'But I still haven't found what I'm looking for'

50,000 Israelis a year shoulder backpacks and ditch reality.

"The main difference between backpackers ten or fifteen years ago and travelers nowadays is that most of them don't necessarily go on one long after-the-army trip... They stretch out this searching period until around 30," said Yuval Limon, Director-General of LeMetayel, on which sells travel equipment and provides guidance on tourist destinations. Limon, an experienced traveler, said Tuesday that 50,000 Israeli backpackers a year go on a trip longer than a month. "Most of them know where they're starting, what they want to see, and when they're coming back," he said. "The rest is flexible." Some, he said, travel to India, where they tend to remain longer in different locations. Others, he said, want to trek to get close to nature - they seek out South America, Australia, New Zealand and some destinations in the Far East. "Our Web site forums are very active and hundreds of travelers search for a companion for their trip," he said. Not all want to travel together for the entire way, preferring to gain confidence at first and then strike out on their own or with people they meet along the way. Limon adds that backpackers loosen up over the course of the trip. "They can do whatever they want, they can take drugs, party or soul search. Of course, these sorts of travelers go to certain places in India and to certain parts of South America," he said. "Most Israeli backpackers don't sit and smoke drugs all day long... they want a break from the Israeli reality. Often, the course of their trip is determined by love affairs and people they encounter along the way."