10 Things I Learned From My Gap Year

Around this time of year, when exam results are revealed to nervous students and the media start talking about gap year options, I think back fondly on the 9 life-changing months I spent circling the globe. I may have set off 6 years ago (showing my age now!) but I remember it like it was yesterday. For anyone thinking of taking a gap year or career break, here are some of the lessons I learnt by taking the time out.

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 Taking a terrifying plunge on my gap year

1. I can save for something I really want

I am ashamedly terrible with money – the woman most likely to live beyond her means. Having calculated I needed to save 10k to realise my dream trip around the world, I made changes and worked hard to do so. It took almost a year, but with a goal as golden as 9 months travelling, the incentive was enough to keep me on track.

I also learnt I can budget when I need to. Saving the money was only half the battle; I then had to make it stretch for the 9 months I would be travelling. By knowing I would end up going home early if I wasn’t careful with money, I was able to keep my spending in check.

2. Home is a changeable concept

I’m always amazed at the adaptability of people, not least myself, who is used to her duck feather pillows and M&S meals. For after only 2 nights in a singular destination it can begin to feel like home. Surrounded by my possessions and instigating some form of routine; I found even the more unusual accommodations gained a feeling of familiarity.

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 I spent my birthday camping on Fraser Island

3. You will never get this time again

Some of us may be liquid and lucky enough to take more than one career break but the likelihood of you having the savings and free time to take a second chunk of time out is slim. I skipped out sights in certain places on the premise I could come back; 6 years later and the chance hasn’t arisen yet. Savour every minute of your gap year and make the most of the opportunities it affords you whilst you can. And remember even if you do get the chance to relive the past, it will never be the same again.

4. You may be unhappy in beautiful places

An idyllic setting and sparkling sunshine do not guarantee a matching mood. There may be time on your travels when you miss home or don’t feel the way you think you should. This is normal. Allow yourself to mope and then move on.

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 Christmas in Sydney

5. People don’t have to be in boxes

Although I had studied in London for 3 years before I took my gap year I still knew little of the wider world and the people who inhabit it. On my travels I learnt that people don’t have to be defined by the school they went to or village they were raised in, not even me.

6. Life is a balance of careful planning and flexibility

Travel, as in life, works best when you combine careful planning with periods of free styling. Allow yourself the flexibility to go with the flow when the situation requires it.

7. The people you meet will affect how you feel about a place

Travel is often not about the destination but the people you meet in it. A good (or bad) experience with others will effect the way you feel about a place, just as the good times you share with new friends you meet will shape your memories for years to come.

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 Christmas dinner with new friends in Sydney

8. Those that travel together stay together

If your friendship can survive the ups and down of life on the road, it is likely to last forever. My closest friends are the girls I shared that journey with in 2007, as well as the ones I met on the way. Similarly, if you can travel long term with a man and still love him at the end, he’s probably a keeper!

9. Employers have never questioned my time out

If I have ever been questioned about the gap year on my CV it is only with interest and admiration. My time spent navigating the world has never caused concern to potential employers, in fact it led to the career I have now.

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 With my bestest friends in the world

10. Travel will always be an important part of my life

The biggest lesson I took away from my travels was that, if I wanted to sustain the level of contentment it had awarded me, travel needed to be an important part of my life. My gap year changed my career path. It led me away from law school and towards a life that had travel at its centre. This will not be the route that everyone wants to take, but its something I’ve never looked back on.

For inspiration and ideas about some of the experiences you can have on your gap year check out Xtreme Gap Year.

For a bit more on my background (not as a lawyer) visit the Meet Me page. If you have any questions about taking time out feel free to get in touch via the comments below. And finally – for some advice I wrote to a friend about to go around the world click here.

Have you taken a gap year? What did you learn from it? 

 

13 Comments

  • Monica says:

    I couldn’t agree more with every one of these points. I especially like number 7. I’ve been to some incredible places with not so incredible people and had an awful time. And then I’ve been to average places with incredible people and had the time of my life. You can’t beat Blackpool with your besties!

    If there are people out there that aren’t sure about taking a year out, I always remind them that a year is nothing. When you think that you’ll spend 50 years working, taking one year is nothing!

  • This is a lovely post and there are so many things I agree with on here. Travel is one of those things that really defines you and there are so many little things you learn along the way. The one that really struck me was you might not always be happy even if you’re in a beautiful place – this happened a couple of times when we travelled (I got ill one week and was in this constant foul mood) but I was so glad to be with someone (my boyfriend) who understood that and just let me get on with it! In the end it made it all the more funny to look back on 🙂 xx

  • Jayne says:

    Me too! I felt ill for most of the time I was in Fiji – one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are so many things we can’t control though, I realised that rather than getting angry or upset about feeling ill you just need to recover and take what positives you can out of the experience. It’s always good if you can look back and laugh 🙂

  • Fantastic post, Jayne! I completely agree. My “gap year” was after I finished uni but I definitely found all these lessons to be true.

    • Jayne says:

      Same here Caroline! My mum tactfully suggested I take my gap year after uni – I think she guessed right that I would never have come back and studied otherwise!!

  • Ellie says:

    I loved this post! I wanted to ask a couple of things though… I don’t want to spill my heart on a comments section but basically I was in a car accident which left me completely unable to go on a huge trip around Europe that I’d planned with my friends. Needles to say, I’m still quite heartbroken about the whole thing and feel like I’ve missed my chance to travel!! When did you take your gap year? Do you think I’ll still be able to manage to do something similar, or do you just never get the chance to get such a large chunk of time off again?
    Any advice will be appreciated! Thanks, Ellie xx

    • Jayne says:

      Hi Ellie, Thanks for getting in touch and sorry to hear about your accident 🙁 It’s never too late to take a gap year though! I was 22 going on 23 when I went on mine. I completed uni and then worked for a year to save before I left. I wasn’t amongst the oldest we met on the road either, I made friends with girls who were taking career breaks at aged 26 and one of my good friends quit her job to travel solo when she was 27. I would say that whilst a large chunks of travellers I met in Australia were 18 and fresh out of the school, there were heaps of people who were taking career breaks too – more so in places like South America and India. I hope this helps in some small way but if you have any other questions please feel free to email me (jayneytravels@gmail.com) as I’d love to chat more x

  • Chris says:

    Totally agree with all of them – especially the one about people making places. I’ve been in some really rubbish locations but had a blast Becuase of who I shared it with

  • Tania says:

    OH my gosh, your posts are soo insightful!!!
    Makes me wish I’d taken a gap year now!

    Keep doing what you do, i’ll be sure to keep readin’ 😀

  • Gianna says:

    I’m currently in 7/8th grade thinking about having a gap year and traveling the world. What are your thoughts/tips?

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