Tag Archives: thoughts

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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Gossip Dies In The Ears Of The Wise

If this wisdom is even remotely true then the media will die overnight. They will go out of business in no time. And since it’s thriving more than ever, the only conclusion I could come up with is the lack of wise people on earth. Or so it seems. How could we otherwise explain fake news and social media success? How about reality shows and gossip magazines? How about our own neighborhood and neighbors?

I grew up in a place where other people know your own business better than you yourself and they are expert on what you should do and not do and they are more effective guard dog than CCTV and better writers and scenarists than those famous authors. They already wrote your day before you even wake up. Without your knowledge, you could get pregnant during the course of the day and give birth in the afternoon or have a miscarriage without you even knowing it. They even have detailed information on your comings and goings abroad even though they never been anywhere outside their little village. Their imaginations are limitless and their conviction fierce. And there is nothing you can do.

That is probably the only thing I didn’t miss from my country of birth, the isolated way people think and their small town narrow-minded ideas. And one of the few things I am thankful for living abroad. Here, they don’t mind you most of the time. They see you, make a fixed conclusion about you and they leave you pretty much alone. Especially in the city or in the suburb where people don’t even know their neighbors. I like the idea of being lost in anonymity. It’s peaceful that way. I don’t crave community spirit and I don’t want to be part of it. I have nothing to give in give and take process which all relationships have in common. And they have nothing to give that I’m remotely interested in. So, I keep away from clubs of any sort.

I don’t buy glossy gossip magazines either. They are not my thing. But I love to watch programs where there are human interactions. I find it educational.

How about you? Do you gossip? Take part in it? Loath love it? Or you are totally indifferent?

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Mental Health VS Physical Health

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.” ― Herophilus

In the recently concluded Miss Universe Pageant in my country of origin, a candidate who many thought would be a very strong contender for the crown and at the night of the event bagged most of the major awards struggled to answer this question from one of the judges: “Why is mental health as important as physical health?”  Not only she struggled to find the right words despite starting confidently, but she also ran out of time which many assumed cost her the coveted crown.

“Why is mental health as important as physical health?” 

I think most of us can answer why.

Without one of both life could be difficult. Though I rather lost physical than mental. I beautifully preserved healthy body is nothing but a useless shell without mental health. But vice versa is livable. Think of Stephen Hawking for instance. The mind is the matter because its the engine of our very own being, it is our command center and the editor of our deeds. Without it, we’re nothing but a living dead.

That’s why I can’t understand why in our current society they put the emphasis on beauty and less on mindful living. Outward appearance becomes our utmost priority instead of nourishing the soul.

I know why.

Because being beautiful is a privilege and pays off a great deal. Fairy tales taught us that from a very young age. Anything can happen but as long as you are beautiful you will be alright in the end. Beautiful people are being treated well, loved and adored. You can go far on beauty alone. Of course in every rule… but exception is seldom, in general, beautiful people have an advantage in every which way wherever, however.

It is sad but true. We can protest, philosophize, deny but it’s true. We can argue, hope wish but the fact will remain true. Unless we sort out our priorities. Aim and work for a healthy mind and body and concentrate less on beauty.

  Agree?

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I’ll Swallow You Whole

“You want me to be a tragic backdrop so that you can appear to be illuminated so that people can say ‘Wow, isn’t he so terribly brave to love a girl who is so obviously sad?’ You think I’ll be the dark sky so you can be the star? I’ll swallow you whole.” -Warsan Shire

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Learning To Swim

I lie in bed for hours, a clamp around my heart, listening to the rain against the window pane. I can’t stand the grey sky, and so I turn my face to the wall and sink into a darker place. Let me drown. I don’t wish to return to the surface. – Unknown

Once upon a time until a couple of years ago, I nursed these kinds of feelings constantly, but since I was diagnosed  my priorities drastically changed; getting through the day becomes my main concern. By the end of the day, I am so exhausted physically that I have no strength anymore to entertain such thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to die but I want it to happen peacefully and preferably naturally. When I wake up in the morning – if I ever slept at all – I am preoccupied with practical personal things like getting up without passing out and dressing up without accident or consuming food without throwing it all up right after eating them. When I feel a little bit okay, I spend my time appreciating little things in life like looking up without getting dizzy and seeing what before my eyes without a flimsy curtain of clouds obscuring my vision. Funny that it takes some radical change and not for the better for me or someone to stop thinking about those unhealthy self-damaging thoughts. Is that what they call a blessing in disguise?

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Blessing in Disguise …

Is there anyone there who could relate? 

The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are. —Fernando Pessoa

I can.

My son said to me yesterday that the things I remember most from my childhood are not memories but longing and those that bordering on supernatural are brought on by psychosis. I remember them clearly not because it did really happen but because I believe they did. Memories are seldom complete he said. Most of the times we fill in the blanks and it becomes our reality.

Needless to say, I don’t believe him. I know what is real and what is not. And If I would fantasize or imagine anything it would not be one of my experiences. I will conjure up happy thoughts so I could fly away to Neverland. There are things that cannot be explained by any logical or scientific means. My son has to understand that. Other memories of mine that have nothing to do with paranormal or supernatural, I could believe there are some holes in it. But I don’t fill them up with my own imaginations, I just can’t remember the whole picture. Sometimes they are just a blank canvas, others have snatches of colors and outlines of some forgotten scenes often too vague for me to recognize.

I never have a desire to be someone else, but rather I have longings for different circumstances for myself. Perhaps being born into another family, country, situation, been given different chances in life, things like that. Nostalgia for something that never was I have experienced only once. I wrote a book about it. I sometimes still think about what could have been if what never was is a reality exactly the way I’ve imagined it but know only too well that it is next to impossible to happen. Perhaps it could once upon a time but interference from people and fate rendered my wish futile.

My painful landscapes consist indeed of the feelings that hurt most, absurd or not, but from different nature than those that had been mentioned above. They are both from memories and experience and I can sum them up easily in one word: betrayal- in all sense of that word.

How I wish there is an eternal sunset on my painful landscapes. It is preferable over the total darkness of what I am…

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Thoughts To Ponder

We live in initiatory times when each soul can feel more isolated amidst the dying breath of one world and the uncertainty that attends the forming of life’s next design. It is not the lack of time that we modern people suffer from, but a lack of connection to things timeless, mythic and eternal. – Michael Meade

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The Real Illness

“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some truer (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.” 

― Philip K. Dick

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What is my life plan and destiny?

Ah, the big question. Personally, I think that if you haven’t asked this question, then you aren’t self-aware. So basically, if you have a soul, you’ve asked this question. And if you’ve asked this question, then I’m of the opinion that you do have a destiny.

But before you start imagining yourself waving to the joyful crowds on the day of your parade for saving the world from total annihilation, let’s pause for a second and think about what it really means to have a destiny and purpose in this life. Don’t roll your eyes. This is important. There are people in this world who have chosen to believe that it’s their destiny to blow up a train station or something. So, destiny and life purpose can be an unbelievably powerful thing to believe in.

Side note: please don’t blow anyone up. That’s not what life is really about.

Destiny.

Oooooo. Did you just get a shiver? Because I got a shiver. This is one of those words that carries so much meaning behind it, we don’t really know how to completely explain it. Those seven letters practically sing with purpose, importance, and a kind of unstoppable power that both whispers in your ear and shouts into the cosmos and back again.

But what is destiny?

Typically, when we imagine we have a destiny, we see ourselves accomplishing grand things. Saving princesses, slaying dragons, and quitting your miserable job to start a company that becomes so successful, your mean old boss begs to work for you. Fame and butt loads of money roll in, of course. What destiny would be complete without that? Oh, and while we’re at it, I’d like one of those replicating machines from Star Trek. We imagine conquering the impossible. We hope for superpowers. We picture victory, sweet victory.

Unfortunately, replicators don’t exist. 😦 And sadly, most of the above are, in fact, pure fantasy. Even if every person in the world had a destiny, surely there aren’t that many princesses. Or dragons. Or money, to be honest. So, if we believe that everyone has a destiny — and I do— then what kind of destiny should we be looking for?

The truth about destiny is that firstly, for most people, it’s not a singular grand task. Sure, saving a princess sounds very cut and dry. Difficult, but easy to grasp the concept of. Find the princess. Save said princess from evil _____. Tada! All done. But destiny, real destiny, isn’t like that. It’s entirely possible that a person might come across a situation in which it becomes clear that there is a task to complete and it is important. Life is a beautiful, and painful, variety of things. And things most certainly happen. However, in most cases, for most people, real true destiny is in the small moments. In the magnificence of every day.

Once you take off the fairy-tale goggles and gently set them aside. (Please don’t angrily rip them off, they get us through quite a lot of hard times, respect the dreamer in you and please don’t let it die. It’s a special part of your soul that allows you to imagine the impossible. Letting it die would be like ceasing to see several colors of life.) You can now have the ability to reshape the way you look at what having a destiny means, and also what your destiny might actually be. See, another reason why you keep dreaming about what your destiny is is because you haven’t found your personal destiny. Daydreaming is a kind of superpower, but it has it’s place. You can’t find your purpose if you’re looking in the wrong place.

Once you have truly embraced what destiny isn’t, you can now start looking at what you’re destiny, or purpose might be. See, destiny doesn’t need a parade to be grand, or a reward of vast riches to be important. Destiny is really, about being yourself. This is where fairy-tales aren’t wrong. A hero fulfills his/her destiny not by defeating the evil whatsitsface, but by learning to be true to themselves in that moment of decision. Look back at every story ever told. The good ones. The hero had some sort of personal problem to overcome or deal with, before being able to fight the big bad guy and save the day. More importantly, they wouldn’t have been able to defeat the baddie unless they dealt with the fight within themselves first. This is where destiny is found. Within, not in the external action. You can do the same thing, just minus the evil sorcerer.

So how do you figure out your destiny? Don’t ask the universe. Don’t ask your best friend, or your mom, or your coach. Ask yourself. If you don’t know, find out. It’s probably because you haven’t challenged yourself, or there’s something else going on, or you’re already in the middle of your big fight within yourself and either you don’t want to recognize it or you can’t see it. It’s difficult to recognize the scope of the storm when you’re just struggling to stand up in the winds, sometimes.

How do you get to know yourself, you ask? Put your phone down. Spend some time with yourself. Think, inside your own head without anything interrupting you for a designated period of time. Journal. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to write. Getting started is the hardest part. Find a list of questions that you might ask someone to get to know them. Write that question down, and pretend someone asked you that question. What would your answer be? Write it down. No one gets to know a person in a day, give yourself some time. Be kind and patient with yourself. Your purpose isn’t going to arrive on a silver platter, served by a gloved and poised butler. You need to search for it.

It’s worth the wait, I promise.


By Melissa Wykes- Writer, dreamer, critic and believer. Freethinker, Skeptic/Realist, and Renaissance woman.

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