Four Walls and No View

My cube has four walls. Five if you count the slightly shorter wall that holds my name plaque. For a cubicle, the space is actually not so bad. The tops of the walls have windows on them, so I can stand up and look at my neighbors to see if they are up to anything exciting. Generally though, they are doing the same thing as me, working. Fifty hours a week to be exact. I was always an eight hour a day guy, until I became a manager, and the requirement got bumped up to ten. For the most part, I don’t notice a major difference in my work day. I come in earlier and leave at the same time as before. Things there remain relatively constant. My view though? Now that’s a different story.

I have nothing but great things to say about the office itself. We work here in what is affectionately known as “the Penthouse”. On my first day in the office, I came across a co-worker who had a picture of Zack Morris and A.C. Slater from the TV show, Saved by the Bell, that read “Welcome to the Penthouse”. I knew immediately, I was in the right place. Our office has a ping pong table and some light fitness equipment. On a weekly basis, we partake in “Fitness Fridays” which affords us the opportunity to come to work dressed in fitness attire, break away from cubicle life, and participate in light physical activity. Paired with a pretty consistent casual dress code, this is easily the most enjoyable work environment I have experience in fifteen years of work experience. Now about that view…

We have floor to ceiling windows here in the Penthouse – you can see the mountains, the freeway, the city, and the airport. However, all of the cubicles face the opposite direction. Of course, they do. We are here to work after all, not to stare outside and daydream. However, with a quick, 180-degree turn, I defy convention and gaze out at John Wayne Airport and watch (mostly Southwest) airplanes departing. To my detriment, I find myself imagining which locations those planes are heading off to, and it leaves me with some serious travel envy.

The travel bug didn’t hit me early in life. Most of the trips I took as a child were within the state of California. My mom and I would visit her brother in Northern California once a year and we made regular trips to visit my grandparents in Pasadena. I first left the country as an eleven year old, a trip to South Africa with mom’s ex-husband (and family friend) to visit his cousin. From what I can recall of the trip, I had a lot of fun. But the flight length (23+ hours) really didn’t appeal to my eleven-year-old self, and I wasn’t instantly enthusiastic about taking additional similar trips. On top of that, we couldn’t really afford to take extravagant trips. Growing up in a single parent household, there wasn’t a lot of extra money for vacations.

Everything changed in 2009, when I took my first solo trip outside of the United States. I had stumbled across a study abroad program based in Oxford, United Kingdom, while in community college. I still can’t say why exactly I became so determined to take the ten week trip abroad. Maybe it was my love of castles and history? I needed to find a way into that program, and with a little persistence and a hefty loan, I was in. Those ten weeks were the best experience of my life and I learned a great deal about myself and what I was capable of. I had survived multiple overnight stays in airports, getting lost in countries where very little English was spoken, a hostel fire, navigating foreign city streets, and so much more. Coming back from that trip, I had a new view of the world, and a burning desire to travel.

Five years later, sitting in a four walled cubicle, I haven’t been out of the country since that trip. I have taken some trips domestic trips with my girlfriend, Julie, but I still yearn to get out of the country and explore the world. In November of 2013, I happened by chance, to encounter a travel website that piqued my interest. A friend had liked a page on Facebook, and out of curiosity, I decided to explore the site for myself.  A few hours on Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site and I was hooked. By accident, I had been thrust into the world of “travel hacking.” Less than a year later, Julie and I had booked our first trip abroad together, and my second some six years later. Our two roundtrip tickets cost only $88.00 (taxes) and more importantly, they signaled the start of something exciting; the opportunity to travel.

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