- Paris, 2009 – cell phone
My second ever cell phone was a pink Blackberry Pearl flip phone. The one where you have to press every key three times to get the letter you want, but as a ninth-grader you could still write out a detailed analysis of Amy’s birthday party in ten seconds flat.
During a trip to France with my mother and sister, we decided to visit L’Arc de Triomph. I’d fought with my mother that morning, because she wanted me to bring a purse, but I refused because all I was carrying was my cell phone. My mother eventually threw up her hands and so I stuffed it in the minuscule back pocket of my tiny jean shorts (yes, very Parisian-chic, I know) and went on my way.
Halfway through the day, in the midst of a very fancy kitchenware store, I felt an absence around the vicinity of my left buttock. My phone was gone, I’d been pick-pocketed. To be fair, it can hardly be called pickpocketing, since the phone was begging to be pinched. Like a tomato that just falls off the vine at the slightest touch.
My mother was livid. I remember she swore that she would never travel with me ever again. (Ha-ha)
LESSON: To this day, I will never keep anything in my back pocket. My phone goes in the front waistband of my pants, although that means I sometimes run the risk of it slipping into my underwear, tbh. Still, back pockets are bad news.
- Lima, 2013 – Camera
Oh, god, this wound is still so fresh.
While in Lima, we spent the last couple nights couchsurfing at the flat of a lovely girl named Jessica. Jessica offered to bring us to her family’s home in a little seaside town called Chimbote, where we spent a couple days drinking home-made pisco and learning to salsa dance from her abuelo.
On the bus back to Lima, from where we were to catch our flight to Toronto, my sister and I fell asleep. My DSLR, in its camera bag, was on the floor between our legs. Someone reached over our legs and pinched the bag. When I woke up, my camera was gone – and with it, all of the pictures I’d taken during the entire trip.
The camera was bad enough, but I can live with losing electronics. I would give anything just to have the memory card back. All those pictures – of the look on my sister’s face when she first saw Machu Picchu, of humid mornings wandering Cuzco, of making crepes with new friends in the tiny hostel kitchen, of llamas dotted among Inca ruins – lost. I’m still kicking myself for this one.
LESSON: The practical lesson is always secure your bag to a limb. I usually tie a strap around my ankle, so a thief will have to saw off my leg first, which will presumably wake me.
The larger lesson, though, is how much my photos mean to me. This loss is the worst out of all, because I can’t just replace it at a Best Buy. But the trip still happened, and I still have the memories and the friends to prove it.
- Sarajevo, 2014 – T-shirt
I’m not even sure how I lost this one. It was one of my favourite travelling t-shirts – anyone who has backpacked knows that every item of clothing becomes like a family member, when you’re only carrying a dozen items with you. I think I washed it in the sink at a hostel, and it was either pinched or forgotten in the whirlwind of our nomadism.
LESSON: Never backpack with clothing you wouldn’t be okay with losing. Backpacking is hard on your body and soul and belongings. It’s normal to wreck or leave behind clothes. Don’t get attached. Commitment issues are your friend, for once.
- Cape Town, 2011 – earrings
I lived in Cape Town for two months in the summer of grade 10. As a sixteen-year-old suddenly released from the shackles of parental scrutiny, I spent weekend nights drinking candy-flavoured liquor and wearing a lineup of ludicrous party outfits, each of which was accompanied by equally lurid jewelry. I remember these horrible peacock-feather earrings, in particular. I’m melting with shame.
Which meant that my regular non-gaudy earrings, little gold studs in the shape of elephants, spent time at the back of the closet. I left them there when I packed to return to Toronto. I was so sure that I’d return to Cape Town within a couple years to see all my friends, and I’d pick the earrings up. Obviously, that never happened.
BONUS Near-Loss: Cuzco, 2013 – also an earring
We’d had a particularly harrowing journey back from Aguas Calientes, the nearest tourist trap to Machu Picchu. We missed our train to Cuzco and ended up hitching/begging a ride in an unmarked white van that was filled with very friendly Spanish-speaking youths. I’m not sure what goodness compelled the driver to allow us on board, since we looked, and smelled, like two teenagers who had just hiked four days through the Andes without a shower. As we pulled into downtown Cuzco around midnight I absently thumbed my ear to find that my earring was gone.
Like any properly rebellious private-school brat, I got my helix pierced at a wildly inappropriate age. It took about four years and an amount of pus that I’m still not comfortable discussing for the piercing to fully heal. I was not going to let that piercing close up. The chances of me finding another surgical steel stud in Peru at midnight on the 25th of December before the piercing closed permanently were near zero.
The next thing the van’s occupants knew, there was a panicked teenage girl scrabbling on the floor of the van by their feet with a cellphone flashlight. I found the earring on the floor, which to this day I count as one of the loaves-and-fishes moments of my life. I think everyone was happy to get me out of that van.
LESSON: Don’t let your children poke holes in themselves at least until they know not to get into unmarked vans with strangers.
- Alaska, 1997 – Ruff-Ruff
Throughout my childhood I only ever had one beloved stuffed animal, a gray-and-white dog. He looked more like a giant dust bunny than a canine, really. His fur had been loved into a matted tangle, his glass eyes were dull and cloudy with age, his head had been hugged into his body so that he resembled a furry amoeba more than a mammal. His name was Ruff-Ruff, because evidently I was short on imagination at that point in my life, okay. Back off.
We were on a cruise in Alaska and, in the swell of excitement, I left Ruff-Ruff somewhere on the deck, I think. We left no plank unturned, but he’d probably made a break for it somewhere over the side of the ship. I never saw him again, and was inconsolable.
To shut me up, my mom and dad took me to the ship’s gift shop and let me pick out a different stuffed animal. I chose a dead-eyed generic teddy bear. I hated it. I don’t even think I bothered to name it or gender it, such was the depth of my infant grief. I’m pretty sure I dismembered it a few weeks later.
LESSON: Everything you love will leave you. Life is cruel.