realizations of an over-the-hill backpacker

words joelle renstrom  |  illustrations marguerite dabaie 


On my second day in Lisbon, I met a German traveler named Julia who, like me, was sitting by a fountain in Rossio square, studying a map.  We got to talking and decided to tromp around the hilly cobblestone streets together. We tried Ginjinha, a cherry-infused Portuguese liquor, watched street performers, and took a walking tour that highlighted the effects of the devastating 1755 Lisbon earthquake. We talked about our favorite books and spent hours in the world’s oldest bookstore. As we thumbed through pages, Julia made the comment that I’d sure read an awful lot, and then she asked me how old I was.

My first instinct was to tell her the truth—I’m still too young to lie about my age. I knew I had a good number of years on her, though, and hesitated before revealing just how many.  “35,” I told her. Then, even though I didn’t really want the answer, I asked her the same question.

“I’m 19,” she said. 

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