The Real ‘Up in the Air’ Story?

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Flickr.com/by Kossy@FINEDAYS

Today there are many different ways to tap into the global interconnectedness of businesses, many of which do not even imply any physical relocation. For example, locally based businesses can use global digital networks to reach out to potential international clients with ‘just a click’, or utilize highly multinational teams, where people from different locations work virtually with each other. Yet, physical relocation for work is still wide spread, and some manage to do business travel for more than 200,000 kilometres per year.

A recent article published by BBC describes a story of Yasaman Hadjibashi, who is flying around the African region to meet with her dispersed team and forge connections with different people and companies during global conferences. She is on the road for about two weeks per month, which totals 135,000 miles each year.

At first glance, such an extremely mobile lifestyle resembles that of Ryan Bingham, the main character in the ‘Up in the Air’ film. Similar to the movie character, Hadjibashi’s packing takes mere minutes and she doesn’t own many things, which makes her mobile lifestyle easier. ‘I started to get used to living very light’, is how Hadjibashi puts it, which echoes well Ryan’s ‘no-attachment’ philosophy.

In the movie, the character’s philosophy goes far beyond physical belongings, as he keeps away also from any emotional or personal attachments. The idea is simple indeed: the less attachments you have, the easier it is to let go, right?! Yet, it is also true that the less attachments you have, the more lonely and detached you become, as the movie’s culmination suggests. Luckily, Hadjibashi’s story is quite different from the depicted dark side of expatriation, as it is rather a story of adjustment and meaning behind a mobile lifestyle.

First of all, while detached from lots of physical things, Hadjibashi seems to cherish the moments of comfort and familiarity that she arranges for herself. Be it eating a familiar food in a favorite restaurant, purchasing the same kind of drink at Starbucks, or visiting memorable places when back at home, all of it serves the need of belonging and attachment that we all crave for.

Second, even within this turbulent travelling schedule, Hadjibashi tries to hold on to her running routine and picks hotels with fitness facilities to stay in. Given the potential downsides of frequent business travel, this seems to be a good example of adjusting to unpredictable schedules and minimizing the health risks of it.

Finally, as a truly global citizen, who was born in Iran, raised in Germany, educated in the US, and currently works in the African region, Hadjibashi seems to truly value and see meaning of her experience. As she puts it, ‘moving around the world allows for a new way of seeing things’, and her travel has helped her to develop a good sense of cultural nuances around the world. I find that such meaning and motivation behind a mobile lifestyle are extremely important in dealing with all the adversities and discomfort that come with it.

Notably, small moments of familiarity and comfort, personal routines and the broader meaning and reasoning behind being ‘up in the air’, were all missing in Ryan Bingham’s character… and maybe their absence was exactly what determined ‘Up in the Air’ to be a drama?! 🙂

3 thoughts on “The Real ‘Up in the Air’ Story?

  1. Honestly, I cannot imagine living like that, but I truly admire people who can handle and even enjoy this lifestyle. To feel complete you should grow both roots and wings. I just wonder how do you keep “the roots” by being up in the air all the time. 🙂 Must be really overwhelming, I assume. But, as I mentioned, Yasaman Hadjibashi and people like her have my full respect for doing what they do. It is truly amazing!

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