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, others 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?
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.
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.
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!