If We Can Do It, So Can You – Featuring Melissa Shearer from the mellybooproject.com

So it’s that time of the month when things can sometimes start to feel a bit rubbish. The excitement of New Year is over and here in the UK it feels like it’s going to be a very long time before we see any sunshine. I don’t know about you but I’m already looking forward to planning my next trip. If you’re still trying to decide whether to make the leap and take a grown up gap year, then check out Melissa Shearer’s story. I’ve been following her adventures for quite a while and I’m so happy that she agreed to take part in this week’s If We Can Do It.

1. Why did you decide to take your grown up gap year? Was it a difficult decision to make?

A number of factors came into play when I decided to take my grown up gap year – but it mostly comes down to the fact that I wasn’t happy with the direction my life was going. I had graduated university three years prior, was unable to find my ‘career’ job – not because of lack of trying, trust me – and was fresh off the heels of a devastating break up. I needed a time out. I wanted to take some “me time” to re-evaluate what I wanted out of life. Once I had the idea that I would take off on an extended trip to Australia, there was no turning back.
2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?

Most people thought it was a cool idea or that it sounded like a nice vacation. My parents were a little less enthused about the idea of me going off and spending my hard earned money on frivolous travel rather than using it to set up my ‘grown up life’ – such as by buying a house. They also weren’t too keen on the idea of me traveling by myself to the other side of the world.

3. How long did your trip take and where did you go?

I was originally in Australia for four months, had to come home for another five (weddings and other commitments had to be dealt with), but then took off for an additional 17 months – which saw me visiting places like Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe and living in both Australia and New Zealand.

4. Did you go alone or with family/friends?

I did it alone – although I was initially planning to go with a friend, but she backed out and it turned out to be the best turn of events that could have ever happened. I did have friends or friends-of-friends that I met along the way though.

5. 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 try to opt for budget travel – hostels, couchsurfing or staying with friends/friends-of-friends/family, etc. But I am huge on the slow travel – which is why I ended up renting a room in Sydney for three months while I lived there and renting a flat with some friends in New Zealand’s Far North for the better part of 2012. I like to be able to really get to know a place and the people that live there – I find it a lot more fulfilling that traveling from city to city every other day.

6. Do you go for tours or do it alone?

I think I’m a rare breed who doesn’t mind the whole tour thing. In the travel blogging world, there tends to be a stigma attached to travelers who use tours but I think for as many bad things that people say about them, there can be good things as well. For instance, as a solo traveler, it’s a great way to meet people from all over the world and see a large area in a short amount of time. I was even asked to blog for a tour company in Africa, which is why I made the trek over to the continent in the first place.

7. What is the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?

You get to be selfish and take time for yourself and see the world. It’s the best education you can give yourself and it’s really a great energy boost for your soul.

8. And were there any downsides?

There were times when it felt as though nobody from home cared. I found a lot of people say they’ll try to keep in touch with you, but they never do. So that can get a bit lonely, especially when you do get moments of homesickness. Ironically, now that I have returned it seems like everyone I know wants a piece of me – I can’t keep up!

9. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grown up gap year?

My biggest bit of advice is to just do it. There are always going to be reasons not to but if you don’t actually take life by the horns and follow through with achieving your desires, you never will. You’re the only one who can make it happen. If you want it bad enough, you’ll achieve it, by any means necessary. Don’t be scared and don’t let the fear of the unknown take over. Put some faith out there into the universe and have confidence that you won’t fail.