Life / Travel

Gap Year Reflections

gap year reflections

Some of you may have seen my instagram post on Tuesday evening:13473355_1725617757678133_282796742_n(1)

After 7 months, 4 countries, 3 continents, 23 cities, 6 islands, 11 flights, 4 SIM cards, 1 homeless night, 2 Chinese visas, 1 unexpected trip to Edinburgh, 154 hours of Mandarin lessons, over 100kg of rice eaten, 3 home-stay families, 700+ Chinese students, 1 stolen phone, tons of new friends, countless memories & 1 amazing travel companion {Alice} I am finally home and ready to start the next chapter of adventures! 🌏🎒💗

Taking a Gap Year was the best decision I have ever made and I have no regrets whatsoever. I’ve been home for only three days and I already want to go back to my crazy, other life. Technically, I’m still in my Gap Year but my ‘official’ travel adventures have come to a close.

Let’s recap on what I did:

  • 2 months backpacking up Australia’s East coast from Melbourne-Cairns
  • 2.5 weeks in Bali backpacking around the island
  • 1 month in Shijiazhuang (city near Beijing), China studying Mandarin intensively
  • 1 unexpected week in Edinburgh to get new Chinese visas
  • 2 months in Chengdu, China volunteering as an English teacher
  • 1 month back in Shijiazhuang, China studying Mandarin intensively

And I did this all with one amazing friend – Alice.

 God, I miss everything.

Want to hear about my Gap Year experience & why you should take one too? WATCH THIS!

What springs to mind when I look back on the past 7 months?

Falls Festival

Bringing in the New Year in a foreign country, surrounded by a crowd of merry festival-goers, in the Australian warmth with Alice by my side was definitely a highlight. I can remember one night when the final act had finished their set, everyone had swept into one of the little outdoor bars to continue the party. There were people (us included!) dancing on the tables, standing on upturned barrels, singing their hearts out and dancing the night away. The atmosphere was insane and it felt magical. It’s those types of nights we live for.

– Australia Day

Alice and I had just been reunited after a couple of days apart and we were in the party-central town of Cairns. Lots of people we had met on the Whitsundays sailing tour were also staying at the same hostel and that night the club was packed. The music wasn’t particularly great but the company and atmosphere made the night fab.

Christmas in Sydney

Everyone back home is used to a cold Christmas, but this year I spent Christmas Day on Bondi Beach sun-tanning. After lounging about, we headed back to the apartment and Alice cooked us up an amazing good-ole English Christmas dinner.

– Sailing the Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsundays are absolutely stunning and they are definitely a highlight. The crew we had on New Horizons were so cool and our group all got along. We snorkelled, drank wine under the starry sky, paddle-boarded and took many funny photos. Take me back!

– Magnetic Island

I loved Magnetic Island and I was only there for a couple of days. It was really nice and relaxing (a break from hectic backpacker life) and I got to experience the open-top Barbie car which – I think – is only allowed in Australia on this specific island. I also got the chance to hold various animals.

Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

First time I got met a kangaroo and got a selfie with it. Gotta be a highlight!

– Skydiving!

Overcoming a fear of hurtling out of a plane at 14,000 feet. Such an amazing experience.

– Ubud: our AirBnB & yoga

We stayed in an AirBnB in the heart of Ubud for a week and our host was the kindest. Whilst in Ubud, Alice and I got to join in with the family’s Galungan celebrations, climb Mount Batur in the early hours of the morning, visit the Monkey Forest and take an aerial yoga class! I love Ubud.

– Alice’s birthday meal

In Uluwatu, known for its incredible seafood, we secured the best bargain for Alice’s 19th!

– Volunteering: my students

My students truly made my volunteering experience what it was. They are funny and kind and so, so friendly. It’s safe to say that I was not only their teacher, but their friend. I have so many fond memories of little things that either happened during classes or outside during break times. Playing cards almost every evening for the past 2 weeks and eating lunch or dinner with a few students is definitely something I’ll never forget. I’m still in contact with a handful and I hope to see them again one day in the future!

– Jane the Virgin + movie nights

Just small things like having a Jane the Virgin binge-watching session or grabbing a tub of ice-cream and enjoying a cosy movie night with Alice. Said nights were in Melbourne, Sydney, Falls Festival, Surfers Paradise and even in Chengdu.

– Becoming proficient in Mandarin

This was something I had always wanted. Although I had a GCSE in Mandarin, I a) hadn’t touched this in 2.5 years by the time I returned to China and b) think this is pretty useless when it comes to speaking. By taking a year out and spending 2 months in Shijiazhuang studying Mandarin intensively, I can happily say my Mandarin level has soared. I can speak with locals on a conversational level along with understanding the main jist of most things (I can watch Chinese TV shows and essentially understand most of it).

– Chinese food

Yes, Chinese food is delicious but it is actually a big highlight of mine. Having been at home back to eating British food, I can safely say that I miss Chinese food a lot. The food I was eating for the past four months was tasty, healthy and nutritious. I want it back! Getting the chance to taste Sichuan cuisine for the first time is something that also happened on my Gap Year and I can proudly say it is probably my favourite style of Chinese food.

These are only a handful of memories from my escapades (if I were to list them all, we’d be here forever…)
I honestly can’t believe that these adventures – adventures I’d been planning for well over a year – are officially over. While writing this post, all the memories & feelings came flooding back. I seriously have Australia blues right now.

I miss the freedom and the feeling of knowing that anything and everything could happen next. Every day was a new, exciting adventure in a foreign country and everything was in our control. We decided what we wanted to do and when we wanted to do it.

The trip itself was just such an incredible, indescribable experience: I don’t even know where to begin or how to express myself! I’m in the process currently of editing all of the vlog/video footage and I’m planning lots more blog posts on my travels (along with country/city guides too) so please take a look at those once they’re done.

Edit: I started a YouTube Channel which now shows all my Gap Year vlogs & footage!

Although I’m home from my Gap Year, I’m starting the next chapter of adventures and I want you to join me!

Instagram📷 & Twitter🐥 – @violahelen_

Snapchat👻 – violahelen

I hope you enjoyed this post. Until next time…

Peace and love,
Viola xo


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