As I often say, every grown up gap year is different. Some people choose to give up their jobs completely and travel long-term; others opt to take a sabbatical and return to their job after their trip. Today’s If We Can Do It is with Michael from Bemused Backpacker who has managed to find his own balance between work and travel. It just goes to show, if you want to make it work you can!
1. Why did you decide to take your grown up gap year/trip? Was it a difficult decision to make?
It wasn’t a difficult decision at all. In fact it was hardly even a decision, it was more a case of I have to do this, I’ll find a way to make it happen! I had been backpacking a few times before I started my career as a nurse and I already had a sense of wanderlust from those trips. So in essence I started my career knowing that I would be taking periodic breaks to go travelling again.
2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?
On the whole not very positive to be honest. My close friends were okay with me because they knew travel and backpacking is a big part of who I am; but colleagues and even family reactions weren’t very positive. Most people thought I was insane and kept asking why I wasn’t settling down, having kids, getting a mortgage, concentrating on the career ladder – the things that society expects you to do. They basically didn’t understand the need I had to take time out and go travelling.
3. How long did your trip take and where did you go?
I have had numerous career breaks and ‘snap years’ since I have been a nurse, of anything up to six or seven months at a time. I have been to so many different places, including India, SE Asia, South America and Africa and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon either!
4. How did you finance your grown up gap year?
Mostly savings. That’s the advantage of travelling for a little while then coming back and working for a little bit before travelling again. Taking a grown up gap year isn’t a one-time only thing! Of course on some trips I have used my professional qualifications to volunteer as an expedition medic on jungle, mountain and desert expeditions, which has boosted my CV quite a bit. I also always have the option of working as a nurse pretty much anywhere in the world if I want to, so it is nice to have the choice.
5. Did you go alone or with family/friends?
Sometimes alone, but sometimes with my partner – now fiancée – too.
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)
As for the budget, I definitely swing between backpacker and flashpacker as need dictates. I mostly travel on a budget, but I have no qualms about upgrading to a private room or having a bit of luxury from time to time either. But I always travel slowly and don’t over plan things. Never try and rush through a place or try and fit too much in, that’s a road to disaster!
7. Do you go for tours or do it alone?
Alone, absolutely. Although I have on rare occasions used a tour that I have sourced in country where the cost/logistics demanded it.
8. What is the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?
The travel! I have essentially got the best of both worlds, I still have a great career that I am doing really well in and I get to travel the world whenever I want too. And the fact that my volunteering experience as an expedition medic on my travels helped move me up the career ladder to become a charge nurse is a nice bonus and proof to anyone reading this that taking a grown up gap year can actually help your career, not stall or ruin it!
9. And were there any downsides?
No, there aren’t any. Constant RTW travel takes some sacrifices I agree, but I don’t see that as a negative as what I gain from taking numerous gap years and ‘snap years’ is so much better than what I am supposedly giving up.
10. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grown up gap year?
Do it. All those things you are using as an excuse to not go, just forget them and go! There are certain practical considerations you will have taking a grown up gap year than you never had as a student or a younger traveller, but they can be easily dealt with. If you own your own home you can rent it out, you can put your things in storage, your career will still be there when you get back and you may even find a better job when you do!