Monday, August 25, 2008

The things we leave behind

I recently stumbled across this article, What we leave behind, by Kelly Westhoff on the Wanderlust and Lipstick website. Not only did her article intrigue me because it was about an encounter she had in Cuba, but it got me thinking about the trail I've left behind in my many years on the road. While like Kelly, I'd like to believe that as a traveller I've "taken only photographs and left only footprints", as I'm usually limited by what I can carry and, of course, can't resist buying a few souvenirs along the way (not to mention all the PR paraphernalia I collect as part of my research) I inevitably leave things behind to "lighten my load".

On my recent round world trip alone, I left behind my jeans, a sweater and a pair of thick woollen socks (which I had worn every day in cold and chilly Cape Town) at a hotel in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania along with a note for the maid telling her to either donate them to charity or keep them for herself. Considering it was averaging around 38 degrees Celsius outside, I'm sure she had as much use for them as I did – none! In Nairobi, I left behind two of my three travel guides to Tanzania and a DVD I’d been given at a friend's place. Then in Cuba, I left behind my towel and some more clothes with the local family I was staying with, before finally dumping some of my souvenirs from Cuba, including Cuban cigars, in my hotel room in Jamaica because I was too afraid to enter the US carrying them!

The oddest thing I've ever left behind though was a drum in Libya last year. I'd spent a day shopping in the souks of Benghazi with my guide who rather charmingly, though disconcertingly, insisted on buying me every item I vaguely showed interest in, including a large terracotta drum which was covered with what looked like a very fresh goat's hide (I swear I could still see blood around the edges!). Knowing that there was no way that I would ever be able to get the drum through Australian customs I "accidently" [read: on purpose] left it behind in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at in Tripoli on the morning before I departed. (I had actually tried to leave it behind in my hotel room in Benghazi the previous day, but my guide spied it just as I was closing the door to my room!).

If this is what I left behind on only two trips, it truly frightens me to really think back and start listing the trail of belongings I've dumped in unsuspecting hotel rooms and backpacker hostels over the years!

Most travellers have been guilty of leaving behind books and clothing – they're the first things to be evicted from my bag when I start getting weighed down – but perhaps this says much about about the throw-away society we live. What have you left behind in your travels?


Sara said...


Well, I can't say that I've left much behind. I'm absolutely worthless when it comes to throwing things away, be it on vacation or at home, I just can't do it unless the thing is broken... ;-)

shauncam said...

Parts of my heart & lots' of soul that i believe i can call on when reminiscing. Like calling on your ancestors :~) Oh and the odd toiletry thing as apposed to those that collect the free hotel shampoo etc

Kim Wildman said...

After relocating countries three times now, I've become an expert at paring things down and only keeping what I need. Though, my biggest problem, as Shaun writes, is that I tend to lose a piece of my heart & soul each time, which is probably why I still live the life of a gypsy!

Kelly said...

Hi Kim,

I stumbled across your blog and see that you recently read and wrote about one of my travel essays. So cool!

Thanks for the link!


Kim Wildman said...

No worries Kelly. I loved your article - it really got me thinking!