Backpack Woman



Marie Lund, Loads 2014, concrete and polyesterPhoto by Andy Keate

This is blog post about making changes that enable. Sometimes the changes are forced or counterintuitive. I’m enjoying thinking about how transformative some changes can be in enhancing our ability to function and in altering negative self-image. I’m inspired to write it by reading Ysette Guevara’s blog From job crafting to life crafting.

Something new is happening in my life – I have become backpack woman. This is a direct result of losing the family car just before the holidays and deciding not to replace it just yet. We’re trying out car-free living in a city which is accessible on foot and by bus.

It took a little while to work out how to manage my day and still be able to get to the pool for a swim before heading to work at my studio. I need to swim to stay regulated. Without it my sleep patterns quickly slide impacting seriously on my ability to function.

Thus I need to be able to carry both swim gear, laptop and other essentials efficiently and without creating neck and back pain.

A bus key and a well designed backpack are proving to be two revolutionary purchases. Seemingly trivial they are actually transformational. For the first time in decades I’m feeling more connected to my environment and freer.

The car was undoubtedly freeing in other ways but also a trap. Hugely comforting in winter and essential for some journeys and for the period in our lives when our children we small and we needed to accommodate some serious sensory issues. The car was our comfort blanket but also the creator of bad habit and a boon to disorganisation.

I am coming to realise that without the car I am a better planner. No longer able to throw my kit into the boot or simply run the car to the shops when things run out I think my options out more carefully. I’m arriving at alternative solutions, which are different and seem to work well.

Ordering groceries online is a major boon. I can check what we need against the cupboards and fridge as I click. It’s hugely relieving not to have to supermarket shop anymore. I order mainly cupboard goods and top up fresh items as I need them on passing through town.

Travelling by bus means I now move in straight lines – the bus routes are all direct creating a triangle with points south, north and east of the city. Car journey’s were meandering circuits of one way systems and a constant chasing of the clear route avoiding traffic and roadworks. The difference is extraordinary in terms of sensory load. Driving and being passenger also can’t compare on this score.

Of course you give up certain agency with buses – you have to wait and sometimes in the rain but you don’t have to worry about parking, refuelling or traffic restrictions.

The backpack is also proving to be a revelation. I’m probably as ever late to the party here. What have I been doing all these years with a cumbersome collection of handbags and totes?! A well designed backpack in which to carry all the vitals you will need for you day may not be fashionable or too stylish – though mine is inoffensive and compact – but it’s effect on the body is too good to miss.

Walking is entirely different when you have a well distributed load sitting on the right part of your back. Arms are free to swing and there’s no constant hitching of straps. More importantly still no cricked neck or aching arms. The small of my back isn’t complaining either.

There’ll probably come a moment when I miss the car – circumstances may change and we may find we need to reconsider our decision – but I hope I’ll hold onto the positives nonetheless. This period is about pausing and observing what happens when you make a shift in lifestyle habits.

I’m not as hopelessly disorganised as I feared. Organisation happens differently for me and I’m good with online, with less baggage, with straight lines and greatly benefit from the physical connection with my environment that walking and bussing bring.

I summarise it thus. Simplify and connect. Interesting to consider that sometimes what we think of as conveniences aren’t.



Published by soniaboue

I am an artist.

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