One of the questions I get asked the most is: “What is a Grown-Up Gap Year?”
Student gap years
I caught the travelling bug at the age of 19. It was my second summer at university and I signed up for Camp America. It was so easy. I went for an interview, told them I liked drama and before I know it I’d been given a job teaching it at a camp in Wisconsin. (I know, living the dream right?)
Absolutely everything, from the plane tickets to the accommodation, was organised for me. So all I had to worry about was the packing. (Which was how I managed to be the only person in the history of American summer camps to turn up with seven pairs of shoes, but no trainers.)
The next summer I graduated and set off on a five-month adventure to South and Central America. This was followed by another five months in Asia after I got home and realised I still had itchy feet. And each time I left I dumped all of my stuff at my parents’ house and set off without a care in the world.
Why a grown-up gap year is different
So it was only at the end of 2011, when I decided to take a career break and started to plan my 30b430 trip, that I realised things are a bit different when you’re a “grown up”. Apparently slamming your hands on the desk, shouting “I quit” and storming to the nearest airport is quite frowned upon.
No, when you’re a grown up you have to do it all in the right way. You also have to make proper grown up decisions. Like, is it better to quit my job completely or should I take a sabbatical? Should I give up the lease on my home or, if I’ve got a mortgage, should I rent it out? Can I travel with my kids? What shall we do about the dog/cat/goldfish? Suddenly I discovered there are a million things to think about before you even start planning your grown up gap year.
I think sometimes it is this fear which holds people back from making the leap and doing something they dream about. I’ve lost count of the number of times friends have said to me: “I wish I could do what you’ve done” before giving me a list of reasons why they feel they can’t.
And every single time I say: “But you can.” Sure, it might be a bit harder than when we were 18 and the most we had to worry about was whether we were taking enough pairs of pants. It might take a little bit more organising and planning. Asking your boss for a sabbatical or making the decision to take a career break is a daunting proposition. But, as many, many, of us prove, it is by no means impossible.
The creation of The Grown-Up Gap Year blog
Once I actually began my 30b430 trip, other travellers often asked me if I was on my gap year. Now I don’t know whether that was just because I’m tiny or whether those so-called miracle face creams actually work (or maybe it’s the fact that I’m such a scruff when I’m travelling) but they always seemed surprised when I told them I was on a trip to celebrate the fact that I was turning 30.
So I started answering the question by telling people I was on a ‘grown up gap year’. This confused some travellers, especially the 18-year-old students on their tradition gap years – who had the nerve to call me “old”! But why shouldn’t people who are older and have worked and may have a family want to travel and see the world? It’s something I love doing and I don’t ever intend to stop, no matter what age I am.
When I got home friends and friends of friends and even random strangers asked me how I’d done it. So I decided to set up the Grown Up Gap Year as a place to not only write about all of the amazing countries I have been lucky enough to visit, but to explain how you actually get there in the first place.
Changing travel styles
Since returning home from my own grown-up gap year, my travel style has also changed. First I met Mr A and we started to travel as a couple. Then in 2017 we had our little adventurer and our travel style changed again, as we got used to travelling first with a baby and then a toddler.
These changes have made me appreciate even more the joy of being able to get away and explore new places. While I’m still a huge advocate of long-term travel, I also love to promote the benefits of shorter breaks and weekends away, which can fit around people’s full-time jobs and family commitments.
I like to think of a ‘grown-up gap year’ as a state of mind. Finding the ways and means to continue to travel, no matter what your age or circumstances.
If you have any questions about planning your own grown-up gap year, then please do get in touch. I love hearing about people’s travel plans and helping them make their dreams into a reality!
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