So, let’s face it, 2016 was a pretty awful year all round.
Celebrities were dropping dead at a rate of one a day it felt; uninformed mainly older voters chose Brexit and cast the UK out of one of the most successful trading and cultural unions in the world; Donald Trump offended his way to the US presidency despite having neither the experience nor temperament to govern a small town, let alone a global super power; we continued to see the increasing speed and destructive forces of climate change and on a personal note, we both felt the strain of work. It was time for a change.
Of course, despite the impulsive desire to run away from the chaos being 36 (Mike) and 33 (Jamie) we had a number of commitments which were not easy to walk away from. We had a beautiful house in London, with a large mortgage, a car with finance repayments, successful jobs, two much loved and treasured cats, a lifetimes collection of possessions and of course friends and family.
But the overwhelming feeling we had, was that if we didn’t make the decision to take 2017 off for an adventure we were never going to do it. We had to commit fast and clearly, no waivering – and so at the start of summer 2016 we made our decision.
Deciding early gave us plenty of opportunity to plan our favoured route, negotiate deals and save money.
As 30something travellers we knew taking a gap year would have different expectations for us, than if we were 18. Full moon parties and on a whim trips to a hippie colony in the mountains aren’t for us – we wanted a trip full of sights, sounds and experiences but we were prepared to budget to sleep in a clean bed and not miss essential activities because we were penniless.
We also didn’t want the stress, hassle and wasted time that comes with on the whim travel. Rocking up to a train station in India is far less daunting when you’ve planned and researched your journey. I’ve read countless stories of travellers turning up in small villages looking for a hotel room only to find everything is full and sleeping on the floor in a restaurant. Not for us I’m afraid.
We’re on a budget – a strict budget at times but we’ve planned and saved to give us some degree of flexibility. I’m not afraid to admit that we’re happy to do an authentic home stay in Peru and then two months later check in to the Bellagio in Vegas – because for us, staying somewhere glitzy in LV is part of the experience. Staying in the local motel just doesn’t have the appeal and we’d have felt like we cheated ourselves.
We also knew from the outset that we wanted to share our adventure with friends and family, either through a blog and social media or by making time in our schedule to visit our many friends in places such as Australia and the US.
We wanted to fit in as much as possible and there were some essential countries to visit – India, China, New Zealand and South America were top of our list. We found flights, tours, day trips and activities that we liked the look of and gradually pulled together an itinerary that starts with five weeks in India and will see us take in 24 countries in 224 days and covering 57,913 miles.
We also knew when packing in our itinerary that there would be compromises – we have 13 days in Australia when many people would want 6-8 weeks. But we’ve been to Aus before, and will almost certainly go again so we chose to spend the extra time in places like India where we have 5 weeks or Colombia.
We made the decision to inform our respective works early, hoping that by providing plenty of notice we’d be transparent and reduce disruption – particularly in Jamie’s role as a teacher as he’d be leaving at the end of the first term of the school year.
Jamie’s sister Laura and brother in law Mike kindly offered to take care of our cats Io and Thea – leaving our kitts was to be the hardest part of the decision to go abroad for a year – but again, good planning meant we could spend three weeks living with them at their new home while they acclimatised.
Letting a house in central London is pretty easy, although expensive…estate agents are making a fortune out of us!
With the car sold, possessions in storage and other essentials sorted, we’ve been able to focus on the trip and the adventure of a lifetime.
We’d had the amazing pleasure and joy of spending 6 months planning details of the trip – by January it was time to pack our bags and go.
This blog will chart our adventure, our insights and top tips. We’d love to hear from you about any journeys you are planning.