Ever since I could remember, I loved going into old houses, abandoned factories, and jumping the fences of properties where even the warnings to keep out were being swallowed by time. Now, I sort of got into this hobby by accident. When I was a teenager, I grew up in a big city in the Midwest. There were some really old parts of town. Our city was caught up in the dot com boom of the mid 90s, so there were an awful lot of old apartment complexes that had been condemned in the downtown area, and quite a few brown brick office buildings that were just falling apart. Three friends and I spent a few summers telling our parents "I'm sleeping at Jon's house.", while Jon would tell his parents he'd be sleeping at my house. Since we had just gotten cell phones at the time, we were in absolutely no fear of getting caught.
At first, it started out as teenage bravado. We would dare each other to go into a creepy old building after dark, and bring something out. But after a little while, we discovered that out of the five guys we did this with, three of us had very similar reasons for doing it. The three of us weren't amused by the petty vandalism and showing off. Jon and Mike, and myself would spend hours combing through old cellars and carefully climbing broken stairwells to get into rooms that hadn't quite been picked clean by vagrants and squatters. We would be become engrossed by trying to reconstruct the lives of the people who had lived or worked in these places; we would spend hours guessing under what circumstances they left these belongings behind. We wondered where they were today, and what they were doing. And so it became tradition for four summers that the three of us would find new places to explore. We even would do research on the buildings first at the library, then when the time was right, head out and break in.
We had some close calls those summers, near-misses with the police, encounters with private security, one or two altercations with the homeless, and at one point, Jon had to get tetanus shots and get a cast put on when his foot went through a dry rotted step on an old staircase. After the fourth summer, though, we all went our own separate ways. Jon went to college on the east coast, I went into the Air Force, and Mike stayed at home to attend community college, eventually dropping out and joining the Navy.
For six years, I did my time in the military; fondly shelving my urban explorer days. I got out of the Air Force, and started going to college myself. I took two semesters in a row before deciding I was pretty well done with it. I was sick to death of it, because I felt like I had absolutely no life outside of school. However, due to a combination of financial aid, GI bill, no life, and a part-time job, I suddenly realized that I had $12,000 left over to survive the two and a half month summer break. At first, I decided I should take some time off of work. I called my boss and asked whether he would be willing to hold my position for two months while I did some traveling and R&R. He was game, and told me that he'd love to have me back after the summer.