gap year / Travel

What Being Away for 7 Months Taught Me

“You were on your Gap Year last year?! It feels like years ago now!”

Those were the words of my sister a few days ago. It really doesn’t feel like it was last year and I’m going to keep saying this, but did it even happen? One thing that confirms that it did is what being away for 7 months taught me.

1. Experiences > Material Objects

This is probably one of the most important things I discovered about myself while travelling. I was never one to buy hundreds of pounds worth of clothes, shoes, bags, anything, but I am definitely guilty of frittering away money on silly things. I would much rather spend my well-earned £££ on a real-life experience. Nothing beats exploring a new country or city and this can easily be done if you save those pennies. Do you really need that new dress? I’d personally rather go travelling and experience the world than get the latest Louis Vuitton bag. Just remember: one Starbucks coffee is the same price as one night’s accommodation and three meals in Asia. What would you rather?

2. How to live in the present

In the digital world that we currently live in, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in social media. Most people these days (and I admit it too!) spend far too much time on their devices and when they do go on holiday, they’re obsessed with showing it all on Snapchat or Instagram. While I was vlogging and Snapchatting my way through Australia and Bali (you can watch the vlogs here), I did switch off most of the time. Travelling made me realise that living life to the fullest really is better than anything on your screen {as cliché as that may sound}. Next time you go away, try switching off and fully enjoying the place you’re in!

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3. To be myself

This isn’t going to be one of those stereotypical “I found myself on my gap yah” stories, but I learnt how to be myself. When you’re at home, you have this whole image of yourself that might not be how you truly feel on the inside. Travelling opened up this opportunity to express myself and to discover new things about myself. I started not to care as much about what I threw on (no one cares when you’re backpacking, and nor should you!) and I got involved with some things that I’d never have thought I would (you can read about my skydiving experience here). I also became a lot more independent and, with my mum miles away, had to deal with a great deal on my own – remember when my phone got stolen in China? Yeah…

4. Everyone you meet can teach you something.

You’ll meet so, so many new people on your travels. Something I quickly realised and began to accept while travelling was that I didn’t know it all. No one does. Every single person I came into contact with was able to teach me something – whether that was something straightforward like directions or knowledge of a new place, or something more complex like patience, or the ability to be kind to everyone. If you’re open to this idea, you can really learn a lot while travelling (as well as making lots of new friends).

5. You don’t need much to survive.

Living out of a 46L backpack for seven months (experiencing both summer and winter) was a life lesson in itself. The clothes I took with me were the clothes I had. And that was plenty. Yes, I may not have looked like your typical fashion blogger, but – let me reiterate once more – no one cares what you wear backpacking. I learnt that hand-washing clothes in the sink with some soap and water was quick, easy and cheap; I accepted that it was okay not to wash your hair every other day (or even to shower everyday!); I started to appreciate the things I owned and realised that I was, and am, incredibly lucky. When you’re too busy chasing the sunset, swimming in hidden lakes and eating your way around the country, you’ll realise that you don’t need much with you at all.

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6. Planning is important, but don’t over-plan.

Obviously you want to have some kind of plan before you start travelling: where are you going? How long for? How much money will you need? Alice and I definitely thoroughly researched and planned out our seven-month trip. We knew the exact cities we wanted to visit in Australia, we knew what we were doing in China and we knew Bali was also on the cards. It’s much easier to play things by ear and decide as you move from city to city how long you want to spend there. The internet might say two nights, but you might want four. Flexibility is key. Also, things don’t always go to plan. Remember that time Alice and I were homeless for a night? It was one of the scariest experiences of my life but one that I’m nevertheless glad to have had. Over-planning can take the fun and spontaneity out of things.

7. You can do anything if you put your mind to it.

When people hear about my Gap Year travels, I’m not surprised if I hear the comment, “you’re so lucky!” or, “I’m so jealous.” Most of the time, I can tell that they’re thinking, ‘she must be rich’, and the truth is that I’m really not. I slaved away working four different jobs (some at the same time) and stashed away almost all of my earnings. With a goal in mind, I’m insanely proud of myself for entirely self-funding seven months of travel. You really can do anything if you put your mind to it. If you want some money-saving tips, head over to this post!

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 That’s seven things seven months of travelling taught me. I continue to learn and grow the more I travel and I’m always itching to get back on the road. Travelling truly does broaden one’s horizons and opens up a wealth of possibility. It’s an adventure; it’s getting lost; and it’s about discovering yourself.

What things have you learnt from travelling?

Follow the adventures…

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Peace and love,

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20 thoughts on “What Being Away for 7 Months Taught Me

  1. Your post about this year gap really inspired about considering to take one. Sadly I don’t know if I will because where I live it’s really uncommon to take one, and we’re expected to start uni straight away after being graduating. Added to this, I would apply in some UK universities, so I don’t know if taking a year gap is really an advantage and will really be something helpful?
    Anyway, it’s really inspiring and if I don’t take one before uni it will be after. I love when you describe your travels and you share so much enthusiasm about it, because I love travelling as much as you do, and when I can’t I read your articles and it’s like I was there (kinda)
    Keep going on, and I’m sending lots of love to you! x

    • I’m so glad I inspired at least one person from this post! Applying to UK universities with a gap year is no disadvantage whatsoever (in fact, if anything it’s an advantage!). I hope you will take one, even if it is after University as travelling is incredible and I want more people to go and do it! X

    • Thank you so much Heather! I think you should definitely take one – it was one of the best decisions of my life xx

  2. I can really identify with your points here, especially number 4. During my stays abroad I’d met so many interesting people who might have had different cultures, opinions and ways of living from mine. It’s important to stay open-minded and appreciate things that we can learn from them, even the most trivial ones :).

  3. Yes there is a little readjustment period after traveling abroad. You have to accept that you’ve changed, grown and witnessed things your friends and family won’t be able to understand. You see how people live a minimalist life, you rely on yourself like you never did and you learn to enjoy when good things, small things happen.

  4. Amazing post, I have similar conclusions – you don’t need much to survive and you need way less than media propaganda tells you. And nothing can compare to live your life rather than have material things in your life. Unfortunately not everyone understands it…

    • Thank you for your kind comment, Tom. It’s a shame most people don’t understand it, but I can only hope people like us can inspire others to live in the NOW and see more of the world!

  5. I had my gap year after my high school graduation. I decided to deferred for a year because I dont know yet whay I want. It was a wise drcision I made and I learned a lot.

  6. I agree with the each point you mentioned in your post and it was really a wise decision. I too feel everybody should definitely take this gap year in his or her life. This gap year changes your life perspectives as well as your sense of viewing the things.

  7. I took a gap year after school to travel and I now I am studying abroad so I can relate to all of the points you have mentioned above. Also, I am planning a trip soon to Cairns and have heard good things about Magnetic Island. Seeing your picture is making me even excited now 😀

    • I’m so jealous that you’re studying abroad – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do! Magnetic Island is definitely a lot of fun, I’m so jealous 😉

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