The Cubicle

Cubicles - A dark and evil place!

Cubicles – A dark and evil place!

The Cubicle

I spent over seven years sitting in this cubicle, burning up my 20s, and knowing that something was very wrong but not sure how to fix it. I at least knew that I definitely didn’t want to wake up one day to be the rich, miserable guy in his 40s driving the red convertible.

After some research into various escape options, I came across Rolf Pott’s book Vagabonding; it was like a slap in the face. I levitated around for weeks, planning in secret, and not sharing my new dream with anyone. I sold my house and began to tear down my entire financial-and-social infrastructure that I had spent the last 30 years building. I stopped buying things and started banking the money instead; funds add up far quicker than you can imagine once you stop buying things!

Finally, on December 31, 2005, I walked out of IBM Global Services forever. One quick look back and I knew that I would never return.

Here is the short story about my escape from the cubicle.

What Is Vagabonding?

Rolf Potts describes vagabonding as “the act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time” and “a deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible.”

So simply put, vagabonding is the act of choosing experiences and travel adventures over working away your life for material things. It’s not throwing all caution away and going into the Wild to face grizzly bears and poisonous plants alone — of course, that is always an option. Vagabonding is simply a matter of realigning your priorities in life so that travel is possible.

You can spend $20K on a new car, or keep driving the one you have that runs fine. Sure, a new car would be fun and smell good, but in a few years it will wear out just as they always do. Or you could take that same amount of money (a small fortune by budget travel standards) and literally go around the world gaining life experience and memories that will shape you into a new person. Unlike plasma screen televisions and clothes from the mall, life experiences never wear out, go away, rust, get stolen, or go out of style. After the initial investment, life experience is yours forever.

Why Not Wait for Retirement to Enjoy Life?

Thoreau put it best when he said we spend “the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it.” (i.e., retirement).

In other words: live for now. There is no guarantee that you will have the finances or health by retirement age to do the things that you want to do. This does not mean that we should not prepare some for the future, but don’t get stuck in the cycle of working to buy iToys and things to distract you from working in the first place!

What If I Do Not Have the Money?

You would be amazed at how little money you actually need to travel a majority of the world. In fact, per the BBC, more than half of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day. How much money slips through your fingers monthly? We’re not talking vacation-style travel here where money is fire hosed for two weeks in an effort to bring happiness.

Budget destinations such as Asia, Africa, and South America are full of adventure and culture. They are extremely cheap compared to what you spend to live in the “civilized” world. For the cost of one average dinner-and-a-movie date in the U.S., you could eat, sleep, and play for days on an island in Thailand!

A Life of Travel

Vagabonding is not for everyone, just as sitting in an office or cubicle is not for everyone. I don’t advocate throwing a finger to your boss, sticking a flower in your hair, or even denouncing capitalism. In fact, I have never burned a single bra. If you enjoy what you do, stick to it! If you feel the life being sucked out of you in true Office Space fashion, then get the heck out of there. It can’t be put any simpler than this:

Stop complaining about things and make yourself happy!

How to Get Started?

First, STOP BUYING THINGS. In a few months you will realize that material things are a liability rather than a blessing. Save the money instead so that you will have a buffer. Plus, more money means more options later.

Second, start talking to other travelers, jump into the culture, and see if this lifestyle is for you. You can start by visiting my website for new budget travelers. Take a look at my backpacking guide to get started.

Bootsnall is also a huge and friendly travel community that will accept you with open arms.

Next, pick up a copy of the book Vagabonding for some good inspiration.

Stay positive. Once you are where you need to be, everything else will fall into place — it feels great!

I will see you on the road one day.

26 Responses to “The Cubicle”

  1. “Stop complaining about things and make yourself happy!” You couldn’t have said it any better. Great blog btw.

  2. Sorry about the late comment (was stuck in a cubicle!)–awesome post. Again–the reason for escaping the box. This is the real way to express “thinking outside the box!”

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve linked to this specific post from my cubicle Squidoo lens–because you have said it so well!

    Dave Gardner aka EditorDave

  3. Hi Greg, wow I love your ideas and what a change you made! I’m only 17 but my dreams are big and man, what you’re doing, thát’s what I want 🙂 I realy admire your story, escaping the cubicle! That’s real living you’re doing.

    Hey I just made a new blog on myspace, if you want you can read it and tell me what you think (I put a little link in it to this site)…

    Love your spirit! greetings from Belgium

  4. i don’t like dragging myself to work everyday that’s why i am leaving the cubicle soon and resign from my current job!
    i just want to travel!

  5. Not to comment twice, but I have to. The minute I read IBM, I nearly choked on my water. Many, many of my friends worked there or are currently working at evil IBM. For 7 years or more the only words/phrses I’ve heard to describe them is: soul-sucking, cold, bottom line over humanity, automaton, unsatisfying… I could continue, but let’s not.

    In fact, it seems IBM might be one of the worst in proving that vagabonding is the way to go. If you haven’t, check out the documentary, The Corporation ( IBM is promininetly featured and not in a positive light.

    PS: hope I don’t get sued for this.. 🙂 To cover my ass, it’s my opinion IBM – really, truly.

  6. I’m so glad I found your site. I didn’t know there was a term for what we wanted to do. My husband and I have a 5 year plan to become Vagabonds. We have 2 children left in the nest, our youngest is 14. In the meantime, we are preparing for a year of escape. We’ll be 52 by then, but we are both in good health, so we think by then, we’ll have a nice nest egg to set out into the wild yonder! Thanks for posting all the helpful information, now we know where to start!

  7. I am sharing this with all my wife who also feels like you did. Perhaps there is hope for 2 more traveling souls

  8. Great Blog. I especially love the STOP BUYING THINGS. You are right. How much are we spending just to distract ourselves. Not good.

  9. Hello Greg,

    I recently read “Vagabonding” by Rolf Potts and had the same reaction. When I’m sitting in my dark, soul-sucking cubicle I dream of backpacking, hiking, exploring new cultures, and getting lost in foreign cities. Your blog has added more fuel to making that dream a reality. Ever since I was a child I questioned the act of working all of your life so you could have money and comfort when you were too old to enjoy it. Just as Potts inspired you, you have come to inspire others to hit the long roads of the world and find themselves again.

    I’ve sent you along some noodle love (an ingenious way of getting people to help you out without turning them off to the idea of digging into their wallets). Good luck with your travel adventures, and I will definitely stay tuned to your travel blog!

    ~ Patricia GW

  10. Just wanted to say I LOVE this website and am truly inspired by your lifestyle. As I write this, I am sitting in a small cubicle completely by myself at work on a Saturday, for OT, wasting away a beautiful summer day… bring back any painful memories? lol. I, unlike most of the other people I know, do realize how horrible this lifestyle is, like you have already found out. However, I dont know any other 21 year old kid in a position that I am currently in which allows them the oportunity for OT. I count my blessings every day! Recently, I have started to formulate my escape plan from this 7-7, 6 day a week job, beginning to put away money thats going to help me get out of here. I wish it would come together sooner but there are many things that leach away my money and tie me down at the moment. Your site has been a huge motivating factor, seeing many correlations between your past and my present and also in seeing that it is absolutely possibly to do! I will keep saving until I have enough to start my own journey and not look back. Thanks again and I hope to see you on the trail! = )


  11. You have a book in you, just waiting to be published. Write your story. I hate the whole cubicle culture too and I am sooo glad I found your site!

    ex lawyer, eternal vagabond

  12. Although I do work in an office, there are plenty of people that do not. That is, bluecollar people are always left out the white liberal free spirited daydreams. I do concur with this well written article, however I am upset at the general lack of discussion on, for example, the construction labors angst at his physically draining profession and lack of pay in comparison to the souless cubicle career. They dont have the time at work nor the cash to even consider an idea such as this.

  13. Fortunately, vagabonding doesn’t require a lot of cash, even less than what it takes to maintain a “regular” lifestyle at home no matter the collar color. I meet lots of people on the road (aged ~25 – 35) who came from military, bartending, contractors, etc.

  14. Its like you are in my head 🙂 Great post..I vagabonded for a year and then successfully came back to the cubicle. Wanted to prove to myself its possible to move in and out of it. But well having lived in, out, and in the cubicle, I know its just not for me. So out again it will be. And I totally relate to the things are a liability sentiment. I have not been able to buy anything for a long time now. Once you have gone through the pack, store, sell, donate routine you realize how cumbersome things are.

  15. I did my first backpacking trip early this year, to just relax and break the monotony. But I realized that it made me see life in with better resolution, not just the blur that I got used to. When I came back to my job, I realized that it was a prison. And the reason why I was not freeing myself is that it is golden, enabling me to buy stuff, including those I don’t actually need. But hey, a prison is a prison, and I’m planning a bigtime prisonbreak. I’ve started an online journal to chronicle the many beautiful experiences that I have starting from my very first backpacking trip and the many other adventures I’m about to set foot to, and of course, it will also chronicle the jailbreak! (please root for my success!) I’m currrently chipping off a bit of gold in my prison, and I’ll be on my way. Thank you for people like you Greg, you inspire people to leave the golden bars!

  16. Got Rolf Potts book, great reading. Its rewarding if you get to inspire someone to go do something. I have had two such experiences like this. Both people wanted to talk to me after I first travelled…I had given up a job and my place to live to go travel…the community I live in thought I had gone mad! till I wrote of my experiences for a local newspaper:) I just advised them that they dont have to give up thier careers as such…but to get some months of free time aside…save some funds and stick to thier plan…or keep spending money on booze and other things that wont bring happiness..and keep dreaming! the choice is yours:)

  17. This is hella inspiring. Way to go.

  18. sounds wonderful, but not everyone can escape this way. some of us are middle age, a few years from retirement, with a mortgage, children, medical bills up to the eyeballs. if you can do it, great! but telling people they don’t need money is not a responsible way to age, pay bills and raise children. Let’s face it, you DO need money, or you WILL eventually. Sorry, but sometimes you guys just need a dose of reality.

  19. You are right Deana, this sort of advice doesn’t apply to everyone. I did something like this a few years, ended up in Sweden – from the UK – via lots of countries in between. I found that what I really needed was purpose, wandering aimlessly might have been good in my twenties but as i was in my thirties I guess i just needed to leave the corporate world. Ultimately i had to come back and got sucked in to corporate work but put my foot down after 6 months and now work part time for a charity. I can work from home in my work so i am hoping that i can take an extended trip in the near future yet continue working. Its taken a long time to be in a position that is nearer to what suits me. As Deana said, we do actually need to be able to make money. Ignoring that doesn’t make it less valid.

  20. Great post to upcycle for the Indie Travel Challenge! I love that Vagabonding inspired you… if you’d be interested in writing a post about that for Rolf’s site, let me know… I’m his editor over there! And you can expect to be quoted in tomorrow’s round up on BootsnAll (I’m the editor over there too!) LOVE THIS and I’m so glad you took up the ITC!

  21. Hi! Thank you so much for this blog! I am a student who is trying my best to finish my degree before setting out for the road. I have never even been out of my home country (South Africa), so it sounds quite scary, but it has been a dream of mine for longer than I can remember. I have been tempted to just dropout and start traveling now, but I will probably one day be glad I didn’t. Anyway, I am studying publishing, which is increasingly starting to go online. So hopefully it will increase my chances of getting online jobs for editing and translating while traveling, which will be great.
    For now, your blog and adventures will have to be the magic that sustains me while studying.
    I can’t wait for my days as “swerwer” (vagabond in my language)
    If you ever come to SA, I’ll be more than happy to help you out with a few tips and tricks in enjoying my beautiful country.
    Happy traveling and stay safe!

  22. A friend of my dad’s once said to him..” Your son thinks out of the box”. To which my dad replied, ” with my son thee is no box”. Probably the best compliment ever from him.


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