into my soul.

    He said: “Tear gas has a double meaning for me. Obviously there are the outwardly physical effects that occur, but it tastes so sweet.” Confused, I asked, “What do you mean?” He melancholically stated as chills ran down my arms “That tear gas tastes sweet, because it is the taste of freedom. We have struck fear into our government and one can’t help but hope for a free-er and more democratic Istanbul and Turkey. We are Istanbul, we are Byzantine, we are
    Constantinople and our government needs to acknowledge that and move forward.”

  6. Your way of thinking is damn good Gareth.. U hav very good sense of humour.. Like u wrote, its really difficult to leave behind the one we love..
    Anyhow, u r having a great life and its clear to outside world dat u r a very happy guy.. (Active, handsome, jolly, skilled and a lot more))

  7. It’s the other side of the coin in the perpetual travel lifestyle … if you work at it and see the people you meet on a regular basis, it could work, but mostly, the bonds you make will usually be casual at best…

  8. Omg thanks for sharng this with us and it is hard to say goodbye no matter if it is a close friend or a new friend it is very hard but I always think that some friends stays forever and some are only for moments in your life

  9. Great post Gareth! I totally understand your point of view. I am already 7 years in this journey as a global gypsy and there are so many feelings mixed up, one side of you is feeded by the excitement of visiting new places and the most important thing as you say, meeting new amazing people who nourish your life… And your other half is deeply missing the cozy feeling of having a place called “home” where there is no any rush and where you can project yourself in the long term… After all, we have been blessed with this lifestyle, and during our path we realize there are so many people in our same circunstances… What it is interesting is how life puts all of us together sooner or later, not only for supporting each other but also for keep learning. It is already one year since we met in Rio and sharing our experiences sourronded by the buzz of such amazing city, the quaint hiden streets and the lovely brazilian people has no price. The only thing I can say is thanks for those precious moments and dont worry that the wisdom of life will guide you throug the rigth pathway…. It is just a matter of time and patience!

  10. What great post you wrote. I understand where you’re coming from, but I guess that’s part of change. Whenever there’s hello, there’s always goodbye. Sad but true.

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