I met the lovely Lucy from Absolutely Lucy via Twitter and was immediately swept away by her enthusiasm for her upcoming trip (and, ok, I’ll admit it – I was a little jealous too!) Her decision to make some big changes in her life and head off travelling really resonated with me, as I also gave up my job in journalism to make my 30b430 trip. So I know the amazing adventures that await!
1. Why did you decide to take your grown up gap year/trip? Was it a difficult decision to make?
I had been working as a journalist for three years straight out of university, but in that time there had been a lot of company problems and redundancies which began to make my work less enjoyable. I still loved it, but started getting itchy feet and knew I either wanted to move on to a new job or travel. It seemed logical to save money and travel while I had no commitments to a house or children, instead of immediately moving away for a new job and possibly missing my opportunity to travel. Something pretty dramatic also happened in my personal life and although devastating at the time, it really prompted me to take some time out for myself.
2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?
They were all really shocked – particularly when I told them I was going alone, leaving my partner of nearly nine years behind. A lot of people were worried I wouldn’t be safe and I had so many comments about how “brave” I am. My parents were so supportive and have really helped me with organising visas and all the other stuff you have to do, but they’ve also known when to step back and let me take control of my trip. They know I’m excited to be independent and do it all by myself, they’re big travellers too so they totally understand.
3. How long will your trip take and where will you go?
I’ve booked for seven months, but I’m already planning to do a year and use up the validity of my plane tickets. I’m starting on January 6 in Thailand. While I’m there I will be volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park and plan to travel the length and breadth of the country. I will also be venturing to Cambodia for a health/yoga retreat and to explore the temples; eating my way around Vietnam and stopping for a while in Laos. I also hope to fit in a trip to either the Philippines or Indonesia, and a few other small islands.
After Asia I’ll move on to Australia. Again I plan to travel extensively around the country and with lots of friends scattered around, it should be quite an exciting time. I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends and, of course getting a guided tour from each of them. My partner will also be catching up with me there and spending a few months with me before going back to the UK for university.
My final months will be spent in New Zealand, travelling as much of the country as possible. I’m also hoping to fit in a trip to Fiji with some friends. And, if all goes to plan and I have the money, I would really love to double back on myself to spend New Year at Sydney Harbour in Australia before catching my flights back to the UK via Dubai.
Phew – it sounds like such a lot to cram in to a short space of time!
4. How will you finance your grown up gap year? (Ie. Did you work along the way? Use savings?)
I have spent a year saving, plus I already had some savings set aside. My funds were topped up by wages from two other jobs I took on – waitressing/bar work at a pub and babysitting for a friend. (Both giving me great experience to help with applying for jobs while I’m travelling.) I also sold A LOT of clothes/books/DVDs etc – basically anything I owned went at car boot sales or on eBay.
By spacing it out over the year though, I still had a social life. I felt that it was good that I took longer to save because it meant I didn’t have to sacrifice everything. I also plan to work towards the end of my trip in order to fund an extra three months on top of the nine I have already funded.
5. Will you go alone or with family/friends?
I’m going it alone and leaving my partner behind. He wanted to come, but is currently retaking his A-levels in order to go to university, so I decided to head off without him. He plans to catch up with me after his exams, when I will be in Australia and will spend a few months with me.
Along the way though, I do have a lot of friends to meet up with. When I arrive in Thailand I am meeting up with a group of great friends before going it alone. In Australia I will basically be working my way around loads of friends, which really gives me comfort in knowing I will never be completely alone. In New Zealand, my mum’s best friend lives there, as do some other family friends, so I know they will be around if I need help or a bed for the night. It’s great to know there will be people on hand to meet up with and to make suggestions for where I should go.
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’m definitely going all out backpacking – living out of my rucksack and staying in budget hostels. I’d rather experience travelling for as long as possible than splurge for a couple of weeks on fine dining and luxury accommodation. (Although, as a little treat for the start of my trip I do plan to book into a nice hotel.)
I will always be willing to splash a little bit here and there if I just need a comfy bed and a bath for the night, but I’d rather keep my money for experiences!
7. Will you go for tours or do it alone?
I plan to do as much of it as independently as possible. I’ve found in my experience that although trips are great for meeting people, they often only stick to the well-trodden path and I’d like to explore a little further. Plus, I’m doing this to be independent and I don’t want to hand over the hard work to someone else!
I will still go in for the odd tour here and there, but will try to stick to the more authentic ones with locals rather than international companies.
8. What do you think will be the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?
I think the fact that you have come out of work to take time out really makes you appreciate the time to yourself, especially after working a high pressure job like mine.
Plus the fact that you are older and possible braver means you are more willing to try new things and places – not applicable to everyone – but I would never have been brave enough to plan this trip and more importantly, to go it alone, when I was 18. Becoming a professional and things like blogging have really given me a shot of confidence and the drive to explore the world around me with no fear.
I’m also a lot more knowledgeable about the countries I am going to. As a teenager, I would have quite likely just gone to Thailand then Australia and New Zealand, rather than taking the time to explore other countries in Asia.
9. And do you think there will be any downsides?
I think because I’m still young there actually won’t be any downsides. For people who have to worry about family/children, or who have to deal with things like renting out their home or paying a mortgage, it is a very different situation. But I am lucky in that I am free from those kinds of responsibilities.
I do have the slight concern about being out of the job market for a year, but I know so many who have done the same and who have walked straight into jobs on their return.
I really see no downsides except the test to my relationship. But we have already survived three years apart while I was at university, so if it’s meant to be, it will all work out.
10. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grown up gap year?
Research. Plan. Research some more. Talk to people who have done the same. Don’t listen to the people who say you’re crazy, you can’t do it, it’s not safe to go alone… Just make that leap!
Start saving – don’t let money put you off – anyone can afford to travel if they set their minds to it. Book your flights, quit your job and have a cold beer. Trust me, it’s an amazing feeling!