I always say that you can take a grown up gap year no matter what your age and sometimes the travel bug takes hold and completely changes the direction your life was going in. That’s what happened to Jodie from The Little Backpacker and it sounds as though she is now on the adventure of a lifetime!
1. Why did you decide to take your grown up gap year? Was it a difficult decision to make?
Initially I didn’t plan to take a gap year, when I finished education in 2010 I had a degree lined up but at the last minute decided to defer my entry. I had been through a bad time and decided to spend some time volunteering abroad, to help me get through it. Volunteering was the most rewarding thing I have ever done and it was a pretty life changing experience. The problem was the travel bug bit me on this trip and so within a month of returning I found myself booking another trip. I then came back to England and settled down for a while living in London for the Olympics and building a career for myself. I would find myself staring at the STA website and feeling very unsettled with my settled life and so my grown up gap year began.
2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?
It’s funny at the time I always thought everyone thought I was silly deferring my degree and heading off to South Africa but a few months ago my mum said to me it was the best thing I could ever have done and she hasn’t worried as much about me since. The reactions of people will always surprise you. When I announced I was leaving for a whole year, not just another short trip, everyone expected it and phrases such as “not again” became a constant. I have had several people ask me why I haven’t been to university and don’t I care about my career? I do, but I know if I don’t travel now I’ll regret it.
3. How long did your trip take and where did you go?
The first two small trips were volunteering in an orphanage in South Africa for six weeks and working as a camp counsellor in America for two months. When I left last October on ‘the big one’ the plan was to spend eight months away exploring and working in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. I have now been gone nine months and I’m still in Australia. At the end of this month I will finally be heading to New Zealand and South East Asia!
4. How did you finance your grown up gap year?
The first initial trip used my savings from birthday money my parents made me save for years and years as a kid/teenager. However since then every trip has purely been funded by working; I would offer to stay extra hours or take an extra job so I could afford to do these trips. I became very good at saving and cutting out luxuries. The closer it got to my trip the harder I worked at hitting the total I wanted to save. Since being in Australia I have then worked and saved as hard as I can to fund the next leg of my trip from here.
5. Did you go alone or with family/friends?
I have done both – alone and with my boyfriend. Sometimes a trip starts alone but ends with a new bunch of friends and some amazing memories with them. Now I travel with my boyfriend and I love travelling with someone else – it is nice to have someone to share the excitement of saving and counting down, as well as all of the little day to day things.
6. What is your travel style? (Ie. Budget hostels/Mid-range hotels/Luxury travel – less is more, travelling slowly/pack in as much as possible)
When it comes to hostels I tend to go for anything that is cheap. Up until a few months ago I would often risk the cheapest one, even if it had a few bad ratings. That was until I had an awful week’s stay at a hostel in Melbourne. Since then I’m a little more cautious about where I stay, although it still tends to be anything budget.
In regards to travel style it is whatever my budget and time scale will allow. My time in Australia has been long and it has allowed me to stay in places for a while and explore the surrounding areas slowly while holding down a job. However the next two months I have planned are very fast paced travel. I’m excited to see how I like or dislike the change.
7. Do you go for tours or do it alone?
I have done a huge mixture of both; it all depends on the cost and the time I have to complete the trip. During my time in the USA we rented a car for two weeks and roadtripped, yet on the East coast of Australia we purchased Greyhound bus passes and took several organised overnight trips. The next planned leg of our trip is again a mixture of the two.
8. What is the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?
There are too many good things about a grown up gap year: the experiences, the people, the opportunities, the sights and, most importantly, the memories. I live every day of my gap year knowing I won’t regret not taking the experience. I know I will be able to look back over my travels and be so thankful I took that leap and saw the world.
9. And are there any downsides?
There aren’t many in my eyes but then I don’t have the pressure of a degree hanging over me and the need to pursue a career – yes, that degree I deferred I never took. I guess the biggest downsides for me are going home or getting stuck in one place for too long.
10. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grown up gap year?
I would tell them to go. Don’t let your career be an excuse, don’t let a lack of money be your excuse. If you want to go you can. You just need a little push in the right direction sometimes. There are so many different types of gap years you can take: ones that pay you and some that cost you; ones that enhance your career and others that have nothing to do with it. Tailor your gap year to suit you and gain something beneficial out of it.