This is a post I’ve wanted to write for ages but haven’t really known how to, because I have really mixed feelings about this topic. Which I’m sure a lot of other people do too.
It seems that taking a gap year or disappearing off around the world for a long period of time is pretty normal these days, but I’m one of the ones that chose not to. Which is weird given how much I love travel.
Instead, the most travelling I’ve done consecutively is one month. This is a lot longer than just your average holiday, but it’s hardly long enough to really experience travelling, is it?
Part of me knew that going travelling (properly) was never an option for me, and part of me has always been jealous of the people that have managed to do it. So why did I decide against it?
Fear of the unknown
I think this is a pretty common reason for not going travelling. When you’re young and a bit naive (like I definitely was), then jumping on a flight to the other side of the world to embark on a new way of life is terrifying. What if it all goes wrong? What if your big plans to find yourself in Asia end up with you flying back with an illness or injury? What if you realise you miss your home comforts too much? It’s a big decision to make when you’re barely out of childhood.
Not having enough money to fund your trip
You’re not going far without money, and that’s something I didn’t have in the years that followed school. I had to save about £3,000 for my month abroad and that was tough. You’ll need a lot more than that for long-term travelling, unless you plan to work wherever it is you’re going.
Having a career that you don’t want to leave behind
Darryl and I were on the same page and would have happily gone travelling together, but we both had full time jobs which we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw away. If we’d had savings to fall back on when we returned, perhaps we’d have gone, but we didn’t. And we also liked having structure and career progression at our fingertips. It was still new and exciting, and it felt good to be earning good money a young age.
Craving some sort of stability
Similarly to the career, we wanted stability in the form of a home. Darryl and I have been together since we were 16 (we’re now 24), so going between houses every day became painful. So we saved, and at the age of 21 we moved into our first home. That wouldn’t have been possible if we’d splashed our money on travelling the world for a year (again, unless we’d had crazy savings, which we didn’t).
So those are my personal reasons, but like everything travelling has its pros and cons, so here’s my view on it.
The pros of going travelling
You get to see the world: this one’s hard to argue. I’d jump at the chance if there was nothing standing in my way.
You gain a new perspective on life: experiencing different cultures and fending for yourself can only do wonders for your personal growth, I’d imagine.
You get to meet new people: as an introvert, this would have been good for me.
You are forced to challenge yourself: travelling the world isn’t a walk in the park, which I learned even just from our month abroad. Getting taken out of your comfort zone from time to time can be great for ‘finding yourself’ as they say.
You’re left with incredible memories: all of my favourite memories are travel-related. Imagine have a year’s worth? Wow.
You feel like you’ve scratched an itch: this is a weird way of saying that you’ve achieved a pretty big thing, and you’ll never look back and wonder “what if?” like I’m doing right now.
I’m sure there are many more, but you get the gist.
The cons of going travelling
Giving up what you have: if you’re fresh out of uni with no commitments, you have nothing to lose, but if like me you have a career and a home, it all has to be left behind. That doesn’t sit well with me.
Leaving loved ones behind: this would be really tough for me. I spoke to my family almost every day during our month abroad, and it definitely felt weird to leave them behind. I can’t imagine doing this for a year.
Spending all your money and having nothing to fall back on: if you set off with money behind you, great. If not, you’re coming back to nothing and I personally can’t process that.
Having to return to normality: if you fall in love with the travel life, how on earth are you supposed to return to a set working routine with all the rubbish stuff like bills and housework? I’d have the worst FOMO.
Getting into difficult situations: if you’re travelling for a long period of time, you may be faced with illness, injury or some sort of trouble. Anything can happen and you can never be prepared for it.
Discovering it’s not all flowers and rainbows: The idea of travelling is wonderful, but if you don’t have a healthy budget then chances are you’ll be staying in crappy places and missing out on the fun stuff. Unless you have a decent wedge of money, you probably won’t get the most from it.
Potentially having to work: Some people are fine with this, but for me travel is an escape. I don’t want to work. The only reason I’d do that is if I actually emigrated abroad, because then I’d have no choice.
Again, there will be more. But these are the cons that spring to mind for me.
So do I regret not going travelling?
Yes and no. That’s an annoying answer, isn’t it?
In all seriousness, part of me wishes I’d gone for it, taken a risk and looked back with nothing but happy memories of my travels.
But at the same time, if I had done that, I might not have what I have now. I might not still be with Darryl, we might not own a home together and we absolutely wouldn’t have our cat (who is life). I also wouldn’t have worked my way up the career ladder to a position that I was previously told I wouldn’t be able to achieve without going to uni. That I’m quite proud of.
So yeah, I might have missed out on my own gap year but I’m not too mad about it, because I love my life now and still get to travel to some incredible places (hence the existence of this blog). Swings and roundabouts, as they say.
And I’ll never say never, because even though travelling wasn’t for me in my teens or twenties, doesn’t mean it won’t be later in life…
Did you go travelling? Do you wish you had? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!