The Things We Leave Behind

Among my many character flaws quirks, I am impossibly forgetful. But you probably already knew that. Come to think of it, I also have pretty bad luck when it comes to leaving things on public transportation. (RIP to my favorite aviator sunglasses that fell down the subway track this summer, and don’t even remind me of the Peruvian chocolate taxi incident of 2016…)

So it should come as no surprise that the inevitable happened: I lost something that can’t be replaced. Monetarily speaking, it wasn’t too harsh of a blow, but this item held infinitely more value to me than its price tag.

As I write this, my travel journal is probably riding through Eastern Europe somewhere on a Hungarian charter bus. In the disorder of collecting my things upon arrival in Budapest a few weeks ago, I seemed to have left that tiny treasure in the back pocket of my bus seat.

From the outside, my journal doesn’t look like much. It’s white with gold flowers, clearly cheap because I bought it at Wal-Mart the day before I left for Spain in a last-minute decision to dedicate a book solely to this chapter of my life. Its modest exterior does not reveal the treasured thoughts it contains. To anyone who finds this journal, it’s nothing more than the silly (hopefully entertaining) ramblings of a study abroad student. But to me, it is some of my best days yet, some of the most memorable experiences of my life: the details of all the exciting new things I’ve experienced and reflections of all my growth and learning. It is a part of me, not to be dramatic or anything.

But my journal isn’t the only thing I am leaving behind in Europe. (And I’m not talking about my missing earring either, or all of the old shoes I will most likely not be able to fit in my suitcase, ugh).

The truth is, I am leaving behind a lot. There are pieces of me now in so many different locations, parts of myself that I’ve left in the places that have changed me. There are things that I’ve shed in order to make space for the new– misconceptions and false expectations that dissolved as my worldview grew; traits and tendencies that have shifted as my lifestyle adapted to a new culture; truths I thought I knew but discovered were never really true at all.

That’s how it goes when we travel. Sometimes we leave behind the old junk in order to make room for all the new things we collect along the way. We shed the weight of the past as we journey, because in life– like in airplanes–there’s no room for extra baggage.

The best part, though, is that the things we lose are never really lost at all. The places that have inspired me will always be there, and my memories will live on even as the world around them changes with the times. And I can only hope the places that have changed me have felt my small impact, too, even for a brief moment.

Maybe someone out there found my journal and decided it was worth a read. Maybe they got a kick out of it; maybe they laughed or cried right along with it as they read, like I did at times as I wrote. Maybe they needed to find it and maybe I needed to lose it.

Or maybe I really just need to learn to not be so forgetful…

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