A Soft Start to Living Internationally Part 1: The Last Day

 

Since moving out of America, life has really picked up speed! Let’s go back to when I left home. Trying to catch up will take some time, but that’s the goal.

Maybe one day I will catch up to the present. Maybe beginning this series with hope is a good thing. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Either way, here we go. Back to Sunday, February 19, 2017.

I was ready to (finally) leave for Europe! I had been pulsing with this intention for over a year, refining the idea more and more of what life COULD look like. After finishing teaching at the end of the fall semester at the end of January, I had been itching to start. Now, to say goodbye to Michigan.

Preparations

I had been trimming down all my clothing, what I used and what I actually needed. My friend Kate loaned me a book which got my head in the minimalist space ready to declutter my room, my life, and my approach. If interested, the book’s title is ‘’The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever’’ by Marie Kondo and it can be found here https://goo.gl/VG0mHY. I chose clothes, shoes, books, papers, and notebooks (the last three were like purging lovers) based on their usefulness. I cut a bunch and donated them. I’m talking several bags worth. Other clothes remained at my mother’s house (you’re the best, Mom!).

Goodbye car

The last time I held my car which surprisingly held me.

Finally, I had what I thought would be the essentials to get me through the days. I had to balance the cold London February winds with the sweltering Turkish July heat in one go. I wouldn’t be coming back for awhile.

Leaving Home

The morning of my departure arrived and with it the need to do a final pack. I loaded my things into my carry on bag and a backpack (to avoid paying for a checked bag now and for each of my many forthcoming flights). I wasn’t able to fit everything, but, solemnly, I made peace with that.

My brother Evan came up to my room to check how I was doing. After a few jokes to chill both of us out, he noticed the extras sullenly sitting on my bed. “We can make this work.” Blind optimism runs in the family.

With pushing and cramming and some protips (socks go in the packed shoes, sit on the luggage while zipping it, don’t forget the extender zipper, etc.), we made it work. Reflecting on this now, I am happy to have the comfortable sweatpants which didn’t make the first round cut.

Next, it was food time. My family and a few select friends – chosen by a mix of proximity to my house or Detroit and, more importantly, the ability to wake up early on a Sunday – headed to a send-off brunch. The food was good. There may have been mimosas. Detroit does brunch right.

We fought over the bill. At this point, I’m not sure who won, but I’m glad that Evan and I could vindictively mock argue bringing to bear the full might of our beards one more time before leaving.

Evan and Jake Beard Grabs.

Belknap beards and eye contact were strong that night.

Bus and Beyond

From there it was on to the Detroit Greyhound bus station. Uncharacteristically, I got there early. This gave us a chance to wander around outside and enjoy the unseasonably nice weather (thanks, Michigan!). There wasn’t much I noticed on this walk…well, there were a few surreptitious glances at the people I became used to seeing daily. Ew, nostalgia.

Then came the last moments. We still had time to while away, more time to sit and joke. There were some back slaps and more nostalgia about when each of us had left for different reasons. But now the people I saw most days or at least a few times a week would not surround me. Thanks to emails, video chats, and a big effort on their part to figure out time zone differences we would make it work.

Then the bus wheels were moving and we were waving.

I had a low-key Greyhound ride to Toronto with about eight other travelers. My fellow riders ranged from a woman with no bags who commiserated with me about the troublesome wi-fi to a bearded man whose pack told more of the miles he had seen and would see than he was ready to share. Before I knew it, I had left America.

A customs officer grilled me when we unloaded at the border. Apparently, freelance writing from another country doesn’t make much sense; I need to work on my elevator pitch. It was some small solace that another couple were the ones to hold us up and not me; it’s okay to be a nuisance so long as you aren’t the worst one. I slept through about half of the ride and then fidgeted until drop off.

Check out part two BY CLICKING HERE to read about what I saw in my first city on my journey into the great wide open. For now, cue Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and fade to black…