What Happens To All the Stuff Left Behind?

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Updated:  Jan 12/15

We had just finished 4 weeks on the west coast – 2200+ miles, 2 countries, 3 states and 13 hotels.  Packing to head home to “real life” is always a bit depressing.  It was particularly sad this time as we headed home to a hospital palliative care vigil.

Trying to re-pack into our original bags sometimes requires creativity and sometimes means we make decisions about what we will leave behind. We know there will always be some stuff left behind to balance out new things we picked up.

The things in the stuff left behind:

Beach gear (cheap beach towels, beach mats or tacky flip flops): We never pack this stuff when we travel and we no longer need to add to our collection at home.  This is always stuff left behind.

Almost empty containers and unused hotel supplies we picked up but then did not use (sunscreen, mouthwash, body cream): My cosmetics bag is probably the heaviest thing I give to David to pack in his bag. Our packing strategy always assumes the cosmetic bag will be lighter on the return trip.

Food and plastic utensils: We like to picnic when we travel and over a trip accumulate supplies (napkins from every place we eat, basic necessities like peanut butter, fruit from breakfast buffets and so on). Other than dry snack food that gets packed in the carry-on bags, the rest has to be eaten or tossed or is stuff left behind.

Things we have can discard because we bought replacements while traveling: Almost every trip I get a new purse because I break the straps on one I have brought, trying to cram just too much in, and the safety pin closure does not inspire confidence. I often pack clothes that I know won’t survive the whole trip (like the top that lost all of its elastic in the hot hot dryer). We also figure we will walk out at least one pair of shoes on any long trip.  The old things are stuff left behind.

Paper maps, tour brochures, tour tickets: In this new online world, everything we need can be found online and captured into my anal electronic travel prep planner (see separate blog). We can return home without paper reminders of places we went and we long ago stopped bringing back anything more than memories, blog entries and photos back as souvenirs of our travels.  Sometimes I am not happy about this stuff left behind.  When I am blogging and need the names of things easily, it would sometimes be nice to have that brochure.

What we might bring back from a trip:

After travelling, we have had to make room for a few things we bought that would not fit into “leave behind” spaces:

Pillows for both David and I, that we bought after the second stop with really horrid pillows on our 4 week west coast trip. We were surprised that we did need these pillows at all stops because we never found good pillows in the hotels. Boy did we get spoiled in Europe with the number of hotels (even little ones) that offered “Pillow Menus” to select your perfect match.

A small rolling cooler that we used on our west coast road trip – that sorta negates one rule from above – but our new condo has BBQs and the cooler will be great for getting all our food and supplies down 42 floors and out back.

Kitchen utensils that we will use at home (e.g. the great cheese grater from Italy) or will put in our travel pack (e.g. a great knife for using on picnics).

Unique souvenirs:  We no longer bring back much as souvenirs – for us or for friends and family – no tacky tourist trinkets that just end up as clutter.  When we found awesome lemoncello chocolate candies, I filled my carry on with treats for everyone.  Occasionally we find a wine or liqueur that is unique enough to pack carefully to bring home (e.g. David’s  liquoriza that only seems to be made in Italy).  No t-shirts unless they are really different and have no plastic appliqué.  Our memories, pictures and this blog is the best thing we bring back.

We have often been lucky with baggage limitations.  When we did our west coast trip, we booked “Plus” class with WestJet and had 2 bags each on the return trip.  The only challenge was ensuring we could find carts because with carry-on bags, we were still short a few hands to move all the bags.  When we travel to Europe we are travelling business class these days, figuring that our long Europe trips amortize the extra cost over a much longer period.

Each trip we leave a pile of stuff left behind, carefully set out on the desk. In poorer countries, we hope that the cleaning staff may actually make use of some gently used things we leave behind. But who really knows what happens to all the stuff that people leave behind in hotel rooms!

What do you routinely have stuff left behind at the end of a trip?  What do you think happens to that stuff left behind?  What do you bring back?

About TravelAtWill 503 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

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