The Island of Lost Clothes

When you live your life eternally rummaging through a suitcase around the world, although you end up with an interesting collection of ticket stubs, post cards, knick-knacks and foreign hot sauce, you are also left with an astounding lack of clothing.

Most of my trips have encompassed a strapped-on backpack, not a rolling matching suitcase set, leaving me with no other options but to recycle clothing over and over again, mercilessly wearing them down until they have only two options to deal with their remaining shelf life – get abandoned or get lost.

Abandoning clothes at various airports throughout the world due to one too many holes, a lack of effectiveness of the sitting on a suitcase for those few extra inches of space, or simply the obvious end of an item never makes me feel guilty – instead, it makes me feel like I got my money’s worth and I actually made an economical purchase in buying something that I kept until its unfortunate end.

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Not everyone makes it through customs.

However, in my possession, besides the fact that most of what I own turns to dust, the rest of what I own simply disappears which does make me feel an insurmountable amount of guilt. Dresses, sandals, boots, shorts and tops all mysteriously vanish as they journey across the world with me, almost as if they decided all on their own that it was time to part ways and move on to a new, nameless owner.

There aren’t many things that are more frustrating than using time and effort shopping for clothing, spending hard-earned cash that could easily, and possibly more responsibly, been spent on food, and creating a place for it in an already minuscule closet only to have it evaporate into thin air and leave one forced to think back on trips weekends and weekends ago, wondering whose car or whose hotel room it could possibly be living in. I find myself constantly digging through my own laundry room, trying to remember the last time I’ve seen an item and questioning if the dryer is really eating things like I’ve always suspected.

Just today, I realized that a piece of clothing I brought with me on a weekend away was missing and I unapologetically harassed the concierge desk at the hotel asking if they had it stuffed in their lost and found. They seemed baffled that someone would call in for anything other than jewelry, wallets, car keys or other irreplaceable items, but for someone with limited time and money as myself, even this is good enough reason to inquire.

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Someone lost one two many t-shirts.

As I began to deal with the loss of yet another item, I began to really wonder where these things were ending up when I realized I was keeping my own island of lost clothes – things I had (embarrassingly) found or been given that had once  belonged to another. A tank top a friend found on the side of the road at Syracuse University, a red dress the same friend had stolen from a laundry room and sent to me, accompanied by a clever poem. A bracelet I found outside of a dining hall, a designer top an old employer had passed over to me after digging through her exceptional closet.

They were just faceless items, but like what I currently had in my own closet, I truly hoped that my past things had found new homes somewhere else on their own island of lost clothes. I hoped that someone had found them, probably a 14-year-old girl that fit into my stuff, and felt like she was having a pretty lucky day in the fact that she had just scored some nice thing for absolutely nothing.

Clothes are clothes and things are things – and they don’t carry real memories like we do. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t have history. And I, for one, like to think my own things that have been left globetrotting about have quite the stories to share as they jump from closet to closet and country to country, soon to be left in the hands of yet another relentless traveler.

How To Live

So right now I am in my NEW BED! Well, not really new. Actually it’s borrowed from our realtor but whatever it’s new to me. The point is that I have moved once again, but this time it’s back to school for my LAST SEMESTER! Great now I’m depressed.

Anyway, as I was moving in, I looked at the piles of junk that my mother and I deposited on my bed. Bags and bags of clothes, printers, fans, jewelry boxes, backpacks… and two lone suitcases. The two suitcases that I was allowed to bring for my semester in Italy. That’s it. Two suitcases.

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And you know what’s funny? As I looked at this giant pile that was ever-growing on my bed, I wondered how much of that stuff I actually really neededI went to Italy with two suitcases, and never missed a thing. These new perfectly content suitcases that had the chance to see the world. I visited seven other countries during my semester abroad and 15 Italian cities and had plenty to prepare me for the cold, the heat, and the ugly. So did I really need all of this stuff? No. I didn’t.

Am I going to send it back? Uhh, no. As I explained to my mother I had already spent a semester wearing the same shirt basically every day and that was just fine but I like having my closet back. But looking at that pile and sorting through my junk, it became clear that although travel teaches you how to deal with new people, new cultures, and new habits, it also teaches you how to live.