Would I like to see them again?


Jeffrey Tayler revisits his first travel journal and all that has been lost over time @ WorldHum.

Every now and then I sort through my belongings and cull the superfluous. This habit started with my first trip overseas (to Greece, in 1982) and the challenge I faced then in fitting all I needed into my rucksack. Though I’ve been living in one country (Russia) for the past 17 years, and in the same Moscow apartment since 2000, I keep on culling, figuring that my most significant “possessions” are immaterial ones: memories, if often logged into journals, battered notebooks with blue or green cardboard covers and dog-eared pages.

As far as other things go—be they books, clothes, whatever—I’ve always thought it best to own as little as possible. It’s more important to be, not to have. Or so I tell myself.

So, the other day, during a routine culling, I pulled out of the closet one of the suitcases I’d brought with me when I first moved to Moscow, and popped it open. I use it to store things, so I began rummaging to see what I could toss. Out from one of the case’s side pockets tumbled an address book, forest-green, the size of a playing card, with ADDRESSES TELEPHONES embossed in gold on the cover. I had forgotten about this booklet. Seeing it evoked an inexplicable pang of grief, and then a poignant nostalgia verging on the bereft, and then curiosity. I had bought it the year before going to Greece, while still at university in upstate New York. It was one of the few items I’d packed” in my rucksack that would link me with friends and family of my “old life” in the U.S. during my senior year abroad. I remembered carrying it aboard the long, lonely charter flight from JFK to Athens in July of 1982, to what I hoped would be a new life; it had accompanied me that autumn on my first forays, made from Italy, into countries of the socialist bloc; and it had dwelled in my pocket the next year on a seven-month ramble from Czechoslovakia through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia, all then “people’s republics” that seemed like political Rocks of Gibraltar, repressive, iron-walled and eternal, not shaky shams that would be gone within a decade; and, in the case of Yugoslavia, burn with the fires of war.

Image: Sandra Dieckman @ Paper Darts/

read more