In my youth I went backpacking in New Zealand and Australia, like so many others. Wherever I went, other backpackers were there. Sometimes I’d run into someone I’d previously met in a completely different place. We backpackers had our own kinship and subculture, and some of the thoughts and expressions we had then are things I apply to my life still today.

One of those things was a concept about reality that seemed to be shared among almost all backpackers I met. We’d never talk about ”going home”; we’d talk about ”returning to reality”.

I understand today that it to some extent came from a privileged position. Whatever hardships we would face (out of money quite often, or feeling stuck someplace, or being in a messy relationship) we would all sometime somehow go home. If worse came to worst and you couldn’t afford the ticket, the running joke was that you could just overstay your visa and be deported home.

Our situation was temporary, fluid, fluctuating, and unplanned. A tourist is someone who doesn’t know where they’ve been, but exactly where they’re going next. A backpacker is someone who doesn’t have a clue what comes next, but vividly remembers where they’ve been.

When we came home, we landed back in reality. With us we had trinkets, or books, maybe a thumbed and worn copy of the Lonely Planet. And perspective.

Sometimes you need to physically remove yourself from somewhere to gain perspective. Do you know what your life - your reality - is like, or are you too stuck living it to experience it?

Life doesn’t always make sense. Often it can be messy, stressful, overwhelming, and sisyphean. Maybe what you need is something surreal? Make sure someone else can tend the kids and book a room at a local hostel for a weekend. Bring only a toothbrush and toothpaste. See what they have in the take-one-leave-one bookshelf (they’ll have Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. I don’t know why, but every hostel I’ve been to has had at least one copy. Send me a review if you read it). Find someone interesting to talk to, and listen to them. Meditate. Feel.

-- CC0 Björn Wärmedal