Travelling with the forgetful man


I have a confession to make to you, dear readers of my blog. I am a forgetful man.


I always remember a face. However, I always forget stuff when travelling. Pens. Mobile phones. Jackets. Cameras. Umbrellas. Magazines. Debit cards. Medicine. I guess I never took it seriously till know. It’s reached the point where it’s become more than just a minor aggravation in my life.I could blame it on my father and the science of genetics.

Just now. Literally a few moments ago. I had my latest episode of forgetfulness.

Mid-air on my way to Helsinki from Amsterdam. I like to listen to music while writing. I started rummaging through my bag for my iPhone. I usually keep it in the front pocket of my bag. Actually, that’s a lie. I sometimes keep it in my jeans. No. I sometimes keep in the inside pocket of my jacket. Sometimes the outside pocket. Damn. That’s the problem. I am so absentminded.

I need process.

I spend a good part of an hour trying to search my rucksack which is towed under the front seat. I don’t know if you’ve had the utmost pleasure of sitting in the middle seat of an old rickety Boeing 737-300. Trying to do anything, is almost nigh impossible. I am strapped in firmly and can’t wriggle. My tiny elbows can’t compete with the competition from my hefty fellow Dutch travelling passengers. Plus, the gentleman in front of me has decided to lean back and make the most of the space available. I bend down and try to reach for my bag. Bang my head against the seat in front of me a few times (begins to feel quite therapeutic after awhile ) before managing to suck the bag into my lap. I plunge my hand into the bag.It starts as a gentle inquest. I dig my hand into the cavernous insides of my backpack. I’m not finding the familiar contours of my phone. I soon find myself muttering expletives to myself. I am fearing the worst by now.After a few more desperate looks, I call off the search and slump back into my pigeon hole.

I have another bout of emotional self-flagellation and realise I have another case of lost memory to add to the collection.  As I wonder where I might have lost the phone, I kind of wonder into a black hole of lost time and revisit the tragic timeline of all the things I have forgotten in my life.

I lost probably 10 umbrellas while at school.

The king size umbrellas never fitted into my school bag. So, there were easy to lose. My mother then bought the more expensive, smaller and cooler umbrellas that would snugly fit into my bag. Still, my mind played tricks on me. I would find a way of losing them. Leaving them on public buses or in cafes.I’d come home drenched. In India when the rains come, it’s like walking under a waterfall. There is no place to hide if you don’t have an umbrella.

October 2009. I lost a black jacket.

It was sleek. Wasn’t too expensive. However, it felt very comfortable with lots of pockets. I love jackets with lots of pockets. However, if you are of a forgetful disposition, trust me, it’s not a good idea having a coat with too many pockets.

I lost the black jacket on the way back to Munich airport after a few hours of drunken revelry at Oktoberfest. I had been 15 hours in Munich, thanks to easyJet. The last day of Oktoberfest. I had been set a challenge by the airline to see and discover and see many things as possible in Munich in 15 hours. Plan was to checkout some of the city’s sights before heading to the Oktoberfest grounds for a final flourish. While I managed to soak in some of the famous landmarks, rich architecture and climb up St Peter’s Kirche, practically everywhere I ended up going to in Munich, I found a beer garden. Even if you go to a public garden, you can find a beer garden. So, you end up doing what the locals do. Drink beer.  And getting drunk.

At around 4pm , I manage to drag myself to Oktoberfest and stumble into the Hofbrau tent. Inevitably, after a few hours of hanging out in the beer tent , I am dancing on the benches swinging the bigger-than-my-head-stein glasses to the Oompah band. Beer flows like water down my gullet. By the end, I’ve learnt the unofficial Bavarian national anthem and made a lot of friends. After exiting the tent, it’s all a big blur. The train journey to the airport seemed a long arduous journey.I remember sobering up in the plane on the way back.  Moment of truth. Passport was in my jeans pocket. Backpack was stowed under my seat. Suddenly I realised I was missing my new jacket. I must have left in the train. Now, when I look at the pictures and the video of my 15 hours in Munich , there is a bittersweet nostalgia.

Fast forward to 2013. One fine, sweaty afternoon in June in Venice. 

Well, a few miles outside of Venice.

A camping site on the edge of nowhere. Outside, there’s the annoying blare of cheesy Italian technopop music. Since I’ve arrived in the past hour, they’ve played the same song 5 times. I was told by the bubbly receptionist at the camp site that is the song of the summer in Italy. While the parents are beached beside the pool going red as lobsters, next-door in the bar with flashy neon lights, amidst the odd gloomy looking solo traveller with laptop, teens are getting trashed on alcopop to the sound of the song of summer.

I’m in a claustrophobic cabin at the edge of the campsite.

It’s dark inside with two small windows from which I can see only the metal fencing that encircles the campsite. Beyond the fencing is a bare naked field. I am shouting and ranting at myself in the claustrophobic cabin. I’ve ravaged the insides of my backpack a few times and in a final roll of the dice have now emptied my backpack onto the bed with squeaking  metal bed frame.It’s a strange sight to see the guts of your backpack emptied onto a bed. Something very raw, naked and undignified. A few Chupa Chupas . A bottle of brand new Chanel Bleu aftershave.My passport. My Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring book. Interrail pass. Bunch of Euros. Ton of endless beer, bratwurst and burger receipts from my time in Berlin. A few museum tickets and a few chocolate wrappers I’ve collected that I’ve kept in the hope that one day I’ll create a scrapbook about my travels.

One key thing is missing. My bank card.

My wallet looks confused, dysfunctional without the card. 

I keep looking at the wallet, digging through the few euro notes and receipts, hoping by miracle that the card would magically reveal itself and my nightmare would be over. Finally, I give up and slump onto the squeaky bed. I  close my eyes and remember when I last used my card. While buying my favourite aftershave, Chanel Bleu at duty free in Berlin airport. I must have left the card in the machine . I look at the Chanel Bleu bottle with disgust for many hours and have a daydream of finding a time machine.

I have just €20 in my pocket and I don’t have a normal credit card or any means of access to cash. I don’t know anyone in Venice. I do have one of those prepaid credit cards.  I don’t know if you ever had one of these cards. You can pre-load them with cash. I unfortunately had no funds left in the card. The card had been my backup option and gathering dust for awhile in my wallet. It took me 48 hours for cash to transfer from my UK bank account to this prepaid cash card. 48 hours in Venice. With just €20? What followed was quite an emotional experience.

These are just a few of my favourite things I have lost. I could write a book about stuff I’ve lost. It’s scarred me a fair bit.  Whenever I am on the road, I’m always worried I am forgetting something. On the airport bus. Leaving the hostel.

Wallet check. Passport check. Ticket check. Laptop check. Smartphone check. Camera check. Tablet check. Medicine check. Contact lenses check. There are so many damn variables to juggle.

You think a life of constant travelling would make one more functional.

More organised. Less forgetful. Instead the more I travel, the more worse it seems to becoming. I’ve become more shaky. I’ve always known I have a problem of forgetting stuff. I guess I’ve never realised until now that it is a serious problem I have to address.

I’ve grown weary to travelling with the forgetful man.

I want to say goodbye to him. Forget him. Leave him in some dark corner by the road.

I have taken a major first step to banishing him and googled ‘ways to avoid forgetfulness.’

The first article that Google brings up suggests in the very first line

‘The best way to remember things is to not use your brain..’

I must remember that. Thanks Google.

How do you remember things when travelling on the road?

I’d like to hear your thoughts and tips.  By the way, I have now arrived safely in Helsinki and writing this post from my hotel room. A little piece of news. Just after the plane landed and I was about to bolt from my pigeon hole and make a run for it, I had the good sense to have a look at the seat pocket in front of me.  Nestled right at the bottom guess what I found…









  • Nicole says:

    Haha, oh Kash. I’m glad you found your phone. 🙂
    I think it must be all of that time that we have our head in the clouds (flying) that something has happened because I am a forgetful young woman.

    When I was working at summer camp each morning I’d play a game with myself (and anyone around me) called “if I (Nicole) was a smart person, where would I leave my keys (to the radio shack.”
    Far too many times did I have to break into the building by dislodging the sliding window and then getting a boost to climb through the window 6 feet off the ground. *sigh*

    How to solve this? I do not yet know though my Mum has suggested I get electronic luggage lock-like devices that I can track on my phone though I’m pretty sure I’d then lose my phone.

  • Jeanette says:

    Kash, it’s *all* about process. Always putting things in the same places; double- and sometimes triple-checking (quadruple if necessary!) on the whereabouts of things. My OCD tendencies are a blessing and a curse all rolled into one.

  • I’m a bit like Jeanette- everything has it’s place!

  • When you find a solution mate… let me know! If I have any extra bags or anything loose, chances are slim I’ll remember it. My number 1 tip to anybody asking about travel is (and has always been) ‘don’t take anything you aren’t prepared to lose’.

    I travel with lots I’d prefer not to lose, but it’s all replaceable at the end of the day… still sore about the excellent waterproof socks amongst other outdoor clothes I left in a bag on an Italian train, and the brilliant local ordanance maps of the japanese ski town I lived in for a few months – I carried them carefully around Japan for a week including going back to reclaim them from cafes etc twice, before finally losing them completely.

  • It must be an illness – and I am afflicted. Luckily for me, things have surfaced at places I could have bet I would have never put them in. I am excellent at remembering faces though – including television actors I might have seen once on some long forgotten show. But, isn’t is just wonderful to finally find something you thought was lost. Adventures don’t always happen in life…sometimes you have to create them. 🙂

    • ‘Adventures don’t always happen in life…sometimes you have to create them.’

      You could not have said it better Vibha… I think my forgetfulness does conjure up some pretty dramatic scenarios….been lucky most of the time to get my stuff back. a great feeling being reunited with your stuff haha

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