Lost Work: A Life Lesson in a Bottle

Life lessons found in a bottle

A couple of years ago, I came across a treasure.

At least I think it was a treasure. Unfortunately, its real value I’ll never know.

What I found, while taking a break in my boat (I’m a sculler as well as a travel writer) was a bottle bobbing in the waves. I paddled over to it and saw what looked like milk inside.

But on closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t milk, it was a note, on which I could clearly see the penciled words “Open This.”

Carefully, I scooped it up into my shell and rowed back to the dock.

Once on shore, I painstakingly removed some heavy tape that had been wrapped around the bottle cap, to prevent water from seeping in. But a little water had gotten in and the paper was soggy.

Were these directions to some buried treasure?

I could see what appeared to be elaborate instructions on what to do should someone find this message.

Were these directions to some buried treasure? A cry for help from someone marooned in the Atlantic Ocean?

I’ll never know, because it was virtually impossible to decipher what was written.

We are all so focused on getting our content done and online these days, that few of us really take the time to make sure we’re archiving things the way we should so they’re not only available to us, but maybe our offspring or …down the road, some historians.

A friend of mine wrote the other day and said his back-up drive had crashed and he lost everything. It was the back-up drive. Repeat. The BACK-UP drive.

He had been smart. He had a back-up drive. But because of the crash, not only did he lose years of work, but his work (at least what was on that back-up drive) vanished from history.

I think establishing an electronic back-up system is just the first step in saving our work for the long-term. For the stuff we really treasure—and want to be treasured—we need to create a system to insure its survival. I know none of us really want to deal with having more paper around, but that might be one way to save it.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I think it’s a topic that needs our attention. Wouldn’t that be like a pie in the face if everything we did digitally suddenly just disappeared?


What steps do you take to ensure the long term survival of your work?

About Susan Farewell 27 Articles

Susan Farewell is the editor-in-chief of FarewellTravels.com, a travel information and planning site drawing on the experiences and insights of passionate travelers all over the world. It features animations, videos, photography, artwork and of course, words, to showcase travel destinations, experiences and products.

A former travel editor and staff writer at The Condé Nast Publications in New York City, Susan is a widely known digital, print and broadcast travel journalist. Her work has appeared in numerous publications (and sibling websites) including  Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue, Gourmet, Cooking Light, Travel and Leisure, Outside, Metropolitan Home, McCall’s, Child and Bride’s. She also writes for newspapers such as The New York Times and The New York Post, newsletters (BottomLine Personal) and numerous in-flight and regional magazines as well as various websites.

In addition to writing, Farewell has also developed countless products both in digital and traditional media from travel guides to online magazines.

She is the  author of several books including "How To Make A Living As A Travel Writer", "Hidden New England" and "Quick Escapes from New York City" (the latter two have had multiple editions). She has also co-authored many books.

Susan is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the New York Travel Writers, the North American Snowsports Journalists and the Eastern Ski Writers Association.


  1. Interesting thought. I have several backups of my work on disks, stored not only in my own house, but also in my parents house. But if we suddenly didn’t have electricity anymore, I wouldn’t be able to recover any of it.
    Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is handy to keep a hard copy of the most important things as well. I never actually thought of doing that, but it’s a good idea.
    .-= Maria Staal´s last blog post: The Vikings In The Low Lands =-.

  2. Thank you for this post. So much trust is placed in everything being recoverable, yet, like you said, it’s so easy to lose everything. I’ll be thinking of ways to save things in several formats and not relying on digital to always be there for me.
    .-= Krista´s last blog post: Markets and Gazpacho Salad =-.

  3. I recently considered using a on-line backup system instead of an external hard drive, but your article makes me think twice. What if the company that had all my data were to suddenly close shop? The history of other companies, from Pan American Airlines to Prodigy, from NYC’s Tavern on the Green to Lehman Brothers, doesn’t give me confidence.

Sorry, Commenting is automatically closed on all Posts older than two years.

Some links on this page do earn us a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. Not much, maybe enough for a cup of coffee or a beer, but we would never recommend any item if we didn't believe in it's value to you. Plus, every little bit helps keep this site going and helps us continue to provide you with great information.  We appreciate your support!