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londonnomad77 Gap Year Girl - London Summer Flashback

I notice her at Heathrow Terminal 5. Red hair, white skin. Black tee-shirt, faded jeans turned up at the ankles. She's carrying a big black backpack but moves like a butterfly, like her bag contains nothing but goose down.

We rush for the tube and sit down as it departs. Everyone else in the carriage has a tan. With her is a bearded older man - her dad.

The words come bubbling out of her mouth like champagne. Her eyes are shining. Her dad looks lost. "How was Buenos Aires?" Is all he asks. "Dangerous..." she replies, "dangerous." She's just returned from a long trip to South America, and all the crazy things she's seen and done are bursting out of her head. Living in the jungle, travelling the Road of Death, and, of course, Machu Picchu.

After ten minutes or so, her father sighs, "It sounds like you've had a great experience... What are your plans for next week?" The girl looks at him, then turns and faces across the carriage towards me. There's a hint of desperation in her eyes. You can tell she still has a hundred hours of stories to tell him.

I want to speak to her, to tell her I understand, but, hey, this is the London tube, you don't even make eye contact with strangers. And you don't intrude between a father and his daughter. So I just sit there thinking, welcome to backpacker locked in syndrome.

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