Backpacker Generation: Why “Leaving it all Behind” doesn’t Work.

By Lauren Klarfeld

What we carry in our backpacks is the weight of our fears.

Some backpacks are made on a swift decision. Others are planned months in advance and ticked off with a checklist. Certain backpacks are made out of choice, and sometimes others are made because we had no choice. Be it to go far or to go hide next door. When we are making a backpack, there is more to it than just physical weight.

As I laid out the remainder of my clothes on an empty table and zipped up my backpack, I knew I was trying to pack a mess. I made a decision almost a year ago that I didn’t want to be committed to an apartment, a contract, rent or a job that didn’t move me. That it had all seemed pointless after so many years to work so many hours, not only to support myself since I was 18 but also to work for things I didn’t always believe in. The home I was in, the job I had and some of the people I knew just didn’t feel like “home” anymore.

What I wanted was the freedom to go whenever I wanted to.

Go incognito and re-invent myself in every new place I was in. Dare to do those things I never felt comfortable doing before. My plan had been to volunteer from hostel to hostel paying no rent in exchange for free labour. The months that followed I walked around a city with the feeling that a weight had been taken off of me. I was alone but I had chosen to be alone. If anything I was a solitaire. And it was liberating for once to look at myself that way.

But like any backpacker, I had given up the vertical ease of a closet where all my clothes had been aligned for years for a horizontal goulash of textile wrapped one under the other. I had come with a full backpack and that was all I allowed myself to carry.

When we see things in such a constrained space or possibility, it somehow gives us perspective on the fact that one needs to be sure of their choices.

Suddenly, we cannot spend two hours trying on different clothes as we struggle with our own image—because there is just no space nor mirrors for us to do. Perfectly ironed t-shirts are a thing of the past too when you travel. And adding things to a backpack becomes a burden as it weighs heavier and heavier. And every time we pick out a t-shirt it is like rambling our hands through a lottery machine—one never knows what they’ll pick out.

The idea of leaving it all behind to live life like a vagabond has been very appealing for years in my generation. But we seldom realise that this kind of life without commitments sometimes comes at the cost of a life without the conveniences we once knew: a home to call our own, a toothbrush in a fixed place, old friends to go to when we’re having a bad day or even a home cooked meal from our mother.

See, backpacks are emblems to travelers. They symbolize the travelers’ mobile nature and our need for freedom to go whenever we want to. They are built to accommodate easy access and storage. And a backpacker needs that like he needs air: the possibility and reminder that he can move and is constrained by nothing.

But when we spend enough time on the road, whether we want to or not, our backpacks mutate. And so do we.

As I moved to this kind of lifestyle in Madrid, I realized that what was once an emblem of mobility, now became a painstaking weight to carry around. I had gone from one store to the other buying new clothes just to fit with the local’s style. I bought one colorful dress after the other and thought it was a victory for the past tomboy that I was. I hated dresses really, but here abroad I thought I could push myself to like them and no one would notice. And the summer was the worst, as this frail white skinned Belgian girl who had never experienced a real summer suddenly had to walk legs and arms uncovered.

When traveling and wanting to change ourselves, we sometimes become schizophrenic chameleons in places whose language we are still learning and borrowing. And as thrilling as it is to go incognito anywhere and re-invent one’s self—some days, we just aren’t lively chameleons. Some days, we are just lost cats that hide under cars waiting for the traffic to pass.

Little do we know that sometimes the backpacks we are carrying are in fact heavy with burdensome personal baggage already. Somehow, all the while that we pack our underwear and t-shirts, our bags are already bursting with the layers of our constant self-questioning, our fears, our inner critic, and sometimes lack of self-love.

When we travel we get rid of our old comforts and routines. And so we grow more aware of who we are and who we aren’t, and of the difference between who we want to be and who we are right now. The kind of contrast we only ever really see when we get confronted with the blank canvas of ourselves echoed by the amount of free time and liberty we have when traveling or being in a new chapter of our lives.

In the end, it isn’t just about wanting to escape what we had before, it is mostly about escaping who we were before.

We are mostly introverts that are seeking a way to grow out of it. We rarely think that growth isn’t just about pushing ourselves to become who we want to be. Sometimes, we just become who we want to become eventually, by making the choices that we’re asked not by our mind or our heart, but by our gut. Sometimes, it’s when looking back, rather than forward, that we see better today the person we are becoming.

So that day as I made my backpack again in these last seven months. I was offered a lesson on acceptance. I laid all my clothes and beauty products on a bed, and decided I’d make two bags this time.

One with all the things that I had always felt resembled me and that I needed. And another with all the things I bought that I thought I might need. And left behind only the last one.

In life or in travel, if we want to set out on an adventure with ourselves, the best backpacks we’ll ever make are those that will leave extra room for our own personal baggage.

And acknowledging this is what will allow us to carry it in the first place…

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The Tie That Binds

Find me at the bottom of your drink when you raise
your cup and see me
across the room through
the round film of glass.

– Margherita Bassi

We all have dreamt of this special someone whose glance will meet ours across the room full of people and we will feel an immediate connection and we know in that instant that this person is the one. The one who will make us feel like nobody made us felt before. The one who will let us taste the passion and burning desire that will consume our whole being and will make us forget every other relationship we had in the past. The one who will make us cry buckets of tears and going to break our hearts in million tiny pieces. The one who will be unforgettable. The one who will get away.

Sounds nice but the truth is not once in my life I’ve felt this way nor I have ever dreamed of a similar situation with anyone in particular. In fact, when I’ve read the above quote what immediately came into my mind is two married people who are secretly having an affair and trying to hide it from everyone unsuccessfully. Believe you me, when two people got something going on between them, they can ignore each other in public and pretend but hide they cannot. There seems to be an invisible connection tying them together. Like some sort of energy, an electric something shimmering, rippling, across the room and you feel it. They don’t even have to talk or glance to each other for the connection to show. It’s just there, crackling, reaching, linking them, tying them, binding them to each other.

Did you ever experience the same thing? Or witness it?  Am I right? Do tell.


The Edge Of Never

“Just that dwelling and planning is bullshit, you dwell on the past, you can’t move forward. Spend too much time planning for the future and you just push yourself backward, or you stay stagnant in the same place all your life. Live in the moment, where everything is just right, take your time and limit your bad memories and you’ll get wherever it is you’re going a lot faster and with fewer bumps in the road along the way.” 

― J.A. Redmerski



During one of my adventurous walks I came across this dilapidated shack at the edge of the forest in the middle of a swamp far from any sign of life. It stood a little bit crooked and had broken windows. I always have been attracted to these kind of places. I know it might sound strange but I feel they breathe life, they house untold stories and  keep secrets waiting to be discovered… Their pull is so strong it is impossible to ignore so I went in.

Inside I saw sign of occupation. There was some old furniture.  A broken table, an old gutted sofa and a chair with a missing leg stood in the middle of the room. I found couple of blankets on the floor, dirty but usable.  A pile of garbage stood in one corner, mostly food containers, wrappers, empty bottles of water and some broken glasses. There was a plastic bag full of folded papers tied up together. To me, they looked like letters. I was right away intrigued.

If I have more time I will stay a bit longer and scrutinize the contents of the bag, probably read the letters. But as it was, I was running late (like always) and I wanted to reach my car before the sun go down on me. So, against my will I moved on. But I promised to myself I’ll be back when the weather is more cooperative, probably in the spring…

“Ah, life’s little surprises! They can make any day unforgettable… or make it your last.” ~ T.A. Barron 


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After 13 years of marriage, lots of coincidences and a jumble of confusing often horrifying circumstances; I woke up one day a changed woman.

The waking up happened on my 30th birthday, around 1:00 in the morning in a club I went with my so called friends to celebrate another year added to my life. On paper I was old enough but in reality I looked barely eighteen. Photographs can testify to that claim because they seldom lie, unless of course one edited them. When I’ve met D. He thought I was 24. In fact I was 37 years old. Imagine that. I remember being banned from a disco when I was twenty five because the guard thought my identity card was falsified. Story of my life.   

I was bending forward, head between my knees shaking my hair loose to add volume to the sweaty strands that were beginning to fasten themselves on the back of my LBD; and when I looked up, he was there staring at me.

Tall, blond, blue eyes and clearly younger than me; but I bet he didn’t know it. He sent his companion to extend an invitation for me and my friends to sit at their table, I declined. My friends wanted to throttle me for that. Spoil sport was added to the list of adjectives they loved to call me behind my back, I didn’t care. I still don’t. I talk to strangers but I don’t go as far as drinking alcohol with them, not even if they’re paying.

A bottle of champagne in an ice bucket appeared on our table shortly after that, with a note asking if he and his friends could join us instead. Well, I could hardly waive them off again without ruining the night of my birthday so, I said yes.

He was 27 years old. A Porsche driving only son of one of the biggest factory owners in the country; I was right away suspicious.

And that was the very reason why aside from a couple of dinner, a drive in his red status symbol car, lots of telephone calls and turned down invitations to private sauna and a night in his flat; nothing happened between us. I was not only wide awake, I was sober too.

I will not believe for one moment that he meant it serious with me.

Maybe serious enough to spend serious money on me in exchange for few occasional serious tumble in the hay, but serious enough to marry me, I don’t think so.

So I let him go.

But he had given me a gift I will cherish for the rest of my life: a consciousness, awareness that there is more to life than what I was having with my thoroughly abusive lying cheating drunkard of a husband. He made me realize that I was still desirable, still in the market, still worth chasing for.  And for that, I will be forever grateful.

But it doesn’t mean he cured my inferiority complex which originated from my childhood and honed to perfection by my philandering ex.  It cost me (maybe) a bright future with a UN ambassador who kudos for him did all the necessary hard work of digging, scratching and dusting so he could get to my core just to be turned down at the last minute because I didn’t believe I was good enough to be his lifetime companion.

The only move I made that I regret so far.

But it did make me brave enough to go out there and sample all the goodies that I was allowed to eat without the unnecessary and unwanted complications.

Yes I had my share of affairs. Not all of them platonic, that much I could admit. The bits and pieces of the stories, I sometimes share with you, but always the edited version. The incriminating details cleverly omitted not only for my own sake but for the readers and my children as well.

I know people could read between the lines, sometimes too much; but as long as it is not coming from my own mouth, that will remain, suspicions, accusations, and whatever one wants to call it. For the meantime, I will continue to write bits and pieces from my memories and will share them with you whenever I feel courageous enough to let some of the skeletons out the closet and let them dance naked…

Running Away

Daily Prompt 

Hiatus And Real Adventure

At exactly 3:00 o’clock in the morning tomorrow (it means no sleeping tonight) I will be leaving for my annual holiday and will be gone for three weeks. There is a lot of things to take care of before I can make my departure to avoid nasty surprises while I’m gone and when I come back. The water and gas have to be turned off, garbage to disposed, house plants to water (I always upended a big bottle of water with a little hole drilled on top in each pot to ensure they will have something to drink when they’re thirsty) clothes to wash and iron (which makes me think of the amount of dirty clothes I’ll bring back from the trip and yes I don’t use laundry service in hotels) Tidy what have to be tidied in the garden (some plants cannot wait for three weeks for treatment like early flowering shrubs and trees that have to be pruned right after flowering. Keep my hostas and tinder leafy plants away from slugs and snails which seem to be multiplying by the thousands overnight especially now that we are having bad weather. Rain pours like waterfalls from heaven and flooding our garden in seconds (you saw the news) Some plants have to be tied and supported. You know the drill. 

I cannot post articles during that time because I vowed a long time ago never to use internet on holidays but I lined up and scheduled some interesting reads for my followers. Okay, I’m all pack ready to go. Money… ticket… passport… And oh, my medicine… have to hide valuables before closing the door. The alarm, the car, all the windows and doors locked. The police have been notified of my absence… Curtains closed, lights out… Did I forget something? 

See you in three weeks and keep writing…



When it rains it gives me the feeling of wanting to climb up the roof and make love on the corrugated roof plates. 

Seriously, I adore rain; and tend to take a long walk when it’s pouring cats and dogs. I love the feeling of water caressing my face. (They say that it is also a natural moisturizer) and the way the drops look on the foliage is simply amazing! There is some magical something about it. Did you ever notice how the plants look like just after the rain? They seem happy and vibrant and refreshed. Much like us, I guess after we took a shower, or a bath, or a swim. Or something else… I call it being watered. 

The colours are more vivid too! As if everything comes suddenly alive! One can almost hear them singing! And the smell! I’m dying to find a perfume that can come close to that intoxicating fragrance of positive energy, hope, and happiness! I am still searching…

Aside from the rain, I adore stormy weather. Now… that is a totally different thing.

Stormy weather is pure excitement! The air is laden, breathing…. Pregnant with anticipation and electrical currents! Charged with heavy, strong emotion that has to come out! You feel that there is something extraordinary coming! I compare it with that crucial, special yet selfish moment before orgasm… you have to chase the feeling, capture it, isolate and…Release!

That moment is yours and yours alone! For that split second, you’re oblivious of your surroundings; you don’t care about anyone or anything. That is your moment, and you got to have it no matter what.

That is the same with rain and stormy weather. (Forces of nature in general) One can hope and pray, but they will have their say. When their moments arrive, they will seize it no matter what. And that is what I call freedom.

Walking in the rain and chasing stormy weather is being part of that feeling of abandonment. It may not be totally mine, but to share their eternal glory is for me good enough… 


Daily Prompt:  Singin’ in the Rain

Just Because I am A girl

Yes, my consuming desire is to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, barroom regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all this is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always supposedly in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yes, God, I want to talk to everybody as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night…

―Sylvia Plath


What A Pleasant Surprise!

I was driving on the highway feeling a little bit better than yesterday when about three kilometers from my supposed destination I decided to pull off at the side of the road next to a gas station.

The reason for this was in my peripheral vision I saw a glimpse of a brasserie/restaurant, and from my position behind the wheel the place looks quite inviting;  their terrace in particular, which is overlooking the road and seems full of happy people. I pulled off because I was hungry. Aside from the bowl of cereal I have eaten earlier, I consumed nothing yet. I woke up at 14:00 o’clock and it took me more than 3 hours to clean myself up and get dressed. These past few weeks, it’s taking longer and longer for me to do life’s daily routine. The answer as to why I am struggling with movements these days is at this moment I am not ready to disclose yet.  Maybe later if I’m feeling courageous.

I knew I was not dressed up to dine (I’m about to take my daily walk, remember?) but I thought, brasserie/middle of the week/side of the road, how off-key could I be?

The nearer I came to the place the more I realized how wrong I was! For reasons known only to them, I found myself amidst Louboutins, branded clothes and signature/statement bags and blings.

I am not the kind of person who right away gets intimidated by these sort of things but clad in a loose-fitting printed everyday dress, flip-flops, and jeans jacket, I never felt so out of tune than that precise moment. Though I wanted to run away as fast as I could my pride has gotten hold of me. So, I shook my hair, stood tall and walked erect all the way inside.

I emerged into a posh dining area where almost all the tables were reserved for the evening. Maneuvering between them, I looked for a place away from the main view. There was a table for two at the back of the room which was still available. I was about to sit when a charming all smiling waitress asked me if I rather sit somewhere more comfortable instead of hiding myself at the back near to the loo.She didn’t really say it that way but something to that effect.

I was surprised! I didn’t even notice the door leading to the toilet. Could it be also that the entrance to the little room does not look like the typical door one might expect to find when looking for a restroom? It is made of opaque/smoked glass with some image itched on the surface next to an identical door that says: smoking room. Both have no door knobs/handle. Hygienic I thought.  
I looked at the charming girl and she smiled in a professional courteous manner.  Not a smirk, but a real genuine smile without underlying meaning to it. I was perplexed. She then guided me to a table in the middle left of the room near to a window overlooking pastoral scenery and an outside lounge area with black and white bean bags and coffee tables that look like overblown mercury droplets.

With that simple ordinary gesture, I was intimidated in the way no Louboutins and signature items could do. There are lots of reasons for it. Allow me to cite a couple of them if I may.

First: Nice, polite people are scarce nowadays. It doesn’t matter which step of the ladder and walk of life they are from, friendliness is a dying gesture. People are become so cramp in their style that smiling hurts their faces muscles they often look constipated. Big houses and even bigger car, high profile high paying jobs and prominent status in the community and they don’t find a reason to smile; why is that? The strange thing is: ready smile (and happy people) you can find in most places where people don’t have a lot of reason to smile about (and be happy) but still can produce a genuine example without difficulty while in the middle of a typhoon or submerged in flood water trying to rescue their meager belongings.

Friendliness with matching smile doesn’t hurt anyone when on the whole your bread and butter required you to do just so. And I am talking from experience here dealing with people in day to day basis.

Scanning the menu is not a good idea when one has not yet collected oneself from a strong jolt of an unexpected event. So, out of confusion, I ordered just bread with something, a cup of coffee and some sparkling water.

When my food came I almost passed out. The coffee which I expected to be just a coffee came with a small glass of fresh whipped cream with a cigar biscuit dipped in some delicious yellowish liquid, and a piece of chocolate so divine it was made of dreams accompanied by a clear unidentified liquor which I gulped in an instance.  And the sparkling water! It looked like an over-priced cocktail in some fancy nightclub complete with a wedge of melon hanging on the side of the glass and there were long pieces of lemon and orange zest floating in there! Right away I  panicked! I grabbed the menu to check in what price category these sumptuous delights belong to. I almost lost it when I saw that all of what they serve including the ones I have are priced 2-3 euros less than most restaurants I know fancy or not.

The fairy tale continued down to the bread that was brought to my table (the best-looking bread I’ve ever seen so far) the small salad accompanying it was wrapped in a cone-shaped banana leaf, there were pieces of fruit on the side, some resting on scribble of balsamic cream, one physalis was speared and put on top of the bread looks like an airborne fairy. In short, my plate was more resemble a painting on a plate than just A bread. I have a glutton and lactose intolerance but I attacked most of what they served with gusto. I will worry about consequences later.

Why I was surprised getting the quality of food and service they offered in that one particular restaurant? Because like smiles, quality is so hard to come by these days you have to look so hard and pay a lot in order to obtain it if you’re lucky. We become a world where the demand has to be higher than produce they messed up with the quality in order to maintain that balance. Durability is a thing of the past and like I mentioned somewhere in my previous post semper fi it does not only apply to products alone but relationships as well. Someone from the medical field told me that it’s the same story with medicines out there. The main purpose of them these days is not to cure but to make people dependent on them to assure a continuing productivity of the business. But we will not explore that alley, would we? Too complex and too shifty ground to stand on.

I could yada-yada-ya a lot more about various things that question my sanity and understanding as well as whether these things are an insult not only to my intelligence but to fellow humans and consumers as well. But I have a long walk to make and the sun is sinking too fast on the horizon and I’m afraid it will be one of those follow the yellow brick road sorts of walks again. But yeah, in this life, we can never have everything we want, can we?

The only regret I have about the whole visit is not being able to take pictures of the food. But my camera was in the car and I don’t use a cell phone to take photos. Besides, mine is a Jurassic piece I doubt if it can produce decent images. And I am not sure if I want to be caught photographing my food by those shiny happy fashionable people.

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