The Art of Losing Isn’t Hard to Master

Baboons enjoying the mist at Victoria Falls. I would have gotten more pictures if my camera hadn't flooded. It started working again, but was stolen in Ecuador later.
Baboons enjoying the mist at Victoria Falls. I would have gotten more pictures if my camera hadn’t flooded. It started working again, but was stolen in Ecuador later.

Travel comes with many perks. Seeing new sites, meeting new people, trying new foods, and having experiences impossible to replicate at ‘home’ like snorkeling on coral reefs, gazing at Victoria Falls, or encountering weird and wonderful high-altitude wildflowers. Unfortunately traveling also comes with certain annoyances including exotic illness, unexpected inconveniences[1], culture shock, and the disappearance and wreckage of possessions.

While I don’t enjoy shopping and try not to define myself by possessions[2] their destruction and disappearance while traveling has always produced a disproportionate amount of annoyance for me. I should be thankful for some of this, because it means I’ve never had an exotic illness that represented a serious health threat and that I’ve rarely gotten into serious conflict with other cultures[3]. Still, I feel like my exasperation at acacia punctured drybags and backpacks that ‘grow feet’ exceeds any justifiable irritation at either the cost of replacing those items or the difficulty of purchasing a headlamp in certain countries.

I have an unfortunate tendency to view my inability to retain and maintain certain possessions as a judgment on my character. For as long as I can remember I have felt that responsibility is one of the more important virtues and that la ropa sucia se lava en casa.[4] As such, every headlamp forgotten on a hostel night-stand, backpack stolen because it wasn’t hidden better, or jacket melted by standing too close to a bonfire serves as physical public proof of a gap between who I am and who I’d like to be.

Thankfully, while my anxiety over the fate of things that clearly do not feel pain causes me no small amount of annoyance it hasn’t stopped me from traveling. I know that I could certainly stand to be more careful about hiding valuables and gear maintenance, but I must also accept that every camera eventually floods, red wine will find its way onto the most carefully protected shirt, and that there will always be thieves who want some of my possessions more than I do. In the end I should just be grateful that experiences and relationships can’t be lost or stolen.

[1] I was once obliged to stay an extra day in Timbuktu, because the runway was covered by a sandstorm.

[2] I do name my surfboards though.

[3] Knock on wood

[4] The dirty laundry is washed indoors.

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