Deciding whether to take a grown-up gap year
I think most people who know me will agree that I am not the best decision maker in the world. So deciding whether to take a grown-up gap year has been a pretty big deal.
I’m always the last person to decide what I’m going to order when we go out for dinner. I’m that annoying girl who finds a pair of shoes I like in the first shop but then insists on trailing around every other one in town just in case I find some I like more. And when I say “I don’t mind” what we do, I usually genuinely mean it.
So for someone who can’t even decide whether to go for pizza or pasta in a restaurant, making decisions about what I’m going to do with my life is tricky.
I’ve been living in Brighton for three years now and for the last year or so I’ve been vaguely wondering what to do in the future. I’ve made the odd comment about needing to move on in my career or going travelling, but I’ve never actually been able to say for certain what I want to do.
I was just hoping at some stage that things would come to a head and I would somehow magically know what it is I should be doing.
Over the last year in particular I’ve watched my friends start to settle down, get married and have babies. While I’m so happy for them all, I’ve been feeling a rising panic that I should start acting a bit more like a grown up too.
But here’s the thing – I don’t want to.
My favourite thing in the entire world is travelling. I’m never happier than when I’ve got my backpack and a guidebook (and, let’s face it, usually no clue what I’m doing!)
But whenever I’ve thought about heading off on another adventure, a little voice in my head has been telling me that I shouldn’t be running away and that I should be more responsible.
So I’ve been going back and forth between the two for a while, always hanging on to a vague notion that at some point I’d just know and weirdly enough – as these things never usually happen – I did.
I went for a promotion at work, which seemed like the sensible thing to do. But when I didn’t get it, although my head was disappointed, my heart was secretly doing a little dance because I felt like I’d been given my escape pass.
That had been my final chance to progress at work and when it didn’t happen deciding whether to take a grown-up gap year was made so much easier.
At the back of my head I’d been creating a mad plan to spend the last year of my twenties going on a huge adventure. It had kind of been my consolation to myself while I waited to hear back about the job. A little voice saying: “Don’t worry if you don’t get it you can always….”
And then when it actually happened I suddenly thought to myself, why not?
Although I’ve been lucky enough to do a fair bit of solo travelling, there are still so many places I want to go to and so many things I want to see.
When I was younger I used to love the books written by people like Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace, where they’d go off on some crazy project to do something like find 52 people with the same name as them. And while their girlfriends always seemed annoyed at their crazy “boy projects” I always wondered why only the boys got to do it. The idea of setting off to do something crazy, just because you can, is something that’s always appealed to me.
So I came up with a list of 30 things around the world I want to do before I turn 30.
So there it is, my 30b430 trip has been born. I feel silly even saying it. I tried to explain it to the woman in the travel shop the other day and just ended up sounded like someone in the middle of a crazy mid-life (can that happen at the age of 28?) crisis.
Reactions to the idea have been mixed. Some of my friends (mostly guys) have been all in favour of it.
But it’s been the response of some of my closest friends that has been the most surprising. I think that, in only the way that best friends can, they have been very honest about my decision. While it’s not the actual year away that worries them, it’s what I’ll come back to that they’ve been trying to prepare me for. One of my best friends said: “But you’ll come back and you’ll be 30 and single and won’t have a job…”
It did make me stop and think and of course I’m scared that I may get back in a year’s time and everything will have changed. People will have moved on and I’ll have been left behind.
But on the other hand I’m not going anywhere here. I’m moseying along living, not a bad life, but not really an exciting one either. I’m so fortunate that I have amazing friends, a lovely landlady and a job that I (mostly) like. But I know that if I stayed here I’d be in exactly the same position by the time I turn 30. But during a year away a million different things could happen and that’s what excites me and – let’s be honest – scares me, in equal measures.
Although one part of me is terrified at what I’m about to do, I know that deciding to take a grown-up gap year has made me the happiest I have been in a long, long, time.
So to my best friends I say thank you for your honesty and please feel free to say “I told you so” if it all goes wrong (before letting my cry on your shoulder). But for the time being I’ve made my decision and I’m going to close my eyes and jump.
And hope that I don’t land in a big fat puddle.
Just remember jumping in puddles can be fun!Sounds incredible and scary at the same time. I can safely say in a year life will have moved on and things will not be the same, but you won't be the same either. It takes some adjustment to return and it's not easy, but that's the thing – life generally isn't easy, particularly when something is interesting and dynamic, so why not go for it!Hope you have a wonderful time – we'll look forward to hearing about your adventures!
Thanks for the lovely message Steph. I only hope my adventures are half as exciting as yours were!
Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace have been inspirations for me too. If I boil it down, I like how with a bit of ingenuity and charm the questions about life that haunt us can be converted into great art.I've found that what's changed most dramatically is my mindset, my frame of reference. The usual trope when people come home is "I've changed so much but nothing else has changed". If you dig deeper, the very existence of time is change in and of itself. Not to mention friends having kids, partners, divorce, travels etc… For me its about finding peace in that change, by taking control of it or having no regrets.
I think you're right Loz, a lot does change while you're away. I have friends who are having babies, getting engaged and getting married so I know that things will be different when I get back to the UK. But I think that's what makes going back so exciting as well. I love travelling but at the end of my trips I always look forward to going home.