If We Can Do It, So Can You – Featuring Em and Jake from Our Asian Stomping Ground

Featuring on this week’s If We Can Do It are Jake and Em. Jake works in the construction industry and Em is an ESL (English as a Second Language) tutor. However the couple, who are in their mid-20s, say they are “a bit over the daily grind and boring, mundane everyday life” which is why they are about to embark on their very own grown up gap year. I love the answers they’ve given to my questions and am so jealous that they are going to Burma – my favourite country on my 30b430 trip!

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

Em has always pushed the point of travelling and has the opinion that one should travel constantly, taking a ‘gap year’ to work in, before travelling again. Travelling is the most important thing for her and it has been a dream to travel more long term, rather than for a few weeks or a month. So for her, the decision was easy.

While at first the concept of travelling, rather than working, was hard for Jake to accept, he now sees it as an amazing opportunity and is so excited about it. He feels that although in the beginning it was difficult, the decision became easier and that it is the right thing for him, and us.

We are at a point in our lives in which we have few commitments. We don’t own a house, we are not held down in long-term careers, we don’t have children…just a couple of backpacks that are crying out to be used.

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

Em’s mum was sad! She cried. Jake’s mum’s reaction was: “Good!”

Of course, we’ll miss people and we know we’ll be missed. We think our families weren’t too shocked at all though, nor our friends. So many people have said to us things like “Oh wow, you’re so lucky”, “I wish I could do that”, “I’m so jealous of you”, “Wow, what a trip”.

It’s funny because we don’t think it comes down to luck at all. We made a choice. We don’t want to be those people who always envy someone else’s life/lives. We want to be the people who make the most of ours and do the things we want to do; the things we dream about.

3. How long will your trip be and where are you planning to go?

It will be around the seven month mark altogether – “Not long enough” springs to mind. We decided to ‘only’ focus on Asia for our trip, for a couple of different reasons. Apart from falling in love with it on previous trips overseas, we are aware it is a place that is changing rapidly and adapting to the modern world. We want to see Asia in all its traditional, cultural and historical glory, which had a big influence on the countries we chose to visit.

We’re heading to Sri Lanka, India, Burma, Northern Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.

4. Will you be meeting any family/friends along the way?

Yes! Lots and lots of them, every day… the only thing is, we don’t know them yet. We can’t wait to meet them. If you happen to be in the same part of the world with us, at the same time as us… wanna be friends?

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

We are rough travellers. We backpack and live cheaply and simply. We live with the basics and that suits us fine. We sleep in dorms and take local public transport wherever possible. We try to eat where the locals do and are happy to spend our days getting lost walking around, rather than on a tour. We realise that in seven months in Asia, we could pack in a lot more than seven countries. However, we don’t want or like to be tourists – we are travellers. We like to blend in (although Jake, aka Big Red, might struggle a little) and really explore and take in our surroundings. We want to meet locals, explore laneways, people-watch and really get to know the culture and the way of life where we are currently living. So, we’re travelling slowly, you could say. We’ve got three months in India, for example; it sounds like a long time, but we feel we need that to just merely ‘scratch the surface’ of a country like India.

6. Do you plan to take any tours or do it alone?

Day tours, such as bike tours, walking tours, historical tours, etc – absolutely! Other than that, we’re going it alone. Hopefully we meet fellow travellers and locals along the way who will be our best tour guides of all.

7. What do you think will be the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?

Last year while travelling in Asia, we learned more in six weeks than we would’ve learned all year at home. The biggest and best thing we think we will get from this ‘gap year’ will be a new perspective on life. We are better people because of our travels.

8. And are you worried about any downsides?

Absolutely, that’s normal, yes? We hope so! India scares us, a lot. We have concerns about Burma too – it’s a concern about the unknown, maybe. It’s a mix of fear and excitement.

Health problems worry us, more so Em. It’s a bit frightening when you have to start thinking about so many health issues that can occur overseas, particularly in developing countries like Asia, that you don’t have to worry about back home. Mosquito borne diseases are a concern, as we won’t be taking anti-malarial drugs, and we are continually researching how to prevent health problems while away.

Other things that might/have caused concern are things like safety precautions, traffic and road safety (particularly in India!) and the general “how do I guard my passport and money?” issue.

It’s amazing how much you take for granted back home, when you don’t have to think about daily health and safety to the same extent as when travelling.

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

Stop being that guy in the office who is jealous of everyone else going off overseas; while you sit there playing solitaire wishing it could be you and wondering why you aren’t that “lucky.” Stop stalking your jet-setting friends’ facebook photos of their latest overseas adventure, secretly cursing them with every click.
Book yourself a flight and work the rest out after that. You only live once and time is ticking away. Enjoy yourself. Choose your destination, pack light, drink beer if in doubt, try everything once and be that facebook feed-hogging, holiday photo-posting guy that everyone else is jealous of.

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