We interviewed Michael in Bury, just north of Manchester.
Tell us about yourself. Where do you live, and what you do?
I'm originally from Merseyside, and my current job is Senior Commissioning Editor for a company called Rebellion. I work with science fiction, fantasy, and horror books, mostly as an editor. I'll shortly be moving to a new job working for Tomorrowland Festival.
What are you passionate about and what keeps you motivated?
Well, obviously I'm very passionate about books. I've worked in the book trade since 1996 both in retail and in publishing.
I'm a big fan of the outdoors as well, I like to get out of the city and go for country walks. I haven't done a lot of very serious hiking in recent years, but I do like to get out in the hills when possible.
I like my gadgets, computers, and various kinds of technology. And I have a lot of hobbies. I'm quite a collector of things. I like fountain pens, stationery, hats, nice leather jackets and I probably buy too many books.
I'm lucky that my job is one of my long standing interests in life. I read The Lord of the Rings when I was 11, and it was a sort of paradigm shift for me. I hadn't been a big reader of books, and that really turned me into an avid reader. I went from not reading much at all to reading everything in that genre.
I often say to people that if it hadn't been for my godfather who gave me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for my 11th birthday, I might not be doing the job I'm doing now. I had a longstanding interest in books from then onwards, I even did a master's degree in Science Fiction Studies at Liverpool University.
I've been lucky that my career has paralleled with my long standing interest in science-fiction and I've managed to get a few jobs through working in book-selling and publishing that didn't used to exist. I was the first full-time science fiction buyer at Waterstones head office, which was great. It was very exciting to be able to break new ground with that kind of role.
I also set-up a new science fiction imprint called Delray at Penguin Random House when I moved into publishing, at that point, they didn't have science fiction or fantasy imprints. So that was very exciting. I got to develop a new part of the genres I love. And I'm about to move into a new role where I'll be breaking new ground with a company developing its IP into fiction books, which is terrific. So I've been very lucky, work-wise.
As for my home life, I unfortunately lost my wife last year to cancer, we were very much a partnership for 29 years. She was a very big part of my life.
I think I've been very lucky, really, that my job echoed some of my long-term interests. And my relationship from when I was 19 till last year was terrific.
Work and hobbies and general interests have really meshed for me into both a career and a life, with my late wife. Not everybody gets to work in a field that they actually love, so I feel very lucky about that.
How did you first find out about Trakke and how did your first bag enter your life?
I first found out about Trakke when I was looking up masks for the pandemic. Of course, while I was on the website, I saw all the lovely bags and being a big fan of luggage and rucksacks in particular, I was very much taken with the Bannoch backpack.
I couldn't quite justify it at the time because I wasn't really travelling anywhere. But then when Trakke launched their "remade" bags, I took the plunge and bought a reconditioned one. I liked the idea of breathing new life into something that had already been used and loved. So I bought the bag, was thrilled with it, and gave the other bag I was using to a friend of mine and I've never looked back.
What Trakke bags do you have and how do they fit into your life?
I have two bags - the Bannoch backpack, which is my ‘travel to the office bag’ and holds my laptop. The laptop compartment is very sturdy. You don't need to put the laptop in an extra case inside the bag. It's padded enough for my usage.
I really like having side pockets on a rucksack. I get quite stressed if I haven't got anywhere to put my water bottle or my umbrella and things like that. I think side pockets are essential for convenience.
I also use it as my general around-town bag. If I go for a day trip, I use that backpack aswell, it's very good for that. So if I go into Manchester or into Bury shopping, even grocery shopping, I will take the Trakke backpack and I'll have my reusable shopping bags inside it. It's a perfect everyday, day-out bag. It's great for an overnight trip as well if I'm visiting friends that live nearby and I don't need to take a lot of stuff with me.
The other bag I have is a Kelso sling. I bought that during the summer. I decided I wanted a lightweight bag that could carry essentials, sunglasses, wallets, a passport if necessary. I was going to a festival in July in Belgium, and I really wanted something that I could have in the very hot summer. I didn't want to have too many clothes or pockets, and it turned out to be terrific for that kind of trip.
I had a carry-on rucksack with me, but I was able to keep all my travel documents and all my essentials on me at the same time with the sling bag. As a huge fan of Indiana Jones, it also didn't hurt that it's very much like a little Indiana Jones bag. It's got that sort of adventure feel to it.
Aesthetically, the bags are terrific. I've had some nice compliments - one of my colleagues said it was very chic, which I thought that was quite nice.
What's important when it comes to adding a backpack to your everyday kit?
Well, I've travelled a lot throughout my career and my life, especially lots of trips for work. So when I'm buying a work bag, it needs to be as waterproof as possible. In the past, I've carried technology in rucksacks without a decent level of waterproofing, which is no good if you're carrying a laptop or an iPad. I want to be able to put two reasonably heavy devices in the bag, plus notebooks, pens, and power leads of course. I usually carry an umbrella with me, because let's face it, we live in the UK, so you almost always need an umbrella.
I like to be able to carry a reusable water bottle with me. I don't really like buying disposable plastic water bottles anymore. And I tend to carry lots of knick knacks and things around, reading glasses and such. So extra pouches are always useful.
Those are the things I look for in a bag. Does it have enough carry space? Is it sturdy? Can I fit all my bits and bobs as well as the essentials that I might want? And crucially, will it be comfortable while I'm wearing it? I'd be lying if I said aesthetics weren't an important thing to me. I want to feel like it's a cool bag as well.
For me, one of the great things about Trakke bags is they've got that sort of slightly old fashioned, but very classic look to them.
I find the waxed canvas is as durable and waterproof as any of the synthetic bags I've had, which always break down after a while. I actually worked in the outdoor industry for a while and even Gore-tex doesn't really last very long.. so I find waxed cotton will last me a long time, especially as you can re-proof it. It's a very practical and durable material. All those things are really important to me. The practical side of it, and the aesthetics.
I also love a bag to have a good carry handle at the top, which the Trakke backpack has. There are always times when you've got to take the backpack off your back and carry it in your hand. It's annoying if you don't have a good grab handle.
You can also buy add-ons for Trakke bags. I like the idea that if I did want to use it with a very heavy load on a long walking day, I could buy a hip belt or chest straps for it. While these aren't vital, it's nice to know they're available if you want them. And on a very basic level, I want to enjoy the bag. I want it to look cool and be something that I enjoy using. That's why I like the Trakke bags so much.