The Touristinstagram photographer of ontario abandoned places

What If it’s Not Abandoned?


How an explorer of abandoned houses known as “The Tourist” walked into an unlikely scenario and formed an unexpected friendship.

 

Exploring and photographing abandoned houses always comes with its share of surprises, it also often confronts you with some moral questions and scenarios, there are many “what if’s” that can be associated with this hobby.  What if I find a body, what if I find drugs, what if there are squatters…and of course – what if I find a bag of money?

It is up to each person individually to decide how they are to deal with these and all the other hypothetical “what if” scenarios while exploring abandoned places, and that is all a part of the excitement of doing this.

Besides these What If scenarios, we are also often faced with the question “Is it really abandoned?’. My photos often get scrutinized by the viewers and I frequently see comments like “that’s not abandoned” – and yes, it is entirely possible that the homes we are poking around in are not abandoned.  It could be entirely possible that the elderly owner(s) have been moved to a nursing home or care facility, it could be that the residents recently passed away and the family is still figuring out how to deal with the property and its contents…..or, it is actually abandoned.

The two points above were made very real last year by an Ontario explorer and abandoned photographer who goes by the handle “The Tourist” – more on this in a while.  The Tourist – AKA Leslie posts her photos on Instagram, as many of us do and last year she caught the attention of many having posted numerous interesting shots from some well known and not so well known abandoned buildings.  My Instagram feed is always full of great photos from all of the talented explorers whom I follow and I was always pleasantly surprised with how The Tourist made something as simple as a photo of an empty chair  in a barn seem interesting with a curious caption and nicely lit with natural light through a window.

I'd rather sit & watch my television shows, you know as well as me we're not in love #abandoned #thetourist

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Lie to me baby | You must be crazy | Walkin' in & outta my door #abandoned #thetourist

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Then, in June of 2015 she caught the attention of many with one single Instagram post after having been confronted with two of the points I mentioned at the beginning of this post:

“What if it’s not abandoned”

“What if I find a person inside”

The Tourist was on her way home after a day of exploring and decided to make one last stop at a house she had been curious about for some time – this was a decision that would not only change her life – but that of another.  I will let you discover this story just as I had, through her words and Instagram posts:

 

This is Lawrence. He lives in a house I had believed to be abandoned. The driveway is overgrown, the roof is caving in and the interior would lead anyone to believe this land had been deserted. I found him in the living room. He has a hard time getting around so he spends most of his time in there. Alone. He is missing his right eye and has cataracts infecting the left. Even after noticing a stranger essentially helping themselves to his life he was nothing but sweet and kind to me. He was even nice enough to let me take his picture which I will always treasure. He is a beautiful soul and I plan on visiting him a lot. I'm posting this picture in hopes that it will inspire at least one person to reach out to someone they may have lost contact with or perhaps just forgot about. These old souls are still full of life and I feel blessed to have met this one. #abandoned #thetourist #lost_souls #new_friends

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This is Lawrence. He lives in a house I had believed to be abandoned.

The driveway is overgrown, the roof is caving in and the interior would lead anyone to believe this land had been deserted. I found him in the living room. 

He has a hard time getting around so he spends most of his time in there. Alone. He is missing his right eye and has cataracts infecting the left. Even after noticing a stranger essentially helping themselves to his life, he was nothing but sweet and kind to me. He was even nice enough to let me take his picture which I will always treasure. 

He is a beautiful soul and I plan on visiting him a lot. I’m posting this picture in hopes that it will inspire at least one person to reach out to someone they may have lost contact with or perhaps just forgot about. 

These old souls are still full of life and I feel blessed to have met this one.

I’m making him some meals to take over this week. I don’t think he’s eating very well.. If at all. Some veggie soup and mashed potatoes will hopefully help fill him up a bit. Easy to chew but good for the soul. He overwhelmed me with how kind he was.. I can only hope to return the favour a bit.

 

Tonight was the first of what will be many dinner dates with my new friend. Over the course of 3 hours we ate and drank and laughed. I was fortunate enough to hear about his life.. His struggles and his triumphs. This truly was one of the best experiences of my life & I can’t wait to share another meal with such a gentle soul.

He is THE kindest man. He has melted my heart. I brought him some chilli and tea biscuits and some snacks for the next few days until I can make it back later this week. I hope to have most of the trash cleared out and a few repairs done by the end of the summer. Give him a bit of his home back 🙂

He breaks my heart and puts it all back together in the same visit 🙂 he told me he suffered a stroke about a week ago. He said he couldn’t move his hands.. It took him over 4 days to seek medical attention. This was just one of many heartbreaking stories I heard last night. He just needs a friend.. Someone to make sure he’s okay .. Reassure him he is loved

The house that stole my heart – this is the exterior of my new friends home. 

Tonight we sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful evening. He explained to me how his injuries started in 2000 when a bull fractured his hip. He told me of his brothers illness and how they have lost touch. 

He said I was a blessing to him. 

I told him I couldn’t put into words what he means to me

Dinner dates done right | Keep your promises #abandoned #thetourist #lost_souls #new_friends #twistedtea @twistedtea

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“Dinner dates done right, keep your promises”

Lunch with a friend #thetourist #abandoned #lost_souls #new_friends #twistedtea @twistedtea

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Lunch with a friend

Promises kept. || an update on my friend – he is in good spirits and is very happy to have some room in his home. I've managed to remove his old fridge, stove, and chest freezer, along with numerous bags of garbage and other content. This was all made possible by a very generous company and a few awesome boys with big hearts and strong lower backs. I can't thank everyone enough for their support and generosity during this period in my life – and in his. He is beyond grateful, not just to me. He knows you are all following his story 🙂 After a few recent visits to the doctors, it's apparent that his health is declining, rapidly. These may be the last few months I have with my friend and I plan to make them as comfortable and enjoyable for him as possible. He's informed me of his funeral arrangements and has asked me to be there. I told him I wouldn't have it any other way. He shared something with me that will stay with me forever. He said the day I showed up was the best day of his life. As self righteous as I feel writing that, I understand how he feels. The best day of my life was when I met him. He gave me the chance to really do something for someone – an act of kindness with no expectation of reward. It's a rare opportunity and I'm glad I was able to accept the challenge. – xo #thetourist #new_friends #lost_souls

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Promises kept. 

An update on my friend – he is in good spirits and is very happy to have some room in his home. I’ve managed to remove his old fridge, stove, and chest freezer, along with numerous bags of garbage and other content. 

This was all made possible by a very generous company and a few awesome boys with big hearts and strong lower backs. I can’t thank everyone enough for their support and generosity during this period in my life – and in his. He is beyond grateful, not just to me. 

He knows you are all following his story 🙂 After a few recent visits to the doctors, it’s apparent that his health is declining, rapidly. These may be the last few months I have with my friend and I plan to make them as comfortable and enjoyable for him as possible. 

He’s informed me of his funeral arrangements and has asked me to be there. I told him I wouldn’t have it any other way. He shared something with me that will stay with me forever. He said the day I showed up was the best day of his life. 

As self righteous as I feel writing that, I understand how he feels. The best day of my life was when I met him. He gave me the chance to really do something for someone – an act of kindness with no expectation of reward. It’s a rare opportunity and I’m glad I was able to accept the challenge. – xo

Update: A few weeks ago my friend asked if I would go to a church BBQ with him … Our first outing!!! 

I was so happy he had asked me and couldn’t wait to go. Tonight was our dinner date … The food was amazing .. Provided by the local farmers in the neighbourhood and way too much pie baked by all their lovely wives. 

It was great to see him out of the house and around the people he’s known his whole life. Driving home tonight I couldn’t help but think to myself how lucky I am to have this opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful persons life. 

My friend is truly a blessing xo

Well it's been a while since I've posted anything about this handsome fella so I figured I'd give everyone following his story an update. After a prolonged stay at two different hospitals after his last stroke, Lawrence is now living at a local retirement home and doing much better. He's safe and warm and seems to be fairly happy to be around some new people, although I know he misses home. I bring my dog Violet with me when I go for my visits, and she has now become a favourite around the home and she seems to enjoy herself thoroughly (indulging in yet another cookie as seen above). His birthday is coming up shortly (Valentines day) and we can't wait to celebrate with him, properly… With less pastry for the puppy. 🎂🎉🚫🐶 #thetourist

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Well it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about this handsome fella so I figured I’d give everyone following his story an update. 

After a prolonged stay at two different hospitals after his last stroke, Lawrence is now living at a local retirement home and doing much better. He’s safe and warm and seems to be fairly happy to be around some new people, although I know he misses home. 

I bring my dog Violet with me when I go for my visits, and she has now become a favourite around the home and she seems to enjoy herself thoroughly (indulging in yet another cookie as seen above). His birthday is coming up shortly (Valentines day) and we can’t wait to celebrate with him, properly… With less pastry for the puppy.

Happy birthday To this young fella 🎂🎉 #Valentinesday #birthday

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“Happy Birthday to this young fella”





This incredible story has caught the attention of many and I decided to use my platforms to tell this incredible tale and good deed.

This is definitely not the end of the story between Leslie and Lawrence and I suggest that anyone who reads this blog post follow The Tourist on Instagram and follow along with this amazing story and gesture of goodwill and selflessness and ask yourself the question – what would you do if given this scenario?


 

52 thoughts on “What If it’s Not Abandoned?

  1. Great job – you have inspired me to look for & check in on folks that live alone & in some cases obviously run down houses due to lack of funds, help or ability to keep it up. we recently had a situation in Wells Maine where a woman was found dead in her trailer – she died two years prior to the find. Her neighbors assumed she was ok & even the police knocked on her door but didn’t bother to go in & check it out.

  2. How beautiful friendships can be – sometimes when we least expect a new friend – they enter our lives. There was a reason this man met you – you were needed and went that day not knowing that. God bless you both.

  3. Blessings on you. While it is heartbreaking to know we as a society have abandoned many seniors (including us Christians sitting in our pews) It is also so spirit building to quote my friend shawn to read about young men and women like yourself who are making such an impact on people. I will keep prayerful for you

  4. Thankyou for sharing your story Leslie, you have made such a difference in Lawrence’s life and your own, such a beautiful story it brought tears to my eyes, so many are forgotten.

  5. You are so lovely! You are both lucky to have found each other.
    Thank you very much for your beautiful and inspiring story!
    The importance in life is lifting each other up, not down. You two truly do that to one another.
    Keep beautiful 🙂

  6. What an amazing heartwarming story! You are to be commended, Leslie. You did the right thing. I hope it serves as an inspiration to others not to just observe, but to become involved.

  7. What a beautiful story. You are an amazing young lady, and need to be congratulated. we need more young people like yourself. Thank you for being humane.

  8. Protip: cut onions while reading this, this way you don’t look like your really tearing up to such a lovely story.

  9. Thank you for such an amazing story. I will definitely follow for updates.
    I go out to explore, photograph and validate that these houses were homes. They have life and memories inside them. It’s like a lost freind just like Lawrence, forgotten and brought back to life with respect and attention. I like to picture the houses filled with family and the smell of dinner on the stove. Children running down the stairs into the yard laughing and the dog barking. These old houses need their life back even if it is only in pictures.

  10. Oh my god this is the sweetest thing I’ve read in a while. This story is lovely in so many ways, and my eyes are blurry with tears. In the world we often hear of the horrible things people have done, never the good things like this. This is so incredibly sweet. Bless you, bless that man, bless that church bbq, bless Violet. My outlook on the world is drastically different now, I only wish there were more people like you out there. Please give Lawrence my love! (my birthday is 2 days before his!)

  11. I am glad this encounter turned out as positive as it has. It could have gone very wrong should the person not been this gentleman, and who was not as kind and emotionally well as he was. I am not one who agrees with the surge of “exploration” of “abandoned” properties, being that there is literally no property that is actually truly “abandoned”. Every property is owned by someone. I personally go to great lengths to find the owners of such properties; and do not enter, or even go on the land until such time as I have permission from the owner(s) to do so. Being a long time “picker” (I deal in antiques & collectibles as my living) I have spent countless hours chatting with elderly folks who were living alone in their homes, and in many cases in literal isolation; being in off-the-beaten-path rural locations, and with nary a near-by neighbour to check in on them. In many cases, they had no family left; spouses having passed on, children having died before them or gone on with their own busy lives far away and rarely if ever come to visit…be it on purpose, estrangement, or by no fault of their own in that it happens to have been fate and their life’s design. Others were bachelors who, for one reason or another, never did have a family, and whose friends have all passed away. Being that the population of elderly folks is increasing, being that the baby boomer generation is reaching into those ages, this sort of situation will only become more commonplace as time passes. So much knowledge, so many stories, so many lives…forgotten, not seen, passed by. Again, it is heart warming to see this sort of result, but, please, be cautious in your explorations, as there are hidden dangers, health issues, and other things which are a concern in “abandoned” places, that most “explorers” seem to not be at all aware of. I do also cover some such issues in my own blog, should you be so included to want to peruse it. These are links to two such posts (there are many, btw) http://pickersjournal.blogspot.ca/2010/08/more-hazards-dangers-cautions-to-bore.html http://pickersjournal.blogspot.ca/2010/05/risk-no-not-board-game.html

  12. Thank you for your acts of kindness, paying it forward and sharing it with us – and hopefully promoting us to be better humans.

  13. omg u are such a wondefful person to help him out like u did I am so happy u found him he needed u,,,,u are a god send

  14. I’m so glad you came upon this house ,and found this gentalman. who knows what would of happened to him if you hadn’t. Thank you for sharing your story.very moving.

  15. loved ur story of a great friendship….i noticed in a pic there was cat food on the table…pls tell me he wasnt eating this? so sad…. but u gave him a reason to live again

  16. This awesome. I like exploring old buildings when i can. If youre ever in southeast texas ill go with. Lol. Good job, you did as the bible tells.

  17. A little note to the Tourist ” Bless Your Fantastic Heart ” How you made this person fell giving him hope and knowing how good life is , God Bless You , You seem a lot like my wife , A note from a 74 year young fellow .

  18. i couldn’t of thank you enough for what you did for lawrence,the act of kindness,god bless you!!almost brought tears to my eyes as i continued to read,thank you for that story

  19. I would have done exactly as you did ! Thank God there are still caring people in the world.

  20. What a lovely story. The fact you took your time to be kind to someone says a lot. In my head, I always hear “everyone has a story”….I love when people share stories of their life-seems to enrich mine. I think you have definitely earned your wings for your kindness and compassion.

  21. Wow this is by far the most amazing act of kindness. God bless your heart. you are a beautiful human being.

  22. Very touching story and it is a blessing that the two of you found each other God is pleased when we treat each other in this manner. Thanks for sharing.

  23. God bless you Darling. You don’t know how proud this makes me!!!!!!!!! Thank Dear God that some younger people still have respect and the time to listen and spend time with these older people that have so many wonderful stories and life experiences. I grew up spending so much time with the residents of the Nursing home that my Mother worked at for over 30 years on my School Holidays. The time I spent with these Incredible people from a very early age have made me respect and adore the older Generation so much, and I have had so many Godly values instilled and re affirmed through the time I spent with these wonderful people. If everyone could take some time from their self centred lives and listened and learnt the world would be so much better!!!!!!!!! God Bless You God Bless You God Bless you. God would be so so so proud of what you have done for this Man!!!!!!!!

  24. God bless you for your willingness and unselfishness to do all that you have done for him. Really touched my heart.

  25. Hey how do i leave u a pic. I recently this winter took a few photos and i swear it was this house. It was def abandoned. There were trees growing inside the main house. I would love to show u my pic i took n share it with u. I almost fell off my chair when i saw this pic n story. Curious when u did this story n how this man is doing cause if its the same house thats crazy

  26. Wow, it’s so amazing how you came upon Lawrence and his house, you did a amazing thing for Lawrence, you made a wonderful friend and I’m just lost for words on how he had been living there all along , with the roof caving in ….. You done a beautiful and wonderful thing and I love the dinner dates and other things you do with him!!!! You are a sweet person to take him in your heart ! Did Lawrence have any family members ?? For one thing he made a friend for life… Also anymore updates on Lawrence ?? I would love to here how he is coming along , Heatlh and spirits , new home?? If you could please email me @ avazquez14@rochester.rr.com …. Looking so forward looking for a update

    Thank you for sharing Lawrence

    lisa

  27. What a beautiful woman you are. He really must have thought you were an angel with your beauty! And after spending time with him, just being there for him, and showing him that everyone is special, he knew you sent from God! This is truly a selfless act of not only kindness but of love. You are one special person. Don’t know if you’re a Christian but all you need to do is confess that we are all sinners, ask Jesus into your heart and trust him as your personal savior. And please share that with Lawrence. Maybe you can share God’s word with him. God is good! That is your calling in life and this is mine. God Bless you both. Give him a hug for me. What a wonderful story! Please keep us all posted. <3

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