The Things I Left Behind

Apparently, the latest travel advice is to take your grungiest underwear and t-shirts with you, wear them out over the course of the vacation, and then buy new ones to take home. I see the benefits of that, but when you’re traveling for longer than two weeks, it’s trickier. I take only one of just about everything–jeans, warm top, jacket, etc.–so it has to be able to last the whole trip. A lot of people do buy new clothes on their travels, especially in Southeast Asia and South America, where everything is cheaper, but I usually can’t find anything close to my size, so I can’t depend on that.

My Chacos lasted me over three years of hard use

My Chacos lasted me over three years of hard use

So it’s not surprising that a lot of things don’t make it home with me. On this last trip, my bag came home considerably lighter than it had left. Here’s what I left behind in the hostel trash in Buenos Aires:

  • one pair of Chacos, right shoe’s strap dangling
  • one pair of ripped-up yoga pants
  • one pair of destroyed leggings
  • one small backpack, strap dangling and hole near zipper growing more giant by the hour
  • at least a kilo of paper–notes from Spanish class, receipts, tickets, scribbled tips from other travelers about what to do in various cities

The backpack broke as I started out on my second day at Iguazu, so I spent the day carrying it around like a particularly cumbersome purse. The shoe broke in the last hour of my time at the falls that same day, so I flapped around the trails and switched to flip flops as soon as I got back to the hostel. Could’ve been worse.

Literally the moment I boarded the bus to the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls, the strap on this backpack broke

Literally the moment I boarded the bus to the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls, the strap on this backpack broke

Then there are the things I lost:

  • my purse and everything in it, stolen in Cusco
  • the scarf I bought to replace the scarf that was stolen
  • one charger, for the mp3 player I bought to replace the music on my stolen iPhone
  • one headlamp
  • one fleece, so warm and desperately needed (I bought a new one online before I even returned home, is how necessary a fleece is to my travels)

Material possessions take on a dual meaning when you’re traveling for a long time. On one hand, of course they don’t matter as much–you’re living a different kind of life from the one you lived when you were in one place, and you just need less stuff. On the other hand, you only have one of everything, so if something breaks or goes missing, you’re missing something that you considered crucial enough to carry around on your back for five months. You don’t need much, but what you do need, you generally really need.

Still, it’s all replaceable. Which reminds me, I’d better go shopping before I leave again.

The hole appeared one day, and three days later, there was hardly any point to having a zipper

The hole appeared one day, and three days later, there was hardly any point to having a zipper

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2 thoughts on “The Things I Left Behind

  1. Ohmigosh, Lisa!

    The truth of the minimalist backpacker! I admit to having more than one thing of each, and I am not totally without storage facilities for five months at a time! That said, I’ll bet you could write a chapter on strange ways to wash and dry various bits of clothing and Things!

    Giving up fashion (!) for less weight has been fine, since most people do not care at all how I look, but my pack is still heavier than I’d like. Different weather and temperatures during my time on the road make for more stuff as well, although the wool sweater + raincoat as “winter wear” works well for a while in many places, along with the wool hat and mittens, and wool leggings.

    I am glad that you could order another fleece when you needed it, and I am glad that you had less weight on your back upon re-entry into the States! All good, right? Happy Shopping!

    Here’s to Edinburgh – it was H-O-T when I left in mid-June – very strange. Be prepared – I know that you will be!

    In Peace,

    Irene

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