The internet will tell you that if you want to travel, you have to give up your job and put the rest of your life on hold, that travel is something you do 24/7 or not at all.
I started what I call “a gap year” in November 2008, while working full time in an office in my first grown-up job, volunteering alternate weekends at the local tourist information centre and running a feral Ranger unit. You can do that. You don’t have to try to make travelling your full time job, you can have an actual literal full time job. It’s not doing it wrong. It’s simply another way of doing it and it’s much more practical in so many ways.
I’d wanted a gap year before I went to university. One of my best friends was having one but my parents put their feet down on that subject. I could have a gap year, sure – when I’d been to university, got a job and could pay for it myself. So that was the plan – work for a year or two, save up and then head off into the world. But it didn’t work out like that. It’s not so easy to just dump a job and up sticks. It works for some people but not for everyone. So what I did was use my holiday allowance, which started at 23 days per year and went up to about 26 by the time I left last month, to spend as much time as I could travelling while also maintaining a normal life.
You can stretch that holiday allowance a ridiculous distance. My record was in 2013, when I managed to spend 41 days away – by judicious use of weekends and bank holidays and flying as late at night or early in the morning as I could manage. Ok, I haven’t made it to Thailand or South America or any of the other places typically of a UK gap year but I’ve been to the High Arctic, I’ve been to Romania, I’ve been to Estonia and Lithuania, I’ve been inside a volcano, I’ve been through a train wash. I’ve even been to the Isle of Wight. I’m satisfied. I’ve always said I’m doing it now because one day I won’t be able to and as I’m currently unemployed, that time is now. And I’m ok with it. I’ve got a blog, I’m on the third draft of a book and I’m scrapbooking a handful of my thousands of photos. One day I’ll be employed again and I’ll dust my passport off again and rush off to embrace my beloved Iceland. Until then, I’ve had 214 days away since 2008 – that’s 59% of a gap year and that’s pretty satisfying.