In this post I’m going to address the common fears and questions people have been asking me about taking a grown-up gap year.
How can you afford it?
This is probably the most common first question I get asked. It comes down to a couple things. Firstly, location. I’m going to be following what is famously known as the “Banana Pancake Trail”. It’s the name given to the common route backpackers’ take across southeast Asia, and it’s known for being cheap. I’m going to places I know my money will last longer. I couldn’t afford to be doing my full year off in America or Europe.
Secondly, I’ve been saving my butt off over the past year. I’ve had to forego holidays and cut back back on unnecessary luxuries. Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world doesn’t make this easy but it’s definitely possible. I’ve put together a post on this topic in which I share my personal tips called “Tips for Saving Money to Travel“.
If you can’t save up enough before you go, there are plenty of ways to make money on the road. A few I’ve looked into include Work and Holiday Visas in Australia or New Zealand, WWOOF’ing in Australia, and teaching English in Europe or Asia. Work and Holiday visas are usually only available to 18-30 year olds though, so not ideal for a grown-up gap year. There is however rumour about extending it to 35 so fingers crossed!
Won’t this negatively affect your work opportunities when you return?
I mean, I hope not! No, honestly I don’t think it will, nor do my mentors at my current employer. I believe that career breaks are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
From what I’ve gathered and have been reading lately, employers would rather you take time off to recharge and come back refreshed than burn out and leave permanently. My thoughts on this are, if you’re good at what you do and you’ve worked hard and excelled in your field of work, there will always be opportunities waiting for you upon your return. I think this is especially true if you have a qualification to back it up.
Aren’t you scared you’ll get lonely?
This is definitely something I was worried about at first. However, after speaking to friends who have done solo travel long term, they’ve said these were some of their favourite trips. You can set your own schedule and pace without having to worry about about what others would rather do. You can be as sociable or unsociable as you want.
Sure, there will probably be times that I get lonely or feel homesick, but I think these moments will be far and few between. I’ve also given all my friends and family my itinerary and have encouraged people to come join me whenever they want.
Traveling by yourself is too dangerous. Why in the world would you do that?
I’m either really naive or really independent (maybe a bit of both 😛 ) because this isn’t something I worry about. This is however something my family back home in the U.S. worry about. Gap years and solo travel isn’t really a popular thing in the U.S. so if you’re like me, you’re probably going to face a few skeptical friends and family members. Here are a few great articles I’ve found addressing fears and questions about solo female travel which you can share with them.
In my opinion, if an 18 year old straight out of school can take a gap year and come back in one piece, then I surely can. Just keep your wits about you and don’t do anything stupid you wouldn’t do in your own home country. If something feels fishy, trust your gut and don’t do it. If you don’t feel safe where you’re staying, don’t stay. If you don’t feel safe with new friends, leave the group. Don’t feel like you have to stay in an awkward or unsafe situation just to be polite. Your safety and life come first.
Do you put money aside for a return flight just in case?
This is an easy one, yes, absolutely.
Isn’t it overwhelming to prepare for?
Yes it can be, but I’ve put together a post to help you prepare.