The Great Escape: Why are all the twenty-something’s heading overseas?

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Every time I log in to Facebook or scroll through my Instagram feed, I feel like I’m just waiting to see which of my old school friends, workmates or which person off my university course is heading off into the great unknown, flying off into the sunset, or just taking a break from real life. The ‘Gap Yah’ used to be a right of passage for the elite and the wealthy who fancied putting off work a while longer, while the rest of the world knuckled down into earning a steady wage and getting their foot on the property ladder. So when exactly did it become the norm, if not expected, that most twenty-something’s will be jetting off as soon as they are free from education?

I’ve had several friends over the last few years who were leaving for various reasons – some had been waiting for this moment for years, for their chance to escape and see the world, othersΒ had left university and found themselves unable to find work in their chosen field, others had found work and loved their jobs but just needed to get out and see what else was out there. All of them valid reasons, but where had this motivation come from? A few years ago, it seemed there were just a few spirited individuals who saved up the cash and upped sticks, heading off with their backpacks and hippy trousers. Now, it seems like the majority of young people are heading off at some point or another.

More and more are choosing to take advantage of their university courses offering a year abroad – my younger sister is studying fashion in New York at the moment. Others are taking a ‘Gap Yah’ and are taking the well trekked route across South East Asia – usually starting with Thailand and heading off to Oz and New Zealand for work. Many start off by going for a few months but eventually extend their trip to a year or more. But why do they do it?

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Put simply – the great unknown is incredibly enticing to those who have experienced the reality of cold, rainy England where jobs are few and far between and too many people are earning far less than they should be in jobs that they are overqualified for. I know this isn’t the reality for everyone – but for those who have been stuck in a job that is going nowhere, or for those endlessly applying to grad schemes or jobs and getting nowhere – escaping all this can look like a great option.

Why wouldn’t we all want to go to where the sun shines all year round, the people smile, there are jobs everywhere, the chance to earn twice as much as you do over here and you have what seems like endless freedom. It is complete uncertainty – which is really attractive to those who are certain of their immediate futures in the UK and don’t like the look of them. Essentially the question is – why work over here in the dreary UK when you can do the same job in Oz, in the sunshine, and earn more?

It seems like so many people are making this decision to just quit life for a while and fly to the opposite side of the world to experience what is out there, and I don’t blame them. They say travel is the one thing that makes you richer and I agree – the experiences you will have, the things you will see, and the people you will meet will shape your life and your future in ways you cannot even imagine before you set out on your journey. It’s just having the courage to take that first step and to make the decision to head off, whether alone or with a friend, or partner. Once you’ve made that decision, the rest is easy.

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That’s exactly how I have found it anyway. I’ve had a lot going on lately, but even before all of this I had made a decision. Travelling was something I had always wanted to do and I would have loved to do it straight after university but I was lucky enough to get an amazing job and couldn’t turn it down. Now I have reached a point where I’m not sure how much more I can get out of my job and my itchy feet have returned. I think that going off on my own and seeing the world is something I need to do before I look for my next dream job – I worry that otherwise I could find a job I love and end up never escaping by myself.

I had never planned to go by myself – a few friends and I had spoken about going several times, but it had never been the right time, with work and boyfriends etc. This is the same now, but this time I just felt I couldn’t put it off any longer for fear of missing my opportunity. So I am braving it by myself and I’m actually really looking forward to doing it on my own. My plan is to get saving for the next 12 months and then head off into the sunset – don’t worry, I plan to keep the blog going – it just might take a more travel-oriented focus. At the moment the vague plan is to head to Thailand, Australia and then New Zealand – hopefully with a few other stops in places like Cambodia along the way. I’ve got a lot of reading to do, but will keep you updated as my plan develops.

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If you have any suggestions for places to visit or advice for a solo backpacker – they would all be much appreciated – leave me a comment below!

20 responses to “The Great Escape: Why are all the twenty-something’s heading overseas?

  1. Sounds like a great plan. I can very much relate. I left the U.S. for similar reasons. What started as a gap year has turned into a life abroad for the last 15 years and counting. You never know where the journey takes you.

    I live in Korea and also blog about East and Southeast Asia, and I’m always looking to connect with other bloggers who share similar interests. My latest post actually is a humorous piece on the things I’m telling myself to feel better about not being able to go to Thailand this winter. Please visit us (it’s a collaboration with a few friends) at SweetPicklesAndCorn if you have a chance. Cheers, and enjoy your travels!

    • That sounds amazing! This is exactly what I can see myself doing, heading off for a few months and just not coming back – I love the freedom of it all and I’m not too worried about finding work – there are jobs everywhere if you look hard enough! I’ll definitely check out the blog – thanks for checking out mine. Always great to meet bloggers with similar interests as you say! Have you been living in Korea the whole time you were away, or is that more recent? Thanks for the comments! x

  2. Great post! You’re extremely brave for taking that step and deciding to do it solo. I’m way past finishing education but I’m still only 21 and would love to go travelling one day. I’d just be worried that I’d never ever want to come back again!
    xxx

    • Thanks Jenny! It was a hard decision to make, but I just know that I’ll be fine and I know that if I don’t do it now I could miss my great opportunity while I am thinking of changing my job anyway. Perfect timing! What do you work as at the moment? Do you think you would be in a position to up sticks and head off any time soon? I’m exactly the same – pretty certain I won’t be back for a year or two.. but very excited about it! xxx

      • I’m only freelance writing at the moment so in terms of commitment I could quite easily pack up and go. But obviously it’s not as easy as that is it? I have a boyfriend of 3 years and obviously wouldn’t want to leave him for a year. I also have some anxiety issues so it’d be whether I had the courage to do it. Also money! I have some saved up but I’m sure it’s a lot more than I expect! xxx

      • Ahh right, no you’re right, it’s definitely not as easy as that. I’ll be leaving behind my boyfriend of nearly 8 years to go, but he has to stay for work, not an easy decision but we figure that if things are really meant to be then we’ll make things work. Yes, it needs to be the right decision for you, and you’re right, I’m trying to save as much as possible now so that I can really live freely and enjoy myself before having to take on work when out there. Xxx

      • Wow, 8 years?! That’s very courageous leaving him for a year but also your approach towards it is very mature. It’s great that you’re not letting it stop you from going and living out one of your dreams! πŸ˜€ xx

      • Can’t quite believe its been that long – thanks lovely, we’ve always had to put our relationship after things like university and work so we just decided that since we are both so young we need to go out and do everything – if the relationship survives then it is obviously meant to be! xx

  3. I’m curious. What are your plans when you leave? Did you just up and quit and decided to go backpacking throughout different countries… or has this been something you’ve gradually worked towards, saving steadily so you have some saved income to pursue this dream? I see so many posts about people just randomly quitting their jobs, not concerned about any financial obligations and just take off. How and/or did you prepare?

    • Hi there, I have been lucky because the last two/three years I have been living with my parents and working full time, so low-rent means I have been able to put away a fair bit of money each month and still live well. I am one of those people who likes to save money up for a rainy day anyway, so without realising I have already saved up a couple of grand. I have decided, because of work commitments and saving more cash, that I will not be going until next January – mainly because I am tied to some work until September and I would like to stay for Christmas and to save some extra cash to help me stay out for as long as possible. So mine is a bit of a long plan, but I think giving myself time to save up more money will really help me in the long run because I will be able to afford to stay out there for longer before I find work or return home. I’m not the sort of person who would just quit and head off, I like to have a plan in place and to prepare myself well. I know what you mean though, I know a few people who have just upped and left without much care for cost etc, but most of my friends have saved for at least a few months first – always good to have a cash cushion!

      • That’s great to hear! I’m glad that it’s a long and thought out process. I was wondering if I was thinking about it the wrong way, so it’s a little relieving to know that others think similarly to me. I wish you the best of luck on your adventure! πŸ™‚

      • No definitely not, you have to plan it in your own way. Everyone is different and some are planners, while others just pick up and take off. Personally I always think that the best laid plans are well thought out but leave room for flexibility and spontaneity when you are out there. So I will be planning every detail then probably throwing caution to the wind when I get there haha. Thanks! Would love to hear more about your travel plans when you know what you are doing πŸ™‚ xx

  4. I definitely recommend you to apply for a work holiday visa in either Australia or New Zealand, that’s what I’m doing later this year! πŸ˜€

    • Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve actually just been reading up on Visas – definitely a lot to consider! Are you just going to these two or some other stops along the way?

  5. I hope your year of planning and getting organised goes as smoothly as it can.. OR is really messy because you learn lots of handy stuff that you NEED to know so you can avoid troubles or too much difficulty during your time while you are off travelling πŸ™‚

    ML

  6. Good Luck Lucy, Very brave of you. My sister wants to do exactly the same on her own and is living at home with parents and saving. As Big sister I am worried about her safety as a female traveller and she’s decided to take some self defence classes before hand. Look forward to reading more about your plans. Its a big wide world out there! πŸ™‚ I travelled around australia for 5 weeks with my hubby in a camper van about 7 years ago – that feeling of deciding what to do when you wake up in the morning can’t be beaten x

    • Thanks πŸ™‚ probably the biggest decision of my life! I completely understand where you are coming from and personal safety was big on my list of worries – but I did a lot of reading and everyone seems to say that it is just the same as being at home except for the change in culture. As long as you take care with your belongings and don’t let yourself get into dodgy situations, you should be fine, so that comforted me. Great shout on the self-defence lessons though! Your Aussie travels sound amazing – bet that was a fantastic trip and that feeling is what I really can’t wait for. Can’t wait to escape from the predictability of working each day and just see the world!! What was your best memory from your travels around Oz? xx

  7. Pingback: Saving Money: Making sacrifices for the ultimate payoff | AbsolutelyLucy

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