The view from your desk can vary wildly from the inspirational to the downright depressing. But what can we learn from one person’s workplace window? We asked workers around the world to show us the view from their workplace and explain what it means to them. Scroll down for several diverse windows on the world.
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Tess Girard / Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
Tess Girard and her husband, both documentary filmmakers, spent years saving for what they hoped might be a down-payment on a house in Toronto, Canada. But when they started looking in earnest, realised prices were out of reach. So they headed for Prince Edward County, a rural area just a couple of hours from the city. “We thought it would be easier to be artists if our overhead was lower, so we moved,” says Girard. Many artists have charted a similar path in recent years.
Girard has found inspiration in her new home. The couple live on a creek just in front of a forest and next to a rolling hill. “Even though that sounds very peaceful, it’s actually an extremely active view because it’s a highway for wildlife,” she says. “I look out and there are ducks or swans in the pond just beyond the creek, herons fly overhead, beavers swim up from the creek. Sometimes I’ll be staring out the window and see something or just notice what the light is doing, and I grab my camera and run outside to shoot something. When we lived in Toronto, we would have to actively seek out that inspiration. Now it feels like my everyday.”
Martin Iverson / Scandinavia, the Arctic and Antarctic
Captain Martin Iverson grew up in a fishing family in Norway and was, perhaps, destined for a life at sea. The first ship he worked on was a car ferry along the Norwegian coast, but these days he works on a passenger ship, typically visiting Scandinavia, the Arctic and Antarctica.
The view from his ship is never the same. “When you’re in the Arctic or Antarctica, it’s almost like sailing into a picture,” he says. “It’s an enormous and spectacular landscape. The first time you see it, it’s a little bit more special, but it never stops taking your breath away. I can have my morning coffee and see a whale or 10 come by to say good morning in front of big icebergs thousands of metres high.”
Iverson is attuned to changes in landscape, like melting glaciers, given that he and his crew are constantly scanning the horizon. Recent research found that Norway’s small Arctic islands are warming faster than any other environment on the planet. Iverson spends six months of the year at sea and says it’s hard for him to describe what he loves about it, given that he was born to it. “You become a family, like family number two - or, sometimes, family number one.”
Ryan Forde / St. John, Barbados
Ryan Forde had plenty of time to miss the views in his home of Barbados while he was learning Portuguese in Toronto and studying business in Barcelona. After stints in Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, he eventually returned to work in hospitality and real estate. But he’s always maintained his entrepreneurial interests, which he works on from a desk at his home – with a view across the family’s 10 acres.
“I often have the door to the balcony open, with the breeze coming in, and I can see across the east coast of Barbados,” says Forde, who lives in the parish of St. John. Most of the island’s hotels line the west coast, and the more rugged, comparatively underdeveloped east coast is popular with experienced surfers.
Forde would like to figure out how to use his family’s land to help his community, whether it’s hosting events or growing food for the parish. “A view like this hits a visitor, but when I wake up and see this, I don’t want to leave,” he says. “It makes me so happy to see this every day. Originally, I didn’t want to come back to Barbados, but the quality of life here outweighs everything. You can just go to the beach, grab a mango, whatever. We live in paradise.”
Charlotte Beauvoisin / Kibale Forest, Uganda
Charlotte Beauvoisin first came to Uganda from the UK 10 years ago when she was fundraising for a conservation charity that focused on the prevention of elephant poaching. She spent her first few years dividing her time between Kampala and national parks, but more recently decided to move “up country” to a property owned by a primatologist friend.
She now lives in what is affectionately called “Auntie Charlotte’s cottage”, a tiny building made of wood with a thatched roof. Beauvoisin works from a desk with a view of the surrounding forest. The property has a stream and solar power. Neighbouring farmers grow cotton, pineapple and maize – but under the constant threat of elephants and baboons, which emerge from the forest and destroy crops. In recent years, the Ugandan government has launched a successful programme to reverse deforestation that involves paying farmers not to cut down trees.
When the Internet works, she keeps a blog of her experiences. But mostly, she enjoys being immersed in nature. “We built a pond to increase biodiversity by attracting birds and butterflies, and within a week the pond was full of frogs and water scorpions,” she says. “It’s inspiring how nature just gets on with it even as we humans try our best to destroy it.”
Allison Zurfluh / Venice, Italy
Allison Zurfluh was raised in California by Swiss parents and moved back to Switzerland aged 25. For years, she raised her children and worked as a French-English translator. “Then my kids grew up, and about seven years ago I came to Italy with a concert pianist,” she says. She fell in love with Venice and decided to stay. She now works in tourism marketing from a small, shared office – with bottles of Prosecco in the mini-fridge, of course – but frequently retreats to the islands in the Lagoon, one part of Venice less touched by widespread overtourism concerns.
“I’m a daughter of California and I assumed Venice was going to be Disneyland,” says Zurfluh. “But it didn’t look anything like it looked in my imagination. It felt like such a real place to me, so ancient and full of culture.” From the window near her desk, she can see the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, one of about a dozen intellectual schools of Venice. “Inside the school, there are the most beautiful artworks you can imagine,” she says. “It makes me feel very small but also very comfortable, knowing these great artists were studying here and seeing the same canal I see.”
Jonathan Hernandez / Medellin, Colombia
Jonathan Hernandez grew up in a middle-class neighbourhood in Medellin, where his friends sometimes told him that they heard gunshots. But like so many people who live in this Colombian city, he’s keen to shake the association with well-armed cartels. “In Europe, in South Africa, I introduce myself and people immediately say, Pablo Escobar,” he says. “It’s something that has happened and is part of our history and we have to get over it.” The city recently demolished Pablo Escobar’s home in a symbolic break with the past.
When Hernandez looks out the window of his seventh-floor office, which has a view over Medellin and the mountains that surround it, he’s reminded of the positive aspects of the city he loves – including the weather, the sense of peace he gets from looking at the verdant mountains and the kindness of the people. “Everyone wants to help each other and I know it’s not like that everywhere,” he says. Part of that help has been a reclaiming and extension of community, including public art, bike races and other improvement measures. In his office, he has colleagues from the United States, England and Hungary. “They’re not afraid to be here, because they know that something has changed.”
Caglar Gokgun / Istanbul, Turkey
Caglar Gokgun has worked in tourism for 10 years – particularly with Americans, Australians and Canadians – and he says the first question is always how to pronounce his name. (The “C” in his first name is pronounced like a “J”.) He started as a tour leader and now works as a general manager from an office in the Karakoy neighbourhood, with views of the Golden Horn ancient harbour and medieval Galata Tower, which served as a watchtower for multiple civilisations.
Having grown up in a small town on the Aegean coast, best known for fishing and olive oil, Gokgun is still impressed by the grandness of Istanbul. “Most of the time, the view gives me goosebumps because I feel so lucky to be in a city with so much history,” he says. “You see people selling T-shirts and mugs with the slogan: ‘Istanbul—they call it chaos, we call it home.’ But when you look out the window, all of the chaotic parts disappear.” (The city ranks high on some lists for noise pollution-related hearing loss.) “It’s a privilege to be in a place that’s anchored between two continents.”
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