Building Your RAFT
We’ve talked about the importance of leaving well, and how it allows you to enter well and enjoy your new experiences to the fullest extent possible. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, how exactly do I ‘leave well’? That sounds so ambiguous.”
Leaving well involves a process that Interaction International calls “building a raft.” RAFT in this case is an acrostic containing the four words reconciliation, affirmation, farewell, and thinks ahead.
Reconciliation: When you are getting ready to leave, reconciliation is the first step in building your raft. You do not want to leave with regrets, so it is important to patch up your broken relationships. That doesn’t mean that you need to go out and become best friends with all of the people who have hurt you in the past. However, it does mean that you should at least make an attempt to extend and request forgiveness. It cannot be stressed enough how important this step is—suppose that while you are gone, something happens to one of these people. Then the broken relationship will have caused not only the pain of loss, but the sting of guilt. Reconciliation allows you to leave with minimal relationship regrets and that is why it is the first step in building a RAFT.
Affirmation: The next step in raft building is affirmation. Affirmation helps you to reach closure before you depart. The main premise behind this step is to tell the people who are important to you that you care about them. This obviously looks different from person to person. Some people are more emotional and/or more open with their feelings than others. Perhaps you are uncomfortable sitting down with your mother or your best friend to tell them that you value them. You might like to write them a letter or give them a gift, it all depends on how you are most comfortable expressing your affection. Affirmation is important because it doesn’t assume that you’ll always have a chance to tell someone that they are important when it’s convenient for you.
Farewell: Farewells are the most obvious aspect of building a RAFT. Obviously, farewells are your final closure. Most people only think of saying goodbye to people, but sometimes it’s important to say goodbye to favorite places and possessions, too. That might mean going to your favorite restaurant, taking pictures at your special scenic area, or playing with your dog one last time.
Think Ahead: Finally, after you have reconciled, affirmed, and said your farewells, it’s time to think ahead. Thinking ahead involves a realistic appraisal of the difficulties that lie before you, and anticipation about what is to come. You are socially, emotionally, and psychologically ready to depart at this time. Be excited! Think of all the new experiences—people, sights, sounds, smells, and people—ahead of you!