This week’s If We Can Do It interview with Ryan Morgan shows why you can’t always judge a trip by your first impressions.
1. Why did you decide to take your grown up gap year/trip? Was it a difficult decision to make?
I was made redundant my old company, as a result it seemed like the perfect time to get away.
2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?
Generally everyone was happy and excited for me.
3. How long did your trip take and where did you go?
I was abroad for four months: I went to Bali for two weeks, Kuala Lumpur for three days and spent three months in Vietnam, mainly in Nha Trang, but I also travelled around the country. I then finished with a week in Singapore.
4. How did you finance your grown up gap year?
I mainly used the money from the redundancy and a small bit of savings I gathered together. I also worked in a bar for a month in Nha Trang and then freelanced for a couple of bars around town. I got very little money but free food and drinks and when your own private room was costing £4 ($6) a day, it was hard to spend a lot of cash.
5. Did you go alone or with family/friends?
My initial trip to Bali was for a friend’s wedding. It was my first time in Asia, so it was good to have a few people around me while I settled in. I also had a friend who owned a bar in Nha Trang. The travelling in between was on my own.
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)
I mainly stayed in mid-range hotels or guest houses, which cost so little in Asia. I hear hostels are good for meeting people but I guess being alone and slightly older, I liked my own privacy. Travel wise, I had two long coach journeys because I was forced to for those legs. In general I didn’t really like the coaches; my body clock was messed up with the partying so while others slept, I really struggled. As a result I was on my own and bored for the time. I threw a diva-style hissy fit and then flew most journeys.
7. Do you go for tours or do it alone?
The best thing about working in the bar in Nha Trang, was I got to meet loads of people. I became good friends with workers and owners from other bars, so we used to go on motorbike trips to private beaches, waterfalls etc. I also made a point of getting friendly with some of the barmaids I worked with and knew around town. I’d advise this to anyone. I went on three or four trips to visit their families, which was up to an hour out of town on a motorbike. For me this was the real, raw Vietnam, not the modified places for tourists. I was always looked after and would often attract a lot of attention from the neighbours, who would bring me food and all sorts. Despite being poor and not having the best of facilities, the food was amazing. The chicken was killed in front of me, which might be hard for some to take, but it was amazingly fresh. The herbs/fruits were also grown around the garden and rice farmed within the local communities.
8. What is the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?
It completely chilled me out and I got to appreciate a different way of life. I hated Bali for 24 hours when I first arrived. It wasn’t what I expected: it was roasting hot, I’d travelled for 18 hours to get there and I basically had the hump. The next day, I was sitting on the beach in Kuta, watching the sunset. There were families from all backgrounds, having fun and loving life. Money didn’t matter, lots of them barely looked like they could muster up a meal, but they were all so happy with what life was giving them. That moment, I was completely chilled out and I’d say it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I loved Bali after that.
9. And were there any downsides?
Not really, just coming home I guess.
10. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grown up gap year?
1) Don’t be afraid to mix with the locals and try new things. 2) Don’t plan too much, a lot of stuff will happen off the cuff. You will meet people and your journey could change. 3) Don’t think about doing it, do
You can keep up with Ryan’s adventures by following him on Twitter @HotdogofLondon