The Five Stages of Losing Your Data - Poplar Travels
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Jun 16 2015

The Five Stages of Losing Your Data

Recently, from our hard drive, which we rely on to store all our data from our travels, came forth a terrible death rattle. It clicked and whirred and simply refused to register and thus began our panic. The possibility of losing all this information, which was mostly photos, has taken us through a range of emotions. As we move through “The Five Stages of Losing Your Data” we are doing our best to find a bright side (care to help us out with that one?) and pass on the valuable lessons we have learned to fellow travelers and photographers.

If this has ever happened to you or you are currently experiencing this same kind of loss, know that we understand your pain.

Our little guy went on an adventure to a lab in Florida, is currently on his way back to us because absolutely zero progress was made, and will then be shipped on to his manufacturer as a last resort. While we wait with baited breath as he passes through the hands of helpless techies, we are beginning to come to terms with the fact that all may be lost. And to our credit, that is a long way from fervent denial, where we started this emotional journey.


It’s fine. Technology is so advanced these days they’ll just scan the hard drive in some other magical machine and we’ll get all our data back. We dropped it last week, but it wasn’t plugged in and it wasn’t even a proper fall. It’s not like we chucked the thing against a wall. Plus, it worked after that, so it can’t be the reason.

Desperate rationalizations for why this was no big deal. There are a couple data recovery centers around the country that have really good reviews, so we sent it off and hoped to get everything back on a new drive. This will just set us back about a week and everyone will understand. Right?



Please let me get all my data back. You can take all the blurry ones that we were too lazy to delete, just don’t erase all my elephant photos or that really great sunset photo we took in Bali. Please, let me keep an entire year’s worth of photos. If we can just get at least the most important stuff back we’ll upload it right away! We’ll duplicate all the data onto three indestructible hard drives! PLEASE we’ll do anything, Tech Gods, just keep our photos safe!

If we could just go back in time and make a decision more quickly. We had spent weeks researching cloud storage and deciding which one made the most sense and would get us the most for our money. If we could have bit the bullet and bought that unlimited storage on Amazon or space on Flickr or…


Buddhism in Myanmar5


“When the hard drive comes back, do you want us to recycle it?”


I imagined my hands shooting through my cell and out of the phone on the other end to strangle the man whose voice was proposing this absolutely insane concept. Sound violent? We have entered the anger stage. After paying to expedite a diagnosis, send our drive off to a clean room in Florida and expressing that this data was very important, there was no energy left to deal with a supposed “tech expert” assuming we just wanted to trash the thing before trying again.

We made a few calls to see what our options were and every tech became the enemy. “Oh, it’s clicking, not beeping? Every time it clicks, the hard drive is being scratched and you’re permanently deleting more data.”

It had clicked a lot. I ended the conversation and started sobbing as soon as I hung up the phone.

The blame shifted to everyone but ourselves. Why would anyone create a product for the sole purpose of housing important data that is so friggin fragile? How is there no way to take the disk from the hard drive and just put it into another reader of some sort? Why is a hard drive made with moving parts that could cause it to self destruct after the tiniest nudge? Why did they send our hard drive off to a lab that couldn’t do anything? Why is everyone trying to sabotage our blog?

Losing your data

This is what it looks like when you are sick and on your way to go hiking, which is coincidentally very similar to what it looks like to lose your data


Despite my best efforts, thoughts of specific images and moments we could lose keep popping into my head. I look at the assignments we have fallen so dreadfully behind on as we wait for photos and start to realize we had some seriously amazing shots from those locations.

We won’t be able to show these photos to our hypothetical kids some day. My mom hasn’t even seen all the places we visited. I was going to frame some photos for our apartment, but hadn’t picked them out yet. We took all the photos during a friend’s visit and I had yet to share them with her. We use our photos as notes and inspirations when we’re writing about where we’ve been, so losing them has made keeping up with the blog seem incredibly daunting. You may have noticed we haven’t been updating regularly, and while that is mostly due to our other projects taking up our time, I’d be lying if I said it had nothing to do with the absence of our drive.

It’s a very sad thing, to lose all those photos. We had approximately 120,000 images on that drive. Photos from years ago. An iPhoto library and a Lightroom library. Photos from before our move to Thailand. Parties we had in D.C. with food friends. At least 9 countries represented in photos Eric and I took on trips together and separately with our families.



We don’t even know if all our images are lost, but we have begun operating under the assumption that they are. They’re gone, and like material possessions, they are essentially just things, and therefore could never replace our memories anyway. The biggest consolation is that we have shared so many on our blog, on social media, on our personal accounts and on Facebook albums, that not all is truly lost.

There are a few folders of photos that remained on our desktop. Luckily we had not gotten around to clearing up space and those survived in tact. There are some photos in our trash which we can recover, and even some we sent to family and friends via text and email.

So, we’ve learned to be more cautious. We’ve learned to back everything up on a cloud, and to send photos off to those expecting them as soon as humanly possible. We bought a new drive with bright orange bumpers and a very convincing slogan stating that it won’t suffer the fate our last one did. We are looking to the future and starting fresh. However, you can probably expect a few more (bitter) articles about how to prevent the same thing from happening to you as we move further into the acceptance stage. Back up your data, everyone. And not only on a portable hard drive.

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Evanne Allen

Evanne co-founded Poplar Travels after quitting her job in Washington, D.C. She got itchy feet at a young age and has never lost the urge to explore the planet. A previous museum employee, she is apt to drag travel partners into several cultural institutions anywhere she goes. She wishes she could speak every language and loves meeting new people.

  • I perfectly understand [went through it] and I am sorry for this. In the end, the important thing is that those snapshots will still be in your hearts. 🙂

    June 30, 2015 at 10:31 pm
  • We completely understand this pain… though we’ve lost only a small segment of our photos at one time, it still hurts. The blog and social media do help in some ways though and we love the way you phrase it: “They’re gone, and like material possessions, they are essentially just things, and therefore could never replace our memories anyway.”

    We’re backing up our photos to our Google Drive at this very moment….

    July 20, 2015 at 2:53 pm

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