Ode to a shirt

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Dearly beloved,

We are gathered here today outside this crappy guesthouse in Kuta to say farewell to a dear and treasured friend.  He wasn’t fancy or famous, but for those that knew him well he was a reliable and faithful companion.  He was always there when you needed him, ready and waiting, never uttering a word of complaint in even the most trying conditions.

Today we remember my good mate, Old Checked Travel Shirt.

I first met Shirt, as I liked to call him, back in 2007.  We were young and fresh back then, neither of us sporting the ingrained wrinkles that we would accumulate in later years.  Walking into a surf shop in a Melbourne outlet mall and idly flicking through the rack, my eye was drawn to a white shirt with large blue and white checks just hanging there.  Unloved.  Unwanted.  Sad and lonely.

Dave in Greek Islands

Somehow I just knew that we were meant for one another.  Despite the faint hint of lumberjack that seemed to accompany him, it was time for Shirt to break free from the confines of Australian suburbia.  We were going to see the world together.

His freedom cost a mere forty bucks.  Who among us today can say they have enjoyed such loyalty, such utility, such love, for so trifling an amount?

We started our wanderings a year later, boarding a plane to Asia.  Admittedly my trip was a little more luxurious than his – mine in a Singapore Airlines cabin, his rolled up inside a bag in the hold – but we both made it safely to our destination.  For the next six months we were inseparable – sometimes quite literally, given the humidity.  Through thick and thin, rain and shine, sweat and … more sweat, we crossed the globe.

Travel shirt in Halong Bay

From Switzerland to South Africa, Hanoi to Helsinki, an increasingly-stained and rapidly-fading Shirt kept making an appearance.  I downed a Singapore Sling at the bar in Raffles with him, then soaked him in a foul combination of sweat and sea water in Halong Bay.

We traipsed up the Eiffel Tower, across the Brooklyn Bridge and along the Freedom Trail.  The two of us even had a photo together on my birthday in the Greek Islands, one that I use regularly to this day.  We had a great time that night, the two of us, although Shirt remembers a lot more of it than I do.

Eventually that trip ended, and Shirt and I put things on hold for a while.  We didn’t seem to get on as well when I was back in the real world, working a corporate job and going to expensive bars.  Our relationship was one built on travel.  All of a sudden we had nothing in common, no beautiful moments to share.

18 months later, though, we kissed and made up and headed for the airport once more.  Most of our journey together was spent in South East Asia, and we shared many a sleepless overnight bus ride and crazy scooter experience.

Age and injury was starting to take its toll on Shirt, however.  He picked up a nasty cut on a nail in Nha Trang, and even after the finest medical treatment a tiny sewing kit could provide, he was never really the same again.  Blotches and blemishes started to appear, and where once he would have just shrugged them off they now became a permanent fixture.  My friend wasn’t doing well.

Back in November we debated whether he was up for another trip.  Still bearing the marks from the last time round, I think we both knew that this would be his final journey.  Still, there was no way I could just leave him behind after all we had been through.  If he was going to die, it could only be far from home in a foreign land.  He deserved that, at least.

Travel shirt death

The end, when it came, was sudden.  Seemingly overnight, Shirt’s condition deteriorated dramatically.  Walking down the road with him one final time here in Bali, the truth was plain to see on the faces of those around me.  There was nothing to be gained from prolonging the suffering any longer.

It was time to say goodbye.

And so, dear Shirt, this brings us to today and I bid you farewell.  Of all the places we have been together, the amazing sights and life-changing experiences we have shared, it seems tragic beyond words that a tourist pit like Kuta has become your final resting place.  It should have been somewhere so much better.  So much more.

Do shirts have a heaven?  If they do, you surely belong in it.  Take care up there, old friend, as you journey to the Great Clothesline in the Sky.  May all your washes be hot ones.

You will be sadly missed.

24 Responses to “Ode to a shirt

  • Awww, poor shirt. Did you at least take a little corner to tuck into your backpack?

    • I didn’t … I think he’d suffered enough without one final piece of surgery, you know?

  • Awww I’m so sorry for your loss, Dave. Old Checked Travel Shirt had a good life… and it’s all thanks to you. Try to remember the good times. Shirt’s memory will live on through the stories you tell and the pictures you have…

    Stay strong.

  • Awww. Men and their shirts. My dad had a little ceremony for his favourite shirt. Dad’s white shirt lasted a bit longer than Old Checked Shirt though. It was his cricket shirt, which did double-duty as his wedding shirt one fine day in 1969. More than 20 years after his appearance as Best Shirt, he was laid to rest.

    • Old Checked Travel Shirt and I stand down. Your dad wins. Hands down, really…

  • Please accept my condolances for your sad loss. I’m sure that Shirt will live on in your memories as a faithful travel companion. He may no longer be in your backpack but he will always remain in our hearts.

    Stay strong and know that we are all here for you during these difficult times.

  • You look like adam sandler in the halong bay pic

    • I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not…

      • A young adam sandler…. Not the grey haired — hasnt worked out in ten years adam sandler. Alright im going to stop before this comment becomes creepy.

  • You should have framed him!! Sad 🙁

  • michelle
    9 years ago

    I hope you at least took him for one final drink?

  • Swweet read dude!! where is shirts final resting place? did you bury it? weird question but just curious haha

    • I couldn’t do it … couldn’t just throw him out. I left him hanging over a chair as I put my backpack on and just quietly walked away…

  • Aww, this is so sweet! “May all your washes be hot ones” — love.

    I have a blue tank top that I feel the same way about, but it still has some time left. I shall treasure it.

    • Hold tight to that top. Cuddle and be gentle with it … you never know when your time together may come to a sudden and terrible end…

  • Ha ha, love it! I have a mate who has a shirt relationship like this!

  • Dave,

    We feel your pain. Perhaps up in heaven he will meet a matching pair of trousers and find eternal bliss.


    Larissa and Michael

  • I started traveling with a pair of pants, well capris, that went to my knees and were the perfect bus pants. But eventually I wore a hole through the butt and even though I wore them a few more times hoping no one would notice I finally gave them away. I was really sad about it.

  • I’m sorry for your loss- of this particular shirt and of the security you had in knowing what you would wear each day. I travel with the Trifecta of Purple shirts; one a non-bulky wool sweater, one a tank top and one light-weight but long-sleeved. I would not know what to do without them!

  • Brilliamt! Are u providing any articles to any publications at the moment?

  • Loved this post Dave! Hilarious really! Those items that we carried with us/wore on so many adventures experienced them with us, they are a big part of the story!

    I had to part with my beloved hiking boots, worn all around the world, my closest companion for years. On a last trip we also had the discussion on whether they should retire, but I wasn’t ready. After a day of 26 river crossings, boots were warming by the fire. Not sure if it was the fire’s idea or that of the boots, but they caught flame. Boots received a final, spiritual cremation (I’m assuming of their own will) in the hills of The Gila National Forest in New Mexico, US. It was a beautiful and sentimental parting during our final adventure. 🙂

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