How My Travel Gap Year Became a Lifestyle
So on 28 January 2017, I celebrated 15 years of travelling. I hadn’t actually planned to be away that long, in fact, it doesn’t even seem that long ago that I was checking in at London Heathrow with my two brand new, packed to the hilt, 50 and 20-litre backpacks. I was both excited and very nervous. There were a lot of gap year options and a lot of things to do in a gap year. I had been planning this mentally for a very long time but always found an excuse why I shouldn’t / couldn’t do it. My mum was sick; the rabbit was old, I had no money, how would I pay the mortgage? I asked other travelers to give me an excuse why I shouldn’t do it, but not one person could give me one, everybody said go, and if you hate it, then you can always come back!
Then, I ran out of excuses. My rabbit died shortly after his 11th birthday, my poor mum lost her battle to cancer and left me with a little bit of money, and it turned out there were plenty of people looking to rent my place. As I sat having coffee with a friend, I mentioned my travel dream again. She looked at me, laughed and said, “you’re never going to do it.” Oh really, I thought, I’ll show her. That evening, I went home and booked my flight, the dream of gap year experiences was really going to happen!!
I’ll admit I was nervous at first, but traveling alone is not as scary as you may think. You meet so many people along the way, and even today, I still meet up with friends I met in that first year. I spent eight months in Asia, exploring Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Borneo and Singapore, followed by four months in Western Australia. As my year was coming to an end, I found myself travelling with new friends who were moving on to New Zealand, hey I might never be this close to that part of the world again I thought, so I accidentally on purpose missed my flight and flew to Auckland. By the time I reached the South Island, my funds were really low, so in exchange for food and board, I worked as a receptionist in a hostel in Christchurch for a few months. I was quickly discovering that there are too many to do in a gap year, to limit it to one year.
After 18 months away, I thought maybe I should return to the UK and get a proper job. My background had been in sales and marketing for a luxury travel company. But America had started bombing somewhere again I think it was Afghanistan this time, and hence the Brits were too scared to travel, so there was no work for me to go back too. Besides, it would be much easier to live on a small budget in Thailand than in England. I had met many English teachers on my adventures, so I wondered if maybe I could do that too. So, I accidentally on purpose missed my flight home again and became an English teacher.
Being an English teacher, helped fund further trips. I have since been to around ninety countries including China, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan and further afield to Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Costa Rica, Nicaragua Australia, and many others. I can’t imagine ever going back to my nine to five life in London. The love for travelling hasn’t diminished over time. Since meeting Jon, there have been even more travel trips to Myanmar, Taiwan, USA, Bhutan, Canada, The Camino Trail and as I sit here, sipping coffee on the balcony in our lovely home in Vientiane, Laos overlooking the Mekong, I’m planning our next great adventure to Europe. Hmmm, will Portugal be our next home base?