How the film Up broke my heart – and moved me to travel the world

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The first 11 minutes and 4 seconds of Pixar’s Up are the greatest piece of cinema ever made and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, A) you need to sort out your priorities and B) watch it immediately. I’ll assume that’s done, but just in case there’s any Grade A rebels out there, I’m talking about the great fast-forwarded love story of our age; that of Carl and Ellie Frederickson.

Carl and Ellie meet as children, both enchanted with the idea of exploring. They grow up and get married, hatching plans to travel the world. So far, so cutesy, you might think, but Pixar is pranking you hard.

You soon realise this is no ordinary cartoon when the absolute gut-punch of Ellie’s miscarriage and infertility diagnosis hits. It’s devastating, all the more so because it’s conveyed without a word.

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The only thing that can revive grief-stricken Ellie (and prevent cinema-goers setting fire to their popcorn in protest) is the dream she has of travelling away to somewhere exotic and new.

But, as it so often does, life gets in the way. Exploding car tires and expensive medical bills waylay the Fredericksons’ plans to go to South America. By the time Carl finally gets the plane tickets for them, it’s too late. Ellie dies, and the souls of every person watching crack in two. Yep, it’s rough folks.

Carl settles into his curmudgeonly old age, convinced his dreams of travel died with Ellie. But when an old people’s home comes knocking, Carl attaches hundreds of multicoloured balloons to his house and floats off to the object of his travel dreams: Paradise Falls.

Some people walked away from the film wanting to find their own Carl, a man who’d waltz with them in the kitchen at the age of 79. Others wrote to the International Institution of Helium to question the physics of a house flying 2,691 miles using only balloon force.

But I left thinking the only real goal of my little life was to travel, as much as humanly possible to as many places as I could while I still had the chance.

The pure joy we feel as Carl unleashes his balloons and lifts into the air, the weight of the world lifting from his shoulders as he leaves his humdrum life behind. That’s, at its best, is how travelling feels. To take off, explore a new world and leave the old one far behind you.

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Not long after seeing Up I went on a South American adventure of my own, to the inspiration behind its enigmatic end point Paradise Falls, the very real Auyán-tepui mountain in the Canaima National Park.

It’s beautiful, with the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls, tumbling from its tabletop. At the time, Venezuela wasn’t exactly a hot spot for tourism and it was a Carl-worthy adventure travelling around it.

There were rickety old planes, tarantulas to the face, meats that were at best mysterious and a mugger who had the cheek to ask for a light for the cigarette he’d just robbed me of. But it was all part of the experience of travelling to somewhere new and unknown and I loved every single second (apart from the tarantula, obvs).

The tragedy of Up is that Ellie never made it to Paradise Falls. And sure, she lived her life to the full, but they could so easily have lived it just that little bit more by seeing the world in all its glory.

There are always reasons not to go travelling. Bills that crop up at just the wrong moment, promotions you’ll get if only you hang in there for a little longer.

But if you want to explore the world – Paradise Falls, Angel Falls or just falling over your own two feet – you should do it before it’s too late.

This story is part of Flash Pack’s No More Not Yets campaign. Our mission is to eradicate two powerful words that can stop you achieving your dreams: “not yet”. The not yet seen, not yet swum, not yet sat in the suns. Not yet met, not yet tried, not yet climbed, braved or conquered. What’s your Not Yet?

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Images: Flash Pack, Shutterstock, moviestillsdb, Jenny Novitzky

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