On my last day in Budapest, I woke up and walked to my favorite bakery to get a pastry and coffee for breakfast. I said hello to my favorite bakery worker who I usually make a little small talk with whenever I go in. It was a busy Saturday morning, so when I tried to say goodbye as he handed me my coffee, the noise of the espresso machine and the other customers drowned me out. He busied making the next customer’s coffee and I walked out the door. At first, I was a little sad that I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye. But maybe it was better that I didn’t get to say goodbye, because goodbyes are too final. And because I know I’ll be back to Budapest very soon. I don’t know when, but it was a city that felt like home to me after only a month of living there, and there’s no place like home.
Over the last few days, I experienced flashes of sadness and longing to stay: when I finished my last final and realized it was my last time at Corvinus University, when I realized I wouldn’t be taking classes with students from all over the world anymore, when I looked out over the city from Gellert Hill and Fisherman’s Bastion for the last time, and when I drank maci fröccs at Szimpla for the last time. But those brief moments of emotion were just that – brief. I kept wondering, when will it really hit me? Will it be on the cab ride to the airport? On the plane as we take off from Budapest? Am I going to break out into tears on the plane?
Well, I’m still wondering when it’s going to hit me. I felt a little choked up as my plane landed in Minneapolis, and I couldn’t tell if it was because I was happy to be home or if my subconscious knew that landing on US soil finalized that I wasn’t in Europe anymore. I just left my home away from home, friends I may never see again in person, and a place that laid the foundation for so many great memories. Shouldn’t I be feeling more than I am right now? But there haven’t been any tears yet. I rarely cry over anything though so maybe tears will never come. And maybe the whole thing will hit me later or maybe it never will.
I’m coming home to my whole family, Christmas (my favorite holiday), my familiar and cozy house, my parents’ delicious cooking, and many old friends, which makes this ending especially bittersweet. I’m so excited for all of these things, but goodbyes are hard when you don’t know when you’ll be back. When I visited my friend Liza in Ukraine, who I hadn’t seen in 2.5 years, we had a fantastic four days together, but had to say goodbye knowing that it could be another 2.5 years or even longer before we would see each other again.
But never avoid something out of fear for goodbyes. I met someone new on every weekend trip I took. And almost every single person I may never see again. But each one of them enriched my life in one way or another. Meeting new people stimulates new ideas and cultivates new perceptions of the world. Imagine taking a class with all Americans or taking a class with students from Germany, Hungary, Italy, France, Mexico, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, Pakistan, Russia, and more. Now which class do you think will generate greater discussion? Which will present more viewpoints and provide more new ideas? I think we all know the answer. And that is something I will really, genuinely miss. So don’t avoid getting to know someone because it seems pointless due to an impending due date for saying goodbye. You’ll cheat yourself of so many possibilities and amazing people.
And with that, I’m saying goodbye for now to Budapest. But only for now, because I’m determined to find my way back there, go to my favorite bakery, order a kakaós csiga, and sit by the Danube while overlooking the Liberty Bridge. Because there really is no place like home, and there’s no place like Budapest.