The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Grayson Buchanan.

I’ve been thinking on what to write and how to write this first blog for a while. I figured that there were a few ways I could present it – serious, poetic, humorous – but in doing so, I would be setting an expectation for the rest of my blogs to come. I’m not ready to decide on the vibe of my entire year, so I decided to wait until the last minute to write so that I wouldn’t be tied down to the luxury of a decision.

Which is why I’m now writing this blog on John F. Kennedy International Airport’s finest carpeted floor and cursing my past self for how we both are. But enough on that!

I believe that most of your generic, run-of-the-mill pre-departure questions can by based on the universal question, “Am I ready?” That question can be applied to everything from luggage to self-care.

To quickly answer that question in a few different ways:

1. I think I’ve both over-packed (8 books) and under-packed (3 shirts) at the same time

2. I have downloaded every Adam Sandler movie known to man and the entire discography of the band ABBA for my various 8+ hour flights

3. Mentally, I am more unprepared than I thought I would be, which I think is important to expand on.

So why am I prepared on all levels except mental? Because of my families: my biological family, the family I made at my school in Wilson, North Carolina, and the new family I found in the Global Gap Year cohort and in Chapel Hill. Relationships and connections with others are the most important things in this world, and one of the only things that hasn’t come natural to me, if at all.

Having lived in small towns for all my life, I thought it would be easy to cut those ties and leave once I graduated, because I was so excited to expand my world; but those ties are stronger than I thought. I’ve met with a lot of my old friends in Wilson and a lot of my new friends in Chapel Hill over the last couple weeks. I figured it would be good to say some semi-final goodbyes before I left, and boy was I not prepared for those.

I realize now how important these people are to me, and how little I want to leave them behind. These people are more than friends, they are truly a family to me. All of this being said, I also realize the power of dreams, and feel comforted in knowing that I will come back home to these families I’m leaving behind, and all of the homes they gave me.

So yes, I was not completely prepared; saying goodbye is hard. But, I’m realizing how important it is that I’m not prepared, because of what it reveals about the power of my connections.

Whenever someone enters a new stage in their life, things get left behind and things get taken in. I thought that by taking a gap year, I would be leaving behind the people I know, and gaining access to a world of new possibilities. Now I see that I can have both – the old and the new. I am traveling to Vietnam and finding a new family, but all I’m leaving behind is my bed.