Taking flight

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Earlier this year, local author Jason Barger flew more than 6,500 miles across the U.S. and lived in airports for a week to write Step Back from the Baggage Claim, a book about the lessons we can learn by dealing with the endless inconveniences of catching a plane. He spoke more about staying sane during his seven-day experiment.

Name: Jason Barger

Age: 33

Job: Speaker, author and consultant

Neighborhood: Hilliard

Hometown: Columbus

Web: stepbackfromthebaggageclaim.com

The concept had been marinating for years, but I turned to my wife one night and said, "I think I may write a book." She said, "I think you should." I said, "The catch of it is, in order to write this thing, I need to go live in seven different airports."

The airport is maybe the best metaphor for our mobile world today. We can't control when flights don't take off. We can't control when something is cancelled. But what we can choose is the spirit we bring to those encounters.

When they hear about the concept, people get so hung up on the logistics, like, "Well, where did you sleep? Did you shower?"

Going into it blind served me. The whole process has been a reminder that sometimes you just have to do it and you just have to start. If we sit back and think too much about all the logistics, sometimes that'll keep us from actually doing it.

The thing I missed most was my kids and my wife. I think you miss the creature comforts. When you're only sleeping four-and-a-half hours a day ... you realize how grateful we are to have places to rest.

If I was going to do the book over again, I would've gotten the contact information for some of the people I met along the way. It would've been really neat to send a copy of the book to some different places and different people and say, "Hey, by the way, it was nice meeting you."

I did a radio show in southern Australia, and as soon as I got off the phone with them, within a minute, I had an e-mail from a woman that said, "I just heard you on the radio. I'm fascinated by the book, and I can't wait to spread the spirit in Australia." The world we live in now is just remarkable.

I was set to be on CNN Dec. 19, but on my way to the interview, this was the exact moment that President Bush decided to speak about the auto bailout. All of sudden, that interview got postponed.

There are some things in the book that have surprised people. Even good friends of mine didn't know that my family had lived in Egypt when I was eight years old. We also lived in Portugal for a summer when I was growing up.

Columbus has always been home, but my father was in international business. When he had projects that would take him away for long periods of time, we would take the opportunity to move and travel. My parents loved to give us experiences.

When I was in eighth grade, my family went to Germany, and that was when the Berlin Wall was beginning to come down. So, there we were, standing out in a cold December day in Berlin and helping to knock down a wall.

One place I'd like to travel to is South Africa.

I hate cotton balls and lint.

Years back when I was in Indian Guides, I got my hand caught in a candy bar machine. They had to call the Jaws of Life and cut this candy bar machine open.

My favorite thing about Columbus is Ohio State football.

I am an obsessive note-taker. If you ever find me without a pen and a note card, it'd be very rare.

The best advice I've ever received is from my father. At different times of my life, he's said to me, "You can't make a bad decision. You can't screw this up." What he meant is that so many times we are choosing between good and good. It's not that we're always choosing between bad and good.

The book taught me that we have an opportunity - in the midst of those obstacles, delays and cancellations in our lives - to make a positive impact on those around us. We can change the world if we choose to do it.