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carry your own weight

I was walking to work the other day with a saddleback messengers bag strapped to myback when I noticed a trend that has been fairly common among city commuters.

Rolling Laptop Cases

To me, these laptop cases have come to symbolize a significant problem. In many respects we have lost touch with our ability to thrive physically. Carrying one’s own weight, literally, is something we have given up without much consideration to the consequences.

On a recent overnight trip to Phoenix Arizona, I decided to embark on an experiment. I would carry all of my luggage in my bare hands. No shoulder straps, no rolling wheels, just my hands and my gear. I got this idea in my head before I left for the airport so I had the luxury of packing with this requirement in mind, but I still needed to have business attire for 2 days, as well as enough equipment to present our software to 20 or so individuals during a “speed networking” event, as well as a presentation to a room of about 120+ people. Oh, and I wanted to get in a workout at the hotel that night.

The end result? Two bags, one made of leather holding all my technical gear (laptop charger, etc..) and one lighter bag holding my single change of business clothes and a pair of shorts and shirt for the gym. All the way through Sea-Tac Airport, through the Phoenix Airport, to the cab, through the hotel to my room, to the conference center, back to the hotel room, to the cab, back to the Phoenix Airport, through the Portland Airport to my connecting flight, through the Sea-Tac airport to the Light Rail station, through downtown Seattle to the ferry terminal, and on the 1/2 mile walk home from the ferry terminal I carried that weight in my bare hands.

In the world of rolling suitcases and rolling laptop cases, and luggage carts this seems somewhat ridiculous, and I’d be the first to admit that yes, it’s a little strange to embark on such a journey, but I learned something about myself in the process. Pushed to extremes, the extremest of extremes, if the wheel no longer existed, I could travel the world, using my bare hands if need be. I carried my own load.

For me, the lesson here is two-fold.

Firstly: We are never going to be completely devoid of physical challenges. Living in such a way that we can face these challenges when they appear will make us more confident. My example was contrived, but there could be many situations in which you would need to carry something heavy for a great distance. Carry groceries to the car, or home? Wood to the fireplace? Water from the well? My experience carrying my own weight for a few evenings convinced me that I could tackle those challenges if suddenly my life depended on them. It probably wont, but who said life works in completely predictable ways.

Secondly: We need less than we think we do, and the things we have can often become a burden. When I was forced to carrying my own weight, all of a sudden that second set of shoes didn’t seem quite so important. I’ll just wear the nice ones on the plane. That extra piece of electronics to keep me entertained on the plane? I’ll just bring a magazine instead. I can leave it in Phoenix once I finish it and the load will be lighter on the way home.

I would encourage everyone to embark on a similar experiment someday. If you live within “walking” distance from the store, try carrying your groceries home one day. You might need to stop a few times, it might not be a whole lot of fun, but having done it once you’ll know that in the future if the car is in the shop, you could still provide food for you and yours. And if you don’t have time to make it to the gym that day… maybe this could be your workout…

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