14 September 2009

Goodbye gifts - Saying Farewell and Wishing Good Luck

I cannot remember how many times in my life I have had to say goodbye to people I care deeply about, how many times I have stood in an airport or train station with tears in my eyes when I or someone else departed to a place far away. Having spent the majority of the last decade living far away from my family, I am pretty experienced when it comes to farewells. Of course this doesn’t mean that it has become any easier and the last move which was just a couple of months ago was as hard as was the first one 12 years ago.

At a time when you are feeling emotional because you are sending someone off into a new life, you often want to give at least a small farewell gift, maybe a keepsake, to make sure you are remembered and to express your best wishes for the journey that lies ahead of your loved one.

From my own experience over the last few years, I can tell a story or two about great and not so great farewell gifts. Although there were always the best intentions behind the gifts I have received, some where much better than others in that they sent a very personal, loving message which helped me with that big step in that they reminded me how much people care about me. What made those gifts even better was that they didn’t cause me any logistical problems. Unfortunately, sometimes people forget about the impracticalities that accompany their gift choices and I have actually had to leave some gifts behind and on one occasion, have had to throw it away at the airport.

I once received a lovely cuddly toy from my then boyfriend who was living in another country at the time. It was a beautiful teddy bear but there was one problem with it: it was huge! As much as I wanted to, there was no way I could have fitted it into my suitcase, so I had to leave it behind.

Another time some friends sent me off at the airport in London but they arrived just before boarding, so I had already checked in my luggage. They had bought me a bottle of my favourite wine which unfortunately I was not allowed to take on board due to security regulations. Can you imagine how upset I was at having to throw away the bottle?

To spare you more details, what then are the best goodbye gifts?

Usually when someone moves away or travels for a prolonged period of time, they will be able to take only a limited amount of things with them. Think of your last vacation and how you struggled to close you suitcase. Now, when you move this is even tougher, as you have far more stuff to take with you but are only allowed your usual one or two suitcases. Even if you travel by car or by train: someone has to carry all those things and space and size can still be an issue!

Also, remember how strict airline regulations have become. You pay considerable amounts for every bit of excess luggage and the list of things you are not allowed to take as carry-on is forever expanding. Over-sized items are also tricky, so you might want to stay clear of that huge painting of yours as a gift and instead opt for a small print of it instead.

To summarize, before you go out and buy that farewell gift, bear the following things in mind:

  • is it small and light enough to fit into the luggage?
  • is it useful or practical or will it just be in the way? Would you really want to take a porcelain figurine on a trip around the world with you?
  • is it consummable? Generally, things that can be consumed make great farewell gifts but make sure it can actually be carried on a flight. Most perishable goods, for instance, you are not allowed to bring into another country, so check before you give! Same with liquids: these need to be checked in if you are flying, so hand over your gift in advance and not after check-in at the airport.
  • is it personal? A small keepsake, like a photograph and a card, often makes a much better gift to say goodbye than a more expensive gift. In fact, I always take the most personal cards from my best friends with me whenever I move and I read them over and over again, esp. when I’m starting to feel a little homesick.

To end on a positive note, here are some of my favorite farewell gifts that I have received over the years:

  • a small goodie bag containing some snacks (chocolates, peanuts) for the flight and a pocket notebook to write down useful information and record new impressions
  • a digital picture frame and a memory card with a “best of” selection of photos
  • a personal compilation album with a note explaining the meaning behind all the different songs, which was very personal and lovely and which I still listen to on a regular basis

I hope you found this information useful and good luck with your goodbye gifts! If you are looking for more inspiration, check out the section on Goodbye Gifts.

Filed under Goodbye Gifts