If you have come in contact with me anytime in the last year, have been following along with my blog, or even just read my About Me page, you will know that we are about to head off on a twelve month adventure of a life time. In just two more sleeps we will be getting on a plane, and not coming home for a year. A gap year is daunting for a twenty year old just out of school with no responsibilities and their life in front of them. For a Gen X, forty-something couple, with kids, a house, cars, jobs etc it can be terrifying. Here are some things we’ve had to think about before we leave on our gap year that we would not have had to consider in our twenties.
Our daughters, Bailey and MacKenzie, are 20 and 18 respectively. They are living in a world where kids stay at home and mooch off their parents until well into their twenties. We have been planning this gap year since they started high school, so it is no surprise to them that we are leaving them here alone to pay the mortgage and behave like adults. I am sure they will make mistakes, just like I did living away from my parents at that age, but it will be a great learning curve for them, and they will thank me for it one day. They are both independent and resourceful, and I think they will quite like not having the parents to tell them what to do.
Our kids are staying in our house for the year, but they are joining us for the first month in Europe. They are flying out of Adelaide and meeting us in Oslo, while we take the scenic route via Newcastle and Singapore. At least I know that if during that week I realise I have forgotten something, they can bring it to me.
While we are all away, we have a house sitter. Someone who still has never been to our house, met our pets, or learnt our routine. I know her vaguely, but both my kids know her better, and I am going on their recommendation. It is also possible that she will choose to stay for the rest of the year, helping my girls pay the “rent” and bills. This means Simon and I need to “move out” so she has room in our bedroom for her stuff. The last week has been a flurry of sorting and packing. Everything is either packed in storage tubs or packing cubes. Trying to find a specific t-shirt I wanted today was an adventure.
Owning our home is great, but we really have to hope nothing breaks while we are away. Co-ordinating the replacement of the hot water system or air conditioning from somewhere remote is not something I want to think about. We also still have to factor rates, insurance and all those other costs that don’t go away just because we are!
In the lead up to this trip all four of us have been sharing two cars. There was no point the kids buying cars for themselves, and then having extras while we were away on our gap year. So we have juggled, scheduled, car shared, anything to get through. Both the cars are around ten years old. We don’t get to travel for twelve months and have new cars, for obvious reasons! One car is an Audi, and recently it broke down. Our mechanic said we need to sell it, because he is struggling to get parts for it that don’t cost the earth! So about a week ago we were looking around for a new(er) car. In the end we didn’t buy one, and we’ll just have to take the risk that it will last. Hopefully it doesn’t cost a big chunk of our travel money to fix in six months time!
Mine was simple – I quit! I was ready for a change, and probably would have done so even without this trip. I had committed to working full time while my kids were at high school so that we could send them to a private school, and I had fulfilled that commitment. While I was an accountant, I worked for a transport and logistics company rather than an accounting firm. I enjoyed the variety in my job, no two days were ever the same. But it was hard work. It really was. I struggled with the office politics. My role as supervisor often meant my hands were tied, and I was in the middle between management and staff who had issues. Things just weren’t fair, and it was just business. I didn’t know how to fix it and I was done.
Simon is taking leave from his job. He has been in the same job for twenty-five years. His roles have changed, even the company he works for has changed a few times, but he’s always been in the same place doing basically the same thing.
In Australia we have a type of leave called long service leave. Basically it means that once you have been in your job for a number of years, you get an extra chunk of leave. The states vary, but here in South Australia it’s particularly generous. After each ten years of service you are entitled to thirteen weeks leave. Simon has never taken his long service leave, so he has plenty of weeks available. We have also been saving some of his annual leave, so that covers a few more weeks. There will be a few weeks of unpaid leave, but it’s a good feeling to know we have income for most of our trip.
The Other Stuff
There has been so much boring “other stuff” to consider. Insurance for example. I have spent hours working it all out, and then making sure the kids can claim if there is an issue. The same with the utilities. Ringing all the gas, electricity, phone, internet companies to ensure the kids can deal with any issues took me almost another day! I don’t want to hear that hold music again for, well, at least a year! Then came the subscriptions, donations, memberships etc. More hold music!
Another consideration has been ageing parents and grandparents. Simon and I each have a living grandmother, both well into their nineties. We have had to come to terms with the possibility of missing their funerals. Our parents are also not getting any younger, and without us nearby to help out, could struggle. There will never be a good time to travel though if we think too much about this, and it is only going to get worse in the future unfortunately.
Communication has also been on my mind. We want the kids to be able to contact us whenever they need to. It is also important to us to be able to contact our extended family. FaceTime will be a godsend, even though I have had to give lessons to some. Particularly for our parents, it has been reassuring for them to know they can still easily speak with us without it costing a fortune.
But We Are Still Going!
It may have been a bit more to think about and organise our gap year, but we are going! There will never be a perfect time, so we are – as Nike says – just doing it! Someone once said to me most people would love to do what you are doing but they are not brave enough! I don’t know if I feel brave, but I do feel if we don’t grab this opportunity with two hands, we may not get it again. We have worked hard, saved hard, and sacrificed for years to make this happen. I truely believe if you want to do this badly enough just go! We will live cheaper on the road than at home, and have experiences that will change us forever.
Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.