The long goodbye

I’m not good at goodbyes.

Last farm family dinner

Last farm family dinner

I often have things I want to say, but it rarely comes out the way I mean them. Nowadays, I try to keep goodbyes shorter to avoid being overly emotional. If you have traveled to some degree, you will be very familiar with the endless hellos and goodbyes that can occur in a flurry, especially over the course of your journey.

I recently said goodbye to the farm which I called home for 107 glorious days. Of course, I wasn’t only saying goodbye to the farm. I was saying goodbye to friends, animals and even the areas I have gotten to know as my own.

Max!

Max!

I look back at my first two days when I arrived with Max and I think of how far things have come. After the first two days of back-breaking, knee-breaking and hand-breaking labour, I think both Max and I questioned why we came. That being said, when I arrived, I had one thing in mind; to take care of my visa days and move on.

But after about two weeks, I knew that this experience would cement itself not as a time that I had to “do what needs to be done”, but as a time of great memories.

So when it came time to do everything one last time and pack my things, it was a weird feeling. It was emotional.  Even though I considered myself much less socially active than I usually am, one can’t really escape the tight-knit feeling of the place. Why?

 

You live together.

You work together.

You eat together.

And in the end, you share nearly all your experiences together.

It’s like a hostel experience on crack. Places like the bathroom and kitchen may look like shit, but by the time you leave, you’re thinking to yourself, this is the best place to do your farm experience. Traveling is great, but experiences like this are what make life worthwhile.

Exchange share house

My exchange share house family

The closest thing that relates to this would be my experience on exchange. I lived in a big 10 person share house and had so many great memories during those six months. On top of that, I had amazing friends like Hugh, Sam, Devra, Seth and so many more. I still remember what Seth said the last time I saw him.

Seth and I

Seth and I

“This isn’t it, is it Chester?”

And the answer is always the same.

I don’t know.

While I haven’t seen Seth since that day, chatting with him or having his name come up always brings back warm memories.

With every goodbye, you are at a crossroad. It’s easy to say that you will see each other again down the road, but life can be a busy unexpected mess and the days can easily turn to years. Most of us always have a choice to see other people again.

We can make time. We can make the effort.

Of course, we should if we can. After all, we say our goodbyes so we can say hello again down the road.

Hundreds of backpackers have passed through the Fruitshack farm. With the type of bonds that people form there, I imagine many have found ways to cross paths again.

Probably just as many people have written messages on the walls of the Fruitshack; messages saying how special the place is, how amazing it is and so on. After a few weeks there, I thought I would end up writing some random piece of advice about making the most of your own farm experience. Instead, in that last hour, I decided to write a simple message to my friends.

Home message

Michael has repeatedly said that he doesn’t know why he does it. He spends endless hours maintaining the farm, and probably way too much time helping backpackers. It’s certainly not for the money. Nonetheless, for over 20 years, he has welcomed backpackers from around the world.

I think he knows why.

This is his legacy; helping create memories for all the people that pass through. The farm is about more than farm work and getting your visa days done. It’s about lasting friendships, opening your eyes, and countless memories. In the end, it is what you make it.

I am lucky that I got to know Michael as a farmer and as a friend. Not everyone does. I think a few of us (Celine, John, Vanessa, Bradley and I) are particularly lucky to do so.

In some ways, goodbyes bridge the stories in our lives. They give greater meaning to the limited time we have. They signal new beginnings as one chapter closes. With each beginning starts a new adventure and like I always say, “That’s the great thing about life; you don’t know the adventure you are about to have until it unfolds.”

I am always thankful that I get to live on these terms, despite the different challenges.

I am always thankful for that long goodbye.

-TUS

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