This week’s If We Can Do It interview is a really special one as it’s with Mark Walsh who I started talking to via Twitter a long time ago after he came across my blog and told me his plans to take a grown up gap year. Since then it’s been really nice chatting to him about his upcoming trip and now being able to follow along as he explores Asia (and I’m definitely not jealous, honest!)
1. Why did you decide to take your grown up gap year? Was it a difficult decision to make?
After seeing most of the world through military eyes I decided I needed a different perspective of the world and the people in it. The first thoughts I had about going travelling occurred to me mid 2012. After spending 10 years in the Army and a further five in corporate management I decided the time, and circumstances, were almost perfect for me to pack up and head off. I mulled it over for several months and always seemed to have an excuse not to do it. Eventually a good friend of mine gave me a pep talk after I discussed my idea with him and after a few more weeks I decided that was it, I had to do it. I gave my notice and started to loosely plan where I would head to. It was a tough decision, I was progressing really well in my job, had great job satisfaction and generally getting on well in life. But now I have left and am on the road I’m certainly not pining for job satisfaction!
2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?
Initially my colleagues were really shocked, I was a loyal corporate manager, a flag flyer of the company and certainly not someone they imagined would give it all up for a life on the road. My family and friends were amazing, not a single person tried to dissuade me or question my reasons. Every one of them wished me the best of luck and all said not to worry, if things didn’t work out they will be there for me.
3. How long will your trip take and where will you go?
It’s an open ended trip with only a loose plan but I’m aiming to see as much of Asia as possible.
4. How are you financing your grown up gap year?
When I resigned from my job I was approached by one of the company’s key suppliers who asked me if I’d be interested in doing some consultancy work for them in this area. They were not planning to branch into SE Asia until 2016. They pay me a modest monthly retainer and in return I do a few days here and there when requested so it’s worked out well for all of us. I also receive a small monthly pension from my time in the Army which will enable me to keep going for a while.
5. Are you travelling alone or with family/friends?
I’m travelling alone. I’m looking forward to meeting people along the way, but I’ve always been very independent.
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 a mid range person but at the time of writing I’m staying in my first dorm. Sharing a room/bathroom is not something new to me, due to my previous job, but as I’m a little more senior in years I do prefer my own space. I’ve not really thought about how quickly to travel, it’s a plus side to having an open ended trip I suppose. I have found that if I don’t like a place I will move on quickly, similarly if I like a place I extend my stay and explore a little more of the area.
7. Do you go for tours or do it alone?
I do it alone. I prefer the freedom of having my own timetable and itinerary.
8. What is the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?
The freedom of choice I now have, the release from the routine and expectations put upon us by society. For instance, it’s the first time in years I’ve worn the same top two days in a row. It’s novel for me to not care about brands or having this and that, I’m really enjoying it.
9. And are there any downsides?
Yes, I will miss going to the football at the weekends. I’m an avid Chelsea fan, cue lots of abuse, with a season ticket (which I have kept even though I’m away) and I will miss the banter and chit chat with friends.
10. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grown up gap year?
Just go for it, I like to think of it like the old Dr Pepper ad……’What’s the worst that can happen?’ (Other soft drinks are available!) Seriously though, I delayed my trip because in my mind there was always something else to do before I could go. The mind plays wonderful tricks when we want to step out into the unknown.