Confessions of a Loser

by Jules Older 


OK, here it is — my dark secret. 

No, first, let’s set the scene. I’m a professional traveler. I make a substantial part of my unsubstantial living by traveling the globe and writing about it. I should be good at travel.

I am… when I travel with my wife. We serenely swan into Portland or Ponce or Pittsburgh, where we observe, write, photograph, and leave. People say, “My, what a competent couple.”

Couple. That’s the key word here.

When I travel without Effin (who should be declared my legal guardian, not my spouse), I lose everything. Everything. That’s my dark secret.

On a ski trip to Italy, when I drove on to Cortina, my right ski boot stayed behind in Val Gardena. Care to guess how much it costs to ship one ski boot across the Dolomites?

On recent trips, I’ve left my swimsuit in Miami, car keys in Montreal, camera in… I never did find where I left that camera. 

Once, in New Zealand, I got a call from a stranger. “Are you Jules Older?”

“I am.”

“Did you leave your credit card at the Logan Park tennis courts?”

“No, it’s in my wallet.”

“Would you mind checking?”

“Not at all, it’s right here in my… in my…”

“Yes, Mr. Older?”

“If you give me your address, I’ll come by for the card and the wallet.”

But the worst trip by far — the one that convinced me I shouldn’t be allowed to leave home without Effin — was in Montana. I’d gone for a week of downhill and cross-country skiing with four other ski writers; one of them, my friend Jean.

From Day One, Hour One, I could not keep track of my possessions. I left a suitcase in the airport. We had to go back for it. I left my parka in a restaurant. We had to go back for it. I left my hat in a baselodge men’s room. I had to go back for it. And I actually left my skis in a hotel. That time, the group seriously considered sending me back by foot. In a blizzard. And going on without me.

On the last day of the trip, as we were driving to the ski area, Jean had a sudden urge for caffeine. That was unlike her — she’s usually the one pushing to be the first on the chairlift. But we stopped for coffee, then piled back in the van for the drive to the mountain. 

When we got there, I opened the rear door and tossed out five pairs of skis, five pairs of boots, four pairs of ski poles... Four pairs of poles? 

Yeah. Everybody’s except mine.

As the others silently watched, I searched. I pulled everything out, opened everything up, and threw everything back in. Nada. I must have left them back at the inn. 

 “Why me?” I whimpered. “Why is it always me?” I considered checking into a locked institution as soon as I got home. If I hadn't lost my plane ticket, too.

When the last of the clothes and bags were back in the van, Jean sweetly offered to lend me her spare set of poles. “That would be great,” I murmured, pathetically grateful.

 “On second thought, though, maybe I shouldn’t. They’re my favorite poles, and if you lost them…”

I groaned, and Jean said brightly, “Hey, Jules, why don’t you just rent a pair? The shop is right over there.”

I trudged dispiritedly to the rental shop. When I got there, the door was blocked by a crossed set of ski poles stuck in the snow. 

Isn’t that odd, I thought. Someone else has the same old, black, scratched-up model as mine… WITH MY NAME ON THEM.

Behind me, I heard an outburst of raucous laughter from my friends. 

I knew it! I knew Jean didn’t really want that coffee. Rats don’t drink caffeine. 


Jules Older’s ebook of travel misadventure is DEATH BY TARTAR SAUCE: A Travel Writer Encounters Gargantuan Gators, Irksome Offspring, Murderous Mayonnaise & True Love.

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