If We Can Do It, So Can You – with Jenny Leonard from whereisjenny.com

It’s another Monday morning and how are we almost at the end of January already? If you still haven’t got cracking on that New Year’s resolution to make some travel plans then take some inspiration from Jenny Leonard, aka @whereisjenny, who is travelling indefinitely. I love her final piece of advice for anyone thinking about taking their own grown up gap year.

1. Why did you decide to take your grown up gap year? Was it a difficult decision to make?

From the first time I went somewhere outside the USA I fell in love with travel and wanted to see the world. I met some key people who showed me that you can do anything you want with your life. So I set a deadline for myself to make it happen. I was in a serious relationship at the time so it was not an easy decision. At first I took five months to backpack South America, but I did not adjust well when I came back to regular life. So I decided to break up with my boyfriend, sell everything and travel indefinitely. It was a hard decision to make, because I didn’t know if it was the right one, but once I fully made the choice to go I knew it was right. I regret nothing. Life has been amazing and full of adventures. I’m so proud to say that I’m living the life of my dreams.

2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?

Most of my friends didn’t believe that I would actually do it. I still get messages from time to time from them saying “Wow, you really did it. I love following along on your adventures to live vicariously through you!” My online travel/lifestyle design friends that understand and support me were stoked. Those that knew me really well said: “It’s about time! Knew you would do it eventually!”

From people that are strangers I get two types of reactions. First there is the positive; they think it’s awesome and are genuinely interested but talk as if it’s something they could never have. They always have some sort of excuse as to why I can have it and they can’t. Then there are the negative reactions of the people that want to put me down or talk about how selfish I am or how I’m a degenerate to society or some rubbish like that. People can hate on things they don’t understand so I just usually say something sarcastic and walk off. I don’t have time for that negativity.

So mixed reactions.

3. How long did your trip take and where did you go?

I’ve been on three trips so far. The first was in 2006 to volunteer with project Marc in Vanuatu. The second trip was five months backpacking through South America in 2008/2009. And on December 23 2010 I sold everything, broke up with the boyfriend, gave up my dogs and hit the road to travel indefinitely. I haven’t looked back since; this is exactly where I belong!

4. Did you go alone or with family/friends?

Alone. No other way. Although I recently found love on the road so now I have a partner in crime. It’s so amazing!

5. What is your travel style? (Ie. Budget hostels/Mid-range hotels/Luxury travel – less is more, travelling slowly/pack in as much as possible)

Slow travel. Stay as long as you feel like, leave when you’re over it. As little planning as possible. I try to be as minimal in my luggage as possible, but with laptop/work gear, SLR camera and lenses and a skateboard…it’s a bit much but all important to me and my lifestyle on the road. I tend to stay in more budget/guesthouse accommodation but mix it up with luxury and mid-range hotels. I do like the luxury as a little vacation from my lifestyle! I miss baths! I’m kind of over the whole dorm room thing and a bit spoiled now. And with two people travelling, you want your privacy!

6. Do you go for tours or do it alone?

I travel independently, but will do tours in various attractions. It all depends, but I would never travel in a group. I like my freedom.

7. What is the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?

The adventure. The stories. The happiness and joy that radiates from my heart because I’m doing and living the life I want to be living.

8. And were there any downsides?

There are always negatives and it’s definitely not for everyone. The road can be harsh at times and you have to depend on yourself. There is no one but yourself to rescue you when things go wrong. That can be a very lonely and sobering feeling in a time of crisis. In the end, you are stronger for it. Also, you get really good at goodbye. Many people you meet you will want to keep in your life as friends but at some point you have to say goodbye and part ways. It’s tough, Skype and Facebook can help keep you connected, but it’s just not the same as being there in person or being able to have someone come over on a whim when you need an ear to talk to.

9. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grown up gap year?

Make the decision to do it and take a step everyday that gets you closer to that goal. Eventually you’ll be exactly where you want to be. When you make a decision to do something, things just kind of fall into place. I suggest reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s the greatest book ever.

If you want to hear more about Jenny’s adventures check out www.whereisjenny.com, say hi on Facebook www.facebook.com/whereisjennyblog or follow her on Twitter @whereisjenny.

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