The Year of the Carry-On

I used to check my bags. I travel often and had a couple of trusty standbys. One was a suitcase for sport coats and suits; the other was a beat-up piece of luggage that was off-color, olive green, and didn’t quite look like any other luggage. It was easy to spot. But then people started traveling with florescent pink, yellow, and green travel bags with ribbons and bows and all kinds of doohickeys. In São Paulo they’ll even wrap your luggage in giant, lime-yellow plastic that looks like Saran Wrap. Times have changed.

I don’t check bags anymore. It has gotten too cumbersome and costly. I travel with one carry-on made of fashionable, Italian leather. One must cut la bella figura at all times, you know.

I have decided that for 2016 I will extend the philosophy of simplicity and elegance to the rest of my life. Simplicity is within reach; elegance will take a little longer. I am working on both. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took a lot of forced labor. This also means that I have given up other kinds of checked baggage (i.e., people). I know that sounds harsh. I don’t mean it to be, but I have to be realistic, which is something I haven’t done for most of my life. This reminds me of the scene in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being in which Teresa arrives at Tomas’ doorstep with two heavy suitcases. By the end of the novel, you discover that Tomas’ bon vivant lifestyle was heavier than Teresa’s emotional baggage. Not that I am a bon vivant, mind you.


I have learned a few things that I will take into the new year: (1) People do not change. Those who had thin skin years ago continue to have thin skin. In some cases, it has gotten even thinner, the width of molecules. (2) I will never win with certain people and situations. It is better to cut my losses and move on. This is an important truth that all the positive psychology books and seminars will never dispel. In this regard, there is wisdom in the phrase, “it is what it is.” (3) It is good to shut up and listen. (4) It is better to stand your ground when necessary. If you can do so without speaking, even better. (5) I have a “no-fly” list of people with whom I will not do business or associate. This is not because they are bad or toxic, although a few are. It’s just that, in the words of the Jesuit philosopher, Bernard Lonergan, “brilliant ideas are a dime a dozen” and these people carry a lot of dimes.

Maybe that was harsh. I am not exactly the Robespierre of execution, either. But at least I try not to waste my time or anyone else’s anymore. I suppose that comes from living in New York. You learn pretty quick (a New York minute?) that time is more important than money. At least I did, and I think money is very important.

So, I say travel light in everything that you do and let 2016 be the year of the carry-on. You may not find that on a placemat at a Chinese restaurant, but then why carry around all that baggage when it benefits no one and just makes you resentful? Besides, do you really need three thousand Facebook friends?

Haven’t had enough? Go to Robert Brancatelli. Look for Nine Lives by April, 2016. Note to self: it’s not the what that matters; it’s the who. Image credit: Clem Onojeghuo (feature).


  1. This is an excellent guiding thought for beginning a new year that promises nothing but turbulence as we lurch toward the election in November.

    I have my own personal mission statement set out in five points, and one of them is to “live simply and serenely”. Easier said then done, to be sure, but I am with you on this one, Robert!

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