Former president Barack Obama departed from Washington Friday for a short vacation in California with his wife Michelle after handing over power to his Republican successor Donald Trump.
"Our democracy is not the buildings. It's not the monuments. It's you," Obama told well-wishers shortly before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland just outside the capital.
The former president is heading to Palm Springs, California to wind down after completing eight years in office.
Mr Obama had walked into the Oval Office holding a letter, which he left on the Resolute desk, a 19th century gift from Queen Elizabeth that is made from the timber of a British arctic vessel.
It is customary for the outgoing president to leave a personal note for his successor.
Mr Obama was to have morning tea with Mr Trump before they make their way to the Capitol for the inauguration ceremony.
As Mr Obama walked along the West Wing colonnade, when asked if he was feeling nostalgic, "Of course" was the reply.
When Mr Obama arrived in the Oval Office eight years ago, he found a note from his predecessor George W. Bush.
"Very few have had the honour of knowing the responsibility you now feel. Very few know the excitement of the moment and the challenges you will face," it read.
"There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your 'friends' will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me."
"No matter what comes, you will be inspired by the character and compassion of the people you now lead."