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

Giving Thanks… to You!

Hello dearest fellow travelers! I’m in my last week of travel in Australia; on Monday I’m off to Auckland and I’ll be in New Zealand for about six weeks. I’m enjoying Melbourne but I’m looking forward to exploring a new country. I’ll be spending Christmas with family friends, which will be great, and then the new year will find me in… Singapore? Thailand? I’m not sure yet! It’s exciting.

But before all that happens, let’s take a look at this week, which is a big deal in the States. It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow, and traditionally that means we eat a lot of food and watch a lot of football, but it also means we spend some time noting what we’re thankful for.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be on this trip in the first place, with all the love and enthusiasm of friends and family propelling me ever onward. I also have about 100 faithful readers of this blog, which is 99 more than when I first started out and my dad checked in every day (thanks, Dad!). I write the blog to keep track of my travels for myself, and to improve my writing, but also to reach people who want to read about where I’ve been and what I thought about it, and it’s gratifying to hear back that people enjoy what I’m putting out there.

I have yet to thank donors to the Stowaway Fund by name, as I promised to do, and the week of Thanksgiving seemed like a good time to do it. The people listed below contributed to the Stowaway Fund, so that I could hike around Uluru, snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef, and do other big-ticket activities that I might otherwise have skipped over. Some people also specified that their contribution was to be used on treating myself now and again to a beer or dessert, and that has improved my quality of life on this trip immensely.

Thanks to:

Rog & Anne
Dan & Barb
Doug & Diane
Ted & Dana
Nancy & Jack
Jenny & Howard
Louis & Kathy
Jim & Martha
Mike & Marianne

Thank you all for your generous donations, and the kind words that accompanied them. I was able to see most of you before I left and give you great big hugs, but some I couldn’t, so to you I send hugs from the other side of the world.

I’ve been on the road for almost 12 weeks now, although it’s hard to believe it’s been that long. I’ve seen and done so much, and always with y’all cheering me on. I thought I’d be more eloquent in thanking you for helping me financially as well as emotionally, but I think it just comes down to: Thank you. I appreciate your help and your friendship.

Thanks also for your patience as I don’t post in real-time. It takes time to write the posts and choose the right photos for them, so although I know it’s annoying to read I’m already in Melbourne but you’re only just now seeing posts on Sydney, thanks for understanding why it’s going that way.

And now for some photos of what you’ve helped me do. Maybe these’ll speak a thousand words for me.


Great Barrier Reef


Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels to wherever home may be.