What’s In Your Backpack?

How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. – George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, Up In The Air

Watching ‘Up In The Air’ on an international flight is a surreal experience. Living it for the rest of March is even stranger.

This travel-themed relationship movie hit me much the same way that ‘Lost In Translation’ did … it’s almost a window into my life at the time of its release. I say almost because both movies focus on isolation I don’t experience.

You start with the little things. The shelves, the drawers, the knickknacks … then you start adding larger stuff. Clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, your TV… the backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger. Your couch, your car, your home… I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. – Ryan Bingham, Up In The Air

I won’t spoil ‘Up In The Air’ for anyone, since I recommend you see it as soon as possible, but the ‘backpack metaphor’ stuck in my head as I packed for my not-going-then-maybe-going-then-not-going-then-booking-for-tomorrow business to Las Vegas. My favorite piece of carry-on luggage is a red backpack.

No, I don’t carry rolling luggage onto an airplane. On the rare days I check a bag it may or may not have wheels, but I am not one of those people on an airplane. I am not the person ahead of you boarding the plane trying to cram a miniature black SUV into an undersized horizontal coat closet. I am the person taking up less space than allowed by the airlines so you can ignore the ‘sizewise chart’ next to the boarding gate.

You’re welcome.

This backpack is perfect for a three day business trip, which is my most common type of travel. It can carry a netbook, battery chargers, headphones, iPod, assorted cables, sunglasses, business cards, two days of garments and my federally mandated quart-sized freezer bag full of personal hygiene fluids.

My backpack is not a metaphor. It’s the easiest way for me to get from Point A to Point B without getting rolling luggage stuck in the doors of an airport tram.

Now I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office… and then you move into the people you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your brothers, your sisters, your children, your parents and finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack … feel the weight of that bag. – Ryan Bingham, Up In The Air

When I got home from ten days in Germany I started to reconnect with people. Yes, I have a number of physical and digital chores to do, but I prefer to do the personal ones first. Dinner with the wife, time with friends, messages to people I couldn’t connect with from Europe. These are the things I need to do when I get home. Home is a base of operations for my life … and my life over the years has become a collection of people.

Make no mistake your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets … the compromises. The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks. – Ryan Bingham, Up In The Air

Moving is living, but that doesn’t require disconnection. The reason I don’t mind bursts of travel is because it means my company’s business is up. That has a direct impact on my life, and allows me to keep my home close to my friends … close to my connections.

Yes, it’s a heavy backpack. But I get stronger when I carry it … and I’m never carrying it alone.

2 comments

  1. Asai says:

    Alright so I’m not that odd of a headcase… I’ve had those thoughts before but I blame anime for that because of the whole concept of carrying my closest friends in my pocket or being carried by a friend in their pocket…

  2. Joyous says:

    Nice writing. Good to know that Twitter hasn’t completely ruined you. 🙂

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