This week’s If We Can Do It is with Jack Oldham aka the Rambling Northerner, who is currently on his grown up gap year in Australia. I only wish my travel stories included feeding kangaroos with John Travolta!
1. Why did you decide to take your grown up gap year? Was it a difficult decision to make?
In all honesty, it was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make but it was half made for me. My brother was getting married in Australia and, obviously, I couldn’t miss that.
I was initially fuming that I was going to miss my annual trip to Dublin for St Patrick’s Day! So as a result, I decided to make the most of flying to the other side of the world and stick around out here. There was no way I could come all this way then go back and sit at my desk wondering what could have been.
2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?
They were mixed. Some people were very happy and pleased for me. Some even applauded my “bravery”! Others couldn’t get their heads around the fact I was quitting a good job in a company that was going places very quickly. The fact is that I’m 23 and the opportunity was handed to me on a plate. I think most people came to understand that.
3. How long did your trip take and where did you go?
As my brother only got married in March, I’m still on my trip. So far I’ve only visited Singapore and the east coast of Australia, but a return to Asia is certainly on the cards. I’ve got a one way flight, so how long I travel for is totally up to me…or my bank account!
4. How did you finance your grown up gap year?
I had a bit of money saved but nowhere near enough to fund a whole gap year, especially in Australia! I’ve done the odd day of work here and there, but I’m aiming to get work within the next month to fund a good few months in Asia at least.
5. Did you go alone or with family/friends?
Initially I was with the family, which was handy as I wasn’t actually aware of how expensive Australia was until I saw the bill when they took us out for a meal! After the wedding, we all went our separate ways and here I am.
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)
When it comes to accommodation, I have developed something of a routine. I go onto Hostel Bookers, sort by price and pick the cheapest one that is rated around 75% or higher! It seems to work pretty well!
With regards to seeing places, I try and cram as much in as possible. There have been times where I’ve been stuck in a rut and found myself staying at the same hostel for a number of weeks just because I like the people. While this is all good fun, it’s also a huge drain on finances and time.
7. Do you go for tours or do it alone?
It totally depends. Obviously, for stuff like the Whitsundays your hands are pretty much tied and you have to do a tour. However where possible, I’ll do it myself. For example, I’m currently in Cairns and last week we did a waterfall tour (including the one where Peter Andre filmed the “Mysterious Girl” video – contain your jealousy). If we’d booked an official tour, this would have cost us the best part of $100. Instead, we got eight people together, hired a people carrier and did the same route ourselves for $25 each. Bargain!
8. What is the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?
It’s cliched and I’m sure everyone says this, but the opportunity to get out there, see new things and meet new people. I’ve made friends with people I would never have had the opportunity to if I was sat behind a desk back home. Whether you spend a minute or a week with them, it’s such a great opportunity.
There’s also the time I fed kangaroos with John Travolta in Brisbane; that was pretty cool to say the least!
9. And were there any downsides?
Not many, but as a solo traveller I’ve found there are days when you feel a little down. I’m not even sure “down” is the right word, but when I’m sat around the hostel not doing much (usually hungover) I tend to over-think things and think of home. I must say though I can count these days on one hand since I left home, so they’re massively outnumbered.
10. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grown up gap year?
Just do it. It’s easy to say you will and there’s the danger that you can think about it too much and not actually do it.
Also, if you don’t have a strict time constraint then don’t create one for yourself! You’ll only get disappointed if you have to leave somewhere before you want to, or if you don’t get to do something you set your heart on. Just go with the flow. The only plan I had when I left England was to go to my brother’s wedding, and I seem to be doing ok!