Sisterhood of the Traveling Orange Towel

In August of 2007, I traveled to Italy with my two cousins, Lisa and Kim, and my “adopted” sister, Sharon. It was my first time traveling to Europe and looking back, this was the first, irrevocable step to unleashing my gypsy spirit. It was also the trip that started our tradition of the traveling orange towel.

It was a hot summer day in the tiny coast side town of Meta. While Kim and I wandered the town, Lisa and Sharon decided drinking beer on the beach was a much better idea. They were required to purchase an orange beach towel and spent the afternoon basking in the sun, while Kim and I came precariously close to getting ourselves lost! On the boat ride back to Sorrento, it occurred to me that a towel had many uses, like covering my head from the sun, and perhaps, if Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy needed a towel when traveling the Universe, then so did we. Hold that thought, I’ll be right back with some more photos . . .

Hi! TOT (Traveling Orange Towel) here. Now that Korie’s out of the room, I’m going to take over the story because I have my own perspective to share with you. I was, indeed, born in Meta along with a rackful of brothers and sisters who all looked like me! When Lisa and Sharon chose me, I thought my life would be spent as a lonely beach towel, discarded when I became too cumbersome or too worn. Little did I know I would live such a useful, lovely life racking up air miles and seeing the world! Here are just a few of my favorites from Chicago, Barcelona, Arizona, Montreal, San Diego, Niagra Falls, Morocco, Oregon and Ontario.

When they started decorating me with patches from each of their trips, I knew I had found a home unlike any other. Whether I kept them warm, provided a picnic blanket, shielded them from rain, adorned their latest adventure, or came in handy as an actual towel, it has been a wonderful ride. There’s plenty more to come and I’m up for every mile of it. Uh, oh. Ko’s coming back . . .

Oh dear, it looks like TOT has been at it again, telling her story to anyone who will listen! She wears her patches proudly and if I let her tell the stories behind some of these adventures, we’d all be in trouble. So, for now, I’m going to thank her for her continued support and hang her on display in my travel room as we get ready for the next trip.

While all of this is silly fun, there is a bigger message here about establishing a tactile, visual tradition. Our towel binds us together in a unique way that declares “we were here and we had fun!” It’s a way to remember, not just the place, but the laughter and joy that comes from shared experiences. To my sisters in travel, thank you for putting up with my urges and my silliness. Your love is woven deeply into our dear towel and she is forever in our collective heart. Here’s to many more years of adventures!

Footnote: Rules for the towel are 1) two or more of us have to be together on the trip, 2) we have to spend the night in the location in order to qualify for a legitimate photo, and 3) ala Where’s Waldo, the towel has to be displayed somewhere in the photo, 4) while we started out embroidering our patch, we quickly amended our rules to include iron-on patches!

TOT here again . . . I hope to meet you all sometime soon!

Our initial embroidery patches

Our most recent iron-on patches

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4 Responses to “Sisterhood of the Traveling Orange Towel

  • Great! TOT – did you get to come along to the UK? I can’t recall…..must be getting old! lol

  • John Windsor
    9 months ago

    What a great tradition! And nothing subtle about it, which makes the Where’s Waldo challenge all that more fun, I imagine. May TOT continue to rack up miles and memories!

  • I thank you for giving our travels and memories a framework to build on. Love your story telling. I read it like I was there all over again. You’re giving us inspiration to keep this party going.
    Much love and memories my sister and TOT!

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