Travel memories: The best souvenirs we have

My battered old campervan in Australia

The worst thing that happened while I was travelling

I spent nearly 2 years travelling through SE Asia and Australia and I was actually really lucky – barely anything went wrong.

I was never disastrously ill or mugged. I never ran out of money or had to spend a night sleeping on the streets. I didn’t break any bones or get arrested. I did have two cameras stolen but they were quickly replaced and it was nothing that could ruin my trip.

The worst thing that happened while I was travelling was in some ways far worse than having expensive belongings stolen.

I lost my journal.

I’m a bit of an old-fashioned kind of girl and I love nothing more than sitting down at the end of the day with an ice cold beer, my journal and a pen. It’s a bit of a contradiction for a blogger to prefer writing a private journal but there’s something about paper and pen that makes my thoughts flow freely and the words come with ease.

I write things down that I didn’t even know I was thinking until the words are staring at me from the page. I can look back on the day and see it in a completely different way, a way that makes sense and makes my thoughts slot together like the pieces of a jigsaw. Passing moments that seemed inconsequential suddenly seem important and special.

So I think you get the point; I like to write a journal.

When I arrived in Australia I bought myself a new journal with hundreds of blank pages waiting to be filled with my adventures.

Every day I’d take some time to myself and scribble down everything that was in my head. Sometimes I’d neatly write out some poetic prose, other times I’d scrawl a few thoughts while bumping along in the passenger seat of our campervan. Sometimes I’d just about manage the words ‘Too hungover to think’ and I’d know that the previous night had been filled with beach parties and bags of goon.

By the end of a year I’d filled every page and took my journal to the post office to send home. I wrapped it carefully and wrote my familiar home address across the envelope – a short address that brought back warm and happy memories.  I was already looking forward to reading the journal as an old lady, reliving my Aussie Adventures.

“I’d like to post this to the UK, please,” I told the lady behind the desk.

She weighed it on some old scales, not dissimilar to the ones my grandma had used for baking.

“That’s $23,” she announced proudly.

Twenty-three dollars! Twenty-three Australian dollars. You must be having a laugh, lady! I could buy a few boxes of wine and still have change left over from $23!

So instead of paying the measly amount to send home all of my memories, all of my thoughts, all the highs, all the lows, all the excitement and all the happiness, I decided to pack my journal at the bottom of my backpack where would be safe for the remainder of my journey.

I don’t think I need to tell you what happened next.

A few months later while relaxing in Bali, I realised that I hasn’t seen my journal for a while. I quickly emptied the contents of my backpack and all my travel companions’ backpacks too. I threw clothes, shoes, books and bags around my guest house, sure it must be somewhere. It must be hiding somewhere.

But when you have so few possessions it doesn’t take long to realise when something is gone.

I don’t know when, where or how I lost it, all I knew was that I would never see it again. I’d travelled through five different countries in those 2-3 months, stayed in countless guesthouses (saw some nice Venetian Blinds in some places), travelled on countless buses and trains, packed and unpacked my backpack countless times. It could literally be anywhere.

I was upset at the time but not particularly devastated. My memories were still fresh and clear. I was still having the time of my life; I didn’t need a journal to remind me of that.

But now, almost a year on, those perfect memories are becoming a foggy haze, like a drunken memory or the finals wisps of a dream.

Taking time to chill out in Oz (quickly before the tide comes in!)

I’m now scouring every photo and hazy memory to write about my time in Oz. I’ll be bringing you stories, tips and photos and everything I can remember about living, working and travelling in one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited.

If I learnt anything from this experience, it’s that memories are one of the most important things we have.

I don’t usually get soppy on you but I found these quotes that I love:

Our memories are the only paradise from which we can never be expelled.” Jean Paul Richter

Preserve your memories. They’re all that’s left you.” Paul Simon.

Have you ever lost anything important while travelling? And how to you make sure you remember everything while you’re travelling?

  1. George 10 years ago

    I also write a diary (it’s good to see I’m not the only one) and while I still have that (floating about somewhere) I recently lost all of my travel photos. My hard drive on my computer crashed and I had no back up. This was a distressing time but I have a few from my blog so it’s not too bad. I mainly used my diary though to write down if I was angry at someone or upset about something (or someone). It was like talking to a friend about it but you knew they wouldn’t blab! xx

    • TheTravelHack 10 years ago

      Oh no. I also lost a memory card full of photos while I was travelling and I was devastated. None of them were very good but it’s sad to lose those memories, at least you had a few of them saved to your blog!

  2. Natalie 10 years ago

    Oh no!! That’s a horrible thing to have happened. As a fellow diary writer, I honestly can’t think of anything worse than loosing a journal.

    Whilst travelling a few years ago in Laos I found a camera near the side of the river whilst tubing in Vang Vieng. I asked around to see if it belonged to anyone, but no one knew whose it was. I took it to a bar later on that night and went through the pictures to see if I could see any familiar faces from tubing that day so I could somehow get it back to it’s owner, but I was unable to recongise any of them. I’d literally just stopped looking through the photos when I looked up to see one of the girls who had been in most of the photos enter the bar. I jumped up with surprise and asked her ‘did you loose a camera today’ and she looked amazed and said ‘yes!! Did you find it?!” and I said “yes!” and gave it to her. She looked like she was about to cry with relief. It was the nicest feeling.

    Obviously its been a bit long now so your journal probably won’t show up, but for those people who loose things on their travels – there is always hope. Some people are honest, and not everything that goes missing has been stolen. You should write your contact details on everything you own, and hope that if the worst happens and you do loose something, it will somehow find its way back to you.

    Again, totally gutted for you Monica, if that was me I would be devastated.

    • TheTravelHack 10 years ago

      That is such a nice story – It’s love to hear that it worked out for someone.
      I actually had something similar (I’m making myself sound like a forgetful clutz here with all the stuff I’ve lost) but I left my laptop in a trolley in the airport once and someone actually handed it in!

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  4. Toni 10 years ago

    As someone who constantly keeps a travel journal hun, this brought tears to my eyes. I would literally have a breakdown if I lost it as it contains so many private thoughts, feelings and whispered emotions that you don’t always want to share with others.
    It also becomes an extension of who you are since you travel with it 24/7 so I can imagine it’s like losing a part of you. I’m so sad for you lol.
    Memories truly are the stuff that books are made of!

    • TheTravelHack 10 years ago

      It wasn’t until recently that I realised how bad it is that I lost my journal. At the time I could remember everything so I didn’t think twice about it. Made me realise how important it is to write stuff down and keep your memories safe.

  5. Arjun 10 years ago

    Aweful thing to have happened! Well written blog. Keep on with your travels and adventures…don’t lose that journal.

    • TheTravelHack 10 years ago

      Thanks Arjun, I’ll definitely keep hold of the next one.

  6. Tash 10 years ago

    Australia Post is a total ripoff!

    I too have learnt this lesson. My very first trip to NYC I took loads and loads of photos, loving every sight and neighbourhood…and then got the roll of film (back in the day) developed in the place I was stopping for 3 months…and they totally botched it. Ruined the photos and the negs.

    This, and losing a camera after going to Cuba….devastating!

    The lesson is surely to soak in everything properly, so that these amazing moments are nestled in our minds somewhere, and just need a random trigger to bring them back. Awesome on an itchy-feet inducing mundane day at the office!

    • TheTravelHack 10 years ago

      Definitely. I just wish I could remember every single moment!
      I love looking back through my old photos – especially after a tough day. It’s awful that you lost all your photos – I guess it just gives us an excuse to head back to these places again!

  7. Jen 10 years ago

    Ahhhhh Mon, you poor thing I totally sympathise – I lost my memory card full of about 900 photos in America and I swear I sat in the middle of the hotel lobby and cried my heart out! I’m the same when it comes to writing things down, I think I’ve got a weird stationary fetish, I have so many books full of random scribblings. Looking forward to hearing your tales xxx

    • TheTravelHack 10 years ago

      Haha, I am so the same. I love stationary! I spent £25 in Paperchase the other day buying cards and stationary.

      Gutted about your America photos – but like I said to Tash – a great excuse to go back again some day!

  8. Sarah 10 years ago

    I just finished up 7 months of travel and although I lost some practical things (flip flops, traveler’s cheques, sanity), I am only now beginning to lose my tan lines.

    And although they are all pretty shotty, it is sort of like this time line, ya know? Like the more my tan fades, the more time has passed since that travel experience.

    I don’t know what I would do if I lost my journal but whatever you do, don’t stop writing! 🙂

    • TheTravelHack 10 years ago

      Oh I remember that feeling when you finally realise you’ve lost your travel tan.
      I kept saying to people, “I’ve just come back from travelling the world,” but once you’ve lost your tan you realise that you’re not ‘just back’, you’re well and truly back in the real world.
      This is my first winter in 3 years and I hate being white and pasty.

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  13. Matthew Hutchins 9 years ago

    Great post just found your site, can’t wait to read more.

  14. Jane 7 years ago

    Did not lose anything while travelling. I converted my wardrobe into a storage of souvenirs i collected from more than 50 countries. Its always closed and i discovered last winter that the storage also had served as hangout for mice. I had to clean up dry mice wastes etc. Luckily my stuff were sealed in boxes so im hoping the wastes did not sip through any of them. But the image in my mind of mice stumping and strolling around on top of these boxes horrified me and made me feel some sort of depression for a while.

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