I woke up at 11 am and double-checked my bags.
Swedish Visa. Check.
Seattle’s Space Needle Lego Set? Check.
Ever since I was nominated to attend Lund University, I started planning my trip.
I looked up Airbnbs to stay at in Copenhagen, potential plane tickets to Iceland, and Malmö’s Disgusting Food Museum.
As I packed my bags into the trunk, I took a mental picture of my family’s front porch.
From the dying tree that shaded our cars from the sunlight to the sunflowers that I picked and placed behind my sister’s right ear.
It was my home for the past eight years but for the next few months, I wouldn’t step on its rusty red pavement again.
My parents, siblings, and grandma entered the van.
Though the original plan was to drive me straight to the airport, we stopped by Jollibee in Daly City for lunch.
At the entrance, Jollibee’s bright red face greeted me with a smile.
I bit into my Burger Steak cherishing each savory bite as I knew that Sweden would not have this restaurant chain there.
The food was delicious and my stomach was content for our next stop, San Francisco International Airport.
When entering the airport, the lane splits into two: Domestic and International Departures.
I was used to being dropped off at Domestic but instead, we took the right lane and I saw unfamiliar airlines.
No more Frontier and Spirit Airlines.
I was now introduced to British Airways, Virgin Airlines, and Air France.
As we walked inside, my proud mom films me for her Instagram story while my sister clenches my hand and looks up at me trying to force a smile.
Each step towards the terminal meant that the time was coming to say goodbye.
At the terminal, I saw a familiar face, Henry’s.
Henry and I have been dating for three years and today, we were BOTH flying to Copenhagen.
Papa gave him a hug, asking him if he was excited while my brother kept telling Henry ‘Hi Mr. Handsome.’
We checked in our luggage and sat on the bench while watching others line up.
It was unreal that these many people were flying today and that almost 469 of them were riding on the same flight to Copenhagen.
My family and I sat silently for 15 minutes until Papa checked his watch and told us to head to TSA.
While taking family pictures, I remember Papa asking Henry to join.
He told Henry ‘take care of my daughter’ and my heart was happy to know that Papa trusted him.
After the pictures, Papa teased my grandma for not including the background and told her that her photography skills wouldn’t get paid.
It was the last joke I heard Papa say before looking at me and crying.
His tears set off the wave as my whole family followed.
I reassured them that I’ll be back in December but at the moment, all they knew is that I wouldn’t be heading home with them today.
My sister cried the most while my brother was busy playing Call of Duty and bluntly said his goodbyes.
Despite my mom saying that she wouldn’t cry, she had the reddest eyes while my dad covered his with sunglasses and tried to recompose.
I could feel how hurt they were and I knew that it would be their saddest car ride back.
Their last words to me were ‘mag ingat ka don’. A phrase that means take care of yourself in Tagalog, one I’ve heard many times but had more weight today than all the others.
I entered the line with Henry and he did his best to distract me from being overwhelmed. I smiled and waved every few seconds. I kept looking back until I passed through security and had to put my shoes back on.
I flew kisses into the air as I stood on my toes to see their faces one last time.
My eyes were glued to the top of their heads until I couldn’t see them anymore.
This was it.
The hardest part of the trip had ended.
These was our goodbyes.
Mag ingat ka din mahal na mahal ko kayo.