I caught the travelling bug at the age of 19. It was my second summer at university and I signed up to do Camp America. It was so easy. I went for an interview, told them I liked drama and before I know it I’d been given a job teaching it at a camp in Wisconsin (I know, living the dream right?) Absolutely everything, from the plane tickets to the accommodation, was organised for me and all I had to worry about was the packing. (Which was how I managed to be the only person in the history of American summer camps to turn up with seven pairs of shoes and yet not one pair of trainers.)
The next summer I graduated and set off on my big five-month adventure to South and Central America which, after I got home and realised I still had itchy feet, was shortly followed by another five months in Asia. And each time I left I just dumped all of my stuff at my parents’ house and set off without a care in the world.
So it was only at the end of 2011, when I started to plan my 30b430 trip, that I realised things are a bit different when you’re a “grown up”. Apparently slamming your hands on the desk, shouting “I quit” and storming to the nearest airport is quite frowned upon in the real world, despite the fact that the movies make it look so easy.
No, when you’re a grown up you have to do it all in the right way. You also have to make proper grown up decisions. Like, is it better to quit my job completely or should I take a sabbatical from work? Should I give up the lease on my home or, if I’ve got a mortgage, should I rent it out? Can we take kids on a gap year? What shall we do about the dog/cat/goldfish? Suddenly I discovered there were a million more things to think about before you even started planning the actual trip (and, as we’ve discovered, planning is not my forte).
I think sometimes it is this fear which holds people back and stops them from making the leap and doing something they dream about. I’ve lost count of the number of times friends have said to me: “I wish I could do what you’ve done” before giving me a whole list of responsibilities and reasons why they feel they can’t.
And every single time I say: “But you can.” Sure, it might be a little bit harder than when we were 18 and the most we had to worry about was whether we were taking enough pairs of pants. It might take a little bit more organising and planning but, as many, many, of us prove, it is by no means impossible.
Once I actually got on my trip, lots of other travellers would ask me if I was on my gap year. Now I don’t know whether that was just because I’m tiny or whether those miracle face creams actually work (or maybe it was the fact that I’m such a scruff when I’m travelling) but they always seemed surprised when I told them I was on a trip to celebrate the fact that I was turning 30. So I started answering the question by telling people I was on a Grown Up Gap Year. This confused some people, especially the 18-year-old proper gap year students – who I nearly knocked out when they called me “old” – but why shouldn’t people who are older and have worked and may have had a family want to travel and see the world too? It’s something I love doing and I don’t ever intend to stop, no matter what age I am.
When I got home friends and friends of friends and even random strangers I met on public transport (I tend to talk to a lot of people, I think it’s the Northerner in me) asked me how I’d done it. So as my previous blog had come to an end I decided to set up the Grown Up Gap Year as a place to not only write about all of the amazing countries I have been lucky enough to visit, but to explain how you actually get there in the first place. Because gap years really aren’t just for the kids. After all, why should they have all the fun?