Is Your Backpack Empty?

Up in the Air | Life Nomading

Up in the Air is absolutely my favorite movie of all time.

Why? Because the over-arching message incorporated in this movie is extremely powerful. So powerful that I decided I should dissect just one point from the movie for you today.

For me, movies hit deep in my soul. I crave movies that have meanings that go far beyond just a fun plotline to watch. With Up in the Air, Ryan Bingham (the main character) played by George Clooney, lives a very modern nomadic lifestyle. He travels over 300 days out of the year and is the guru of frequent flyer programs and knowing how to stay as remote as possible.

He loves almost every aspect of his way of life. In fact, he loves it so much that he even gives motivational talks about it at various events.

The video above is his “empty backpack” theory, but to grasp every word of what he says be sure to also read the script:

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… 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.

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.

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.

His “empty backpack” message simply means: Don’t weigh your life down with non-essential obligations, things, and relationships.

About two years ago I watched this scene and it changed my life. The message he expresses is now a conviction that I carry throughout my life.

Now I ask you, do you ever feel like you are weighed down with too much “stuff”, too many “obligations”, or even too many people and relationships around you?

If so, why aren’t you purging all of this? In our society, it is natural to believe that more of everything is always better. It makes us feel good inside to know that we have more friends, more food, more calendar events,  more cars, etc… But what if you minimize all of it? What if you began to groom your lifestyle differently?

There’s something exhilarating when you imagine a moment in your life where all you have is yourself. It’s a feeling that few people allow themselves to have at some moment in their life’s journey. I beg of you, attempt this. You will be scared too, but you must.

Does this mean that life alone is what you should desire for eternity? Absolutely not. In order to find where it is you need to go in your convictions and life quests, however, you must first strip down to an empty backpack. You must be able to reflect with no judgment from other outside forces.

Then, once you have found that intense burning conviction, let it lead you into your life. This is exactly the moment when you will be able to start packing your backpack with the right things, relationships, and obligations.

You may be confused about how to find that conviction. Luckily my good friend Ben Severance wrote an article titled “The 5 Whys That Will Change Your Life” to help you find exactly that.

All in all, I believe that if the nomadic lifestyle is something you are looking to work towards, the first step is to watch this modern spin on the lifestyle. This movie changed my life, and I don’t expect it to change yours in the same way… but I am sure it will in some way.

For people that hate reading:

1. Purge your life. Rid yourself of non-essential things, obligations, relationships.

2. Be alone. Begin to reflect on your empty backpack.

3. Once you find your life’s quest or conviction, begin to re-pack your backpack.

4. Invest in a copy of , this movie is jam full of valuable quotes and convictions.