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So, you’re time living abroad is coming to an end and you’ll be returning home. Whether you loved every minute of living abroad or if there were a lot of ups and downs, you’ll want to take the final days and weeks to soak up the last moments, take a mental picture to remember it all. Living abroad changes you and challenges you, so taking the time to reflect as well as the time to soak up the final moments is essential to closing a chapter in your life.
PIN these Tips for Enjoying the Final Days Abroad for later!!
I’m already counting down the final weeks of living abroad. While my exit date is quickly approaching, it isn’t stopping me from taking a few minutes out of my day to stop and appreciate my surroundings and reflect on my time in Regensburg. I’ve been incredibly lucky and privileged to have had the opportunity to move abroad on a whim and land in one of the greatest cities in Germany. Moving here changed my life more than I ever imagined. I came alone, intending to only stay a few years….until I met my husband and all those plans went right out the window and here I am 11 1/2 years later. Together we have covered a lot of ground, exploring so much of Europe and Germany. There’s even an ongoing joke that I actually know more about and have seen more of Germany than most Germans.
But living abroad isn’t all beach bars and cocktails. While I have had an amazing time living abroad, I had many struggles of living abroad. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing, and to be honest, I would do it again and again. But I’ve known for the last few years that the magic of living abroad has worn off and it’s time to return home. Probably not forever, but at least for a time.
And until I get on that plane to return home, knowing my time is coming to an end, I want to remember everything, see everything one last time and eat all of my favorite meals again. I want to spend as much time with the wonderful friends I’ve made and cherish the moments with my German family. I don’t want to forget anything or anyone. I want to take photos of everything and everyone as I prepare to leave.
So, you can you soak up the final days of living abroad?
Pack in Advance to Give You More Time with Loved Ones
If you’re not already completely packed within the final month of living abroad out of pure excitement, you need to do it as soon as possible. The last thing you want to deal with in your final days abroad is packing. You’ll want to spend as much time with friends and family as possible, but to waste it on last-minute packing is just a waste of precious time.
Not only that, but last-minute packing is also incredibly stressful. You REALLY don’t want to be stressed in your final days abroad so that you have more time to enjoy the last moments. And not just packing, but closing any bank accounts, paying any final bills, cleaning your apartment/house, and whatnot.
Spend as Much Time with Friends & Family
Whether it’s your amazing expat tribe or your family, you’ll want to spend as much time with them before you move abroad. After all, you don’t know when you’ll see each other again. Hit two birds with one stone by spending time with them doing something you never got around to doing. Visit a castle, go to a play, climb that tower or meander around that museum.
Perhaps if you’ve over-ambitious, plan some goodbye gifts to give friends and family, small remember-me momentos and remind them like crazy that they’re always more than welcome to visit you in your new home.
But remember to prioritize who gets to spend the most time with you. Once you spill the beans that you’re moving home, everyone, even acquaintances will want to go for one last coffee together. This can be hard to decline, especially if you’re a people pleaser. But when you’re limited with time, and busy with packing, cleaning, organizing, figuring out where you’re going to be spending your last days, it’s a lot to take in.
Cut yourself some slack and spend quality time with those who matter the most, while perhaps considering a little goodbye, bon voyage party to invite everyone else to. That way you won’t feel so guilty if you have to decline individual meet ups.
And if you have any extra time and aren’t running on high stress levels, encourage any friends or family for any last chance visits.
Take Lots of Pictures
One of the most important things to do while living abroad is taking picture. Words can not describe how important it is to take photos of your time abroad. You’ll want to remember the friends you’ve made, the places you went, where you lived your favorite restaurant or your favorite hang out spots. You’ll want to have these little snap shots of life abroad so that you never forget it. A picture is worth a thousand words and trust me, you’ll be flipping through your photo albums later, reminiscing your time abroad and you’ll wish you had taken those pictures!
Take Moments to Stop & Enjoy Your Surroundings
Mental snap shots are also equally as important. You may find yourself walking to work in the autumn on a cool crisp day and stop for a few minutes on a park bench to just soak up the moment, the smell and your surroundings. Church bells might be ringing in the distance or a beautiful stone bridge stretched out in front of you, so take the time to just admire it, and perhaps, remember why you moved here in the first place.
Eat at All of Your Favorite Restaurants
One of the advantages of living abroad in being immersed into a culture with a unique cuisine, as well as cuisine from surrounding countries that perhaps you can’t get back home. So stuff your face with all the amazing food just out your front door step. After all, you’ll never have that amazing schnitzel again in the US, or enjoy that amazing curry from England anywhere else, or get a variety of Baklava like you did. Savor every last morsel because who knows when you’ll taste something quite so delicious again. Better yet, maybe even try to learn to make your favorite meals and take them home with you.
Related: The Foodie’s Guide to Poland
Revisit Any of Your Special Spots
Whether it’s your favorite bar, your friend’s couch or a great lookout point, go there. Do it as many times as possible before you leave. Cherish every moment. Remember the way it made you feel to be there and the joy you felt spending time with those you love.
Keep a list on your phone of places that are special to you and actively plan to visit these spots. Perhaps it was the location of your first kiss, your first date, or your first apartment together. Take the time to reminisce because you don’t know when you’ll be back.
Take the time to say goodbye to these places and remember the years you spent there, how they shaped and changed you along your expat journey. You’ll remember a few little stories that perhaps had fallen to the back of your memory.
Take Time to Reflect on Your Time Abroad
Find a quiet place that you enjoy visiting. Perhaps it’s the first cafe you ever visited. Perhaps it’s located directly in front of a cathedral. Perhaps it overlooks a beautiful river or lake. Perhaps it’s atop of a beautiful mountain with views that could kill. Go there, and spend some time reflecting on your time abroad. Remember the joy you felt moving to this new city and let it remind you of all the reasons why you moved here in the first place. Soak up your surroundings and simply enjoy the last time.
Take the time to think about the good times and the bad times living abroad. Reflect on how it has changed you and the person you are today. Would you do it all over again? Would you make any changes? Do you have any regrets? Do you have moments that you will cherish forever? Take inventory on your time abroad and make sure that you took advantage of every opportunity and experience that knocked on your door.
Journaling or blogging are both a great way to share those thoughts and help to center you, relax you during this highly stressful time in your life. Feel the feels. Let out any fears, anxiety, sadness, grief or anger you might be feeling about uprooting your life and moving. Or perhaps write down your excitement, hopes and dreams for the future life you will lead.
Most of all, remember to share all of these feelings with your spouse or children, as they are likely feeling all the same things and might feel alone in their fear. Help your kiddos to understand that this might be the last time they eat at that restaurant or see that friend. Help yourself, help each other to help let go well.
If you’re not very good at saying goodbye or you’ve had one too many coffees over spilled tears, consider writing letters to people who mean the most to you, expressing how much they mean to you and sharing memories you will always cherish.
Perhaps consider writing a letter to your city to say goodbye and reminisce about the good times and the bad. No, you don’t have to send it to city officials. This letter is between you and your adopted home.
Do you have a friendship that didn’t survive the test of time and you feel guilty about leaving forever without having made amends? Give it a try one last time to reach out and leave on a “no hard feelings” otherwise you might regret having never taken the time to fix what was broken. If you’re afraid to reach out again in person, perhaps consider writing a letter. Don’t rehash the problem, but accept your responsibility in it, seek forgiveness or give forgiveness. Or simply write a letter to the person with whom you have broken relationship and then burn it and let it go if you can’t bring yourself to actually give them the letter. Either way, you’ll leave with a lighter heart.
Buy Any Last Souvenirs
If you want that Cuckoo Clock (got it!), or that Dirndl and Lederhosen, or perhaps you wanted that bottle of wine or cookbook, buy it. Stock up on it. Take as much of it home as you can. These are momentos of your time abroad, in the culture you called home and it will just be another reminder of your time abroad. Budget in advance your final souvenir so that you can make sure to get what you never made the time to buy before. And there are some great souvenirs from Germany you make be sure to get!
Take a Look at Your Bucket List & Go on One Last Holiday
If you can afford it, go home with one last big hoo-rah and go on one final holiday. One of the benefits of living abroad is how easy it is to travel in your host country or to neighboring countries. Go to the one place you ALWAYS wanted to visit but never had the time. Whether it’s a day trip, a weekend trip or a week long holiday, just go. Who knows when you’ll get the chance to go again. Maybe it will be too far or too expensive to come back, at least right away. Best way, use the money from selling any and all furniture that you aren’t taking with you back home to fund your last hoo-rah!
You’ll likely feel guilty to spending that money when you need to be saving for the massive expensive of shipping all your belongings home, buying the airline ticket, staying in a hotel in the final days. But JUST DO IT! Otherwise you will regret it and wish you had made the time and effort. It will be both like checking off a bucket list item and a small celebration of your final days abroad.
Most importantly, squeeze in the things you always wanted to see and do while living abroad, but never made the time to do. Perhaps you walked by it every day on you way to work and said to yourself, “Ah, I’ll see it later”, but suddenly it’s time to leave and you haven’t do it yet. Now’s the time to do it. The last thing you want is to get home and say, “Man, I wish I had done that!” Whether it’s climbing that church tower, eating at that restaurant you never tried, visiting a museum or hiking that mountain, make it a priority to do these final things.
We were finally able to visit Meissen, a town in northern Germany that we had booked a previous trip for at least 3 times and had the unfortunate bad luck of having to cancel each time. We were so glad we were able to squeeze one last new exciting trip in before we left, especially one we had wanted to see so badly! Turns out, it became one of our top 10 small towns in Germany!
Revisit Any of Your Favorite Towns, if possible!
Who knows the next time you’ll make it back to the area, and if you have an absolute favorite town, perhaps squeeze in one last trip, especially if you can’t manage a larger big-hooray final trip. If you pair it with a final visit of any friends or family, turn it into a mini-farewell tour to your expat homeland and say goodbye. If there wasn’t something you didn’t manage to do on the last visit, make sure you get the chance to check it off your list of “I’ll do this next time I visit”.
I had the pleasure of making a bit of a last minute round trip tour of Bavaria with some last chance visitors and I found it really cathartic to say goodbye to all of my favorite towns in Bavaria, while also playing tour guide and translator. Best of all, because my husband wasn’t able to join, I did it all by myself, driving 2,004km in a week successfully. I felt a very big sense of self-accomplishment and helps me to leave Germany on a very positive note!
Throw a Going Away Party
Or, if you don’t want to go on one last holiday, throw yourself a goodbye party and go out with a bang! Gather all your friends and family around for your last night in town and party until it’s time to get on that airplane. Soak in every.last.minute. Share with your friends and family your favorite moments abroad, memorable moments you had with them and what you’ll always remember, and vice versa. As I mentioned before, it’s a great way to say goodbye to a lot of people you may not have the time to go for individual coffees with. Plus, it’ll be fun!
Perhaps you can even turn it into a party and everyone can take something home you weren’t able to sell but don’t want to throw away!
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