Hello all and Happy New Year! I had a bit of a break from blogging in December due to a combination of starting a new job, honeymoon *ahem* I mean wedding planning, decorating our house and general Christmas festivities (we don’t like to do things by half!) But I’m back now and looking forward to a year of new adventures. To kick-start 2015 I’ve got a fab If We Can Do It interview with Amy and Stefan, aka Travel Jaffles, who are celebrating their first year of marriage with the trip of a lifetime.
1. Why did you decide to take your grownupgap year/trip? Was it difficult decision to make?
You know when you get together with family and old friends there is always a point in the conversation when you exchange old stories and reminisce about the good times and past adventures? Well we love hearing other people’s stories and adventures and we really wanted to have our own adventures and stories to tell. We realised we needed to stop day dreaming about having adventures and travelling and actually put a plan into place to do it and that’s what we have ended up doing.
We put a lot of thought into making the decision and it wasn’t always easy. We love our regular routine, going to work and hanging out with our friends and family and we weren’t looking to escape as such, rather just to enhance our own lives and experiences. So at times it felt difficult to untangle ourselves from all the things and responsibilities that hold you down. We realised we needed to take our opportunity now though, as we didn’t want to wait 30 or 40 years until our possible retirement – if we were lucky enough to make it that far – to set out and do all the things we had always day dreamed about our whole lives. We also wanted to do a lot of hiking and activity and we didn’t know how our knees would be in 30 or 40 years time!
2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?
We really did not give enough credit to the people around us. Prior to announcing our plans we were concerned as to what people’s reactions may be. However we are pleased to say we were overwhelmingly pleasantly surprised. Our friends, family and workmates were all very supportive and excited for our plans and we were surprised at how many people also had similar plans or had taken similar trips years ago. Don’t underestimate people and how supportive they can be of your travel plans.
3. How long did your trip take and where did you go?
We are currently two months into our 12 month travel plan. We are in Queenstown, New Zealand, enjoying the outdoors and doing lots of hiking. We plan to spend the next eight to nine months in South East Asia, with our next stop being the Philippines and then finish off with a road trip of the USA & Canada.
4. How did you finance your grownupgap year?
We are using our savings to finance our travels. We started saving two and a half years before our departure and set up a regular direct debit from our fortnightly salary, which went directly into a high interest savings account that we couldn’t access. We named our savings account “Our Big Adventure Fund” and it was encouraging to watch it grow. It was difficult for a few weeks but then we just got use to not having the extra money and we knew it would eventually fund our travels.
We see it as an investment in our lives and experiences.
5. Did you go alone or with family/friends?
We got married in October 2014 and left on our travels five days later. We are travelling by ourselves at this stage and the jury is still out on how the first year of marriage will go with only carry-on luggage, however so far so good!
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)
We would describe our travel style as budget with a sprinkle of luxury. We want to make our savings stretch as far as they can and are determined to stick to our pre-departure budget, however sometimes you just need to treat yourself. For example, we enjoyed a lovely hotel bed after a four day hike in New Zealand instead of heading straight back into our campervan. It makes the sprinkle of luxury so much more enjoyable when you don’t do it that often.
In terms of travel speed, we are definitely towards the slower end of the scale. Not only is it cheaper to go a bit slower instead and save on transit costs, you also you get to really SEE a place and explore. One of the reasons for our travels is that we really wanted to slow down and get out of the busy trap, so we are trying not to pack too much in which helps avoid travel fatigue and burn out.
7. Do you go for tours or do it alone?
We are pretty much lone rangers when it comes to travel and like to explore by ourselves on our own schedules. It also helps keep costs down, however we are definitely not ‘tour haters’. If you are going to do a tour pick one that gives you access to a place or an experience that you couldn’t otherwise get and it will hopefully make the tour more memorable and special. Don’t forget you can also try and negotiate tour prices if they seem way too high. You will be surprised that most tour companies may knock some money off the advertised price or throw in a freebie or extra.
8. What is the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?
We are only at the start of our travels so we are sure the list will grow. However at the moment we are just slowing down and enjoying life outside our usual routine and habits. We know that the opportunity to take this much time out of our regular routine is precious and we are trying to enjoy it as much as possible.
9. And are there any downsides?
Not so far!
We were a bit worried how our travel plans may affect our careers. However our workplaces have both been so supportive that these concerns have been set aside. We do miss our friends and family, but you can stay so connected through the wonders of technology that it is easy to keep up on news from home and we look forward to returning home when the time comes.
10. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grownupgap year?
We would like to say ‘just go and do it and do it now’, but that is probably not the best advice! We would say really think about why you want to take a grown up gap year and what you want to experience and accomplish and then sit down and plan it out and then put your plan into action.
We felt nervous and anxious leading up to our departure (which seems to be quite normal). However we realised having a good plan in place meant that we would follow through with our intentions and not chicken out at the last minute. We don’t regret it!