Travel

Be nice, work hard, travel free

I spent last weekend in Orlando, Florida working at Holiday Matsuri 2018. I learned I like free flights even more than regular flights, and beds in free hotel rooms are 2x as comfy. Free meals taste better, and a job where you get to hang out with nerds playing a very star-trek-esque game is no work at all. Topped off with a hot tub, breezy low 70* weather & a balcony and you’ve got yourself a recipe for one happy, happy Zoom. How did this magical experience come to be? Keep reading. 

Be nice

My mom has always been there for me with advice and direction. More often than not, her words of wisdom have taken me to incredible places – in this case, literally. The first rule ever instilled in me: 

“Be nice to everyone you meet – you never know who will be interviewing you for a job someday.” 

I think being nice comes easily to most people, right? But, when I meet new people, I make a conscious effort to be extra nice….because you never know who will pay for you to work at a comic-con! 

Work Hard

A little over 6 years ago, my best friend got married. Not only was it my first time attending a wedding, but I was the maid of honor to boot. Talk about God-I-Hope-I’m-Doing-This-Right. In sweeping serendipity (read as: luck), all of my duties as maid of honor went off without a hitch – bridesmaids made it to the bachelorette party, seating charts were drawn, centerpieces crafted, and the bride delivered in one piece to the alter (hey, I wasn’t in charge of the ring – don’t look at me for that). 

I have to tell you, this wedding almost killed me. In fact, if it wasn’t for Rick, it very well may have. 

Rick is my BFF’s brother-in-law. Before I knew this, I simply labeled him “awesome-coffee-helper-dude”. Throughout the wedding weekend, he would regularly check in with me and ask what I needed. The response was often a slightly strained “nine iced chai teas with 2 shots of espresso each (also known as a “dirty Oprah”) from Starbucks, stat!”

That weekend, Rick was there for me and my crew. Last weekend, I vowed to be there for him and his crew – as a Bridge Operator. 

Travel Free

Here’s the deal: if I worked 10 hours as a bridge operator at Holiday Matsuri, I would be compensated with:

  • A flight to Florida
  • A hotel room (with balcony) in the hotel the convention is in
  • A staff ticket to the convention – this got me access to all guest areas AND the staff lounge, home of free food and energy drinks
  • A $150 stipend

When asked if I knew anyone else who would be interested, I said “I know just the guy.” Enter Hayden, my previous traveling companion in Central America

If you’ve never heard of Artemis before, it’s a bridge simulation program. Like the bridge of any starship worth its warp, there are various stations to be manned by reliable crew members. Tactical, communications, engineering, science, and helm, are all crucial roles while exploring the galaxy. After viewing a tutorial video, players can choose their station, then collaborate with the other players to zip around the galaxy helping innocent civilians or studying space whales or whatever the captain says. 

Rick is a member of BridgeSimulators –  a business that contracts out the full Artemis experience for conventions, team building exercises, and other parties. Seriously, we had one slick set-up. Each manned station had a touch screen computer for the player, and the main viewer was projected onto a screen for the captain. 

My job was simple: make people want to come back. I helped with sign-ins, training new officers, and even got to play a bunch when someone stopped by but didn’t have a crew of their own (don’t fear going to a con alone, there are people there for you). When I wasn’t working, I was free to do as I pleased.

This is where this post gets hard for me – I could could write a solid novella about the entire weekend. So many amazing stories, people, feelings, costumes – on and on! I just had such a good time. Instead of hitting you with a wall of text, I’ll share my favorites. 

Celebration, Florida – Mickey’s hometown

The first night in Orlando, Hayden and I Ubered to a Golden Corral in a little town called Celebration (this was before we knew of the staff lounge). I rode with the windows down the whole time because, hello, Florida.

At first, it seemed just like any other Golden Corral. Then I noticed the number of dinner guests donning Mickey Mouse ears. I also noticed I was the only one noticing. I imagine in a town where Walt Disney is basically mayor, seeing a few ears here and there is probably totally normal. This is a classic example of why I like traveling – I love the little nuances that manifest themselves in people’s daily lives simply because of where they live.

People Expressing Themselves

A rule I live by: if it involves a costume, count me in. The Renaissance Festival, Halloween parties, viewing party for Game of Thrones, comic-cons …anything. Fancy dress? Insanely loud outfit? Stare-grabbing top? Yes, please. Basically – an chance to break out of the imposed rules of day-to-day dress. Events that involve costumes provide us a rare chance to express ourselves through dress in a way we can’t normally. This is one of the reasons I love Burning Man so much.

My love for self-expression via funky fashion was probably driving my mates nuts as I admired everyone while muttering “Love her this, love his that, oh my god I just love …” [not so] under my breathe for three days straight – especially coming across guys in drag! They probably don’t get to rock their dresses too often and I was so happy to see them be able to in a safe environment.

Don’t worry, I too had my share of dress up. As a bridge operator, a sweet TOS uniform was a required part of the gig!

SUSHI

Did you really think you’d make it through this post without at least one call out for sushi? Ha! You knew it was coming – here it is.

If you’ve read my other posts, you know I’m a sushi addict. Whenever I go somewhere new, I always try and score a visit to an all-you-can-eat (AYCE) sushi place just to check out the scene. Orlando was no different, but I didn’t think I’d be able to swing it this trip because of schedules and the location of the convention. Then, we’re walking in the hallway and Mia says, “I was thinking maybe for dinner we could go to this AYCE sushi place I found….”.

I legit freaked out a little bit – *grabs Mia in a full body wrap hug* “THIS IS WHY I LOVE YOU, I’VE MISSED YOU OMG OMG!!!”

We went to A-Aki Sushi and it was amazing. The sushi, the appetizers, the dessert and the service – it was all fantastic. The price cramped our wallets a bit, but still, totally worth every cent.

Goodbyes

Nobody likes coming home to the cold, but that wasn’t the worst of it. For me, the hardest part was goodbye – I had such a wonderful time with my crew, my friends, my nerdy family…I can’t wait until we reunite again.

If you were to be offered a trip to work somewhere, where would you want to go, and what would you want to do?

Don't be shy!