Real Life

I took a grown-up gap year

Three women tell their story about taking time out of reality and having a grown-up gap year, as told to Danielle Colley.
grown-up gap year

Caz

My husband and I had always been avid travellers before we had kids, and the travelling life is something that really sets our souls on fire.

When our kids were six and four we realised that normal life wasn’t holding much meaning for us so we decide to head off on a driving adventure around Australia. I was a qualified primary school teacher, but I had been working on our travel blog, YTravel, while I stayed home with small kids, and my husband, Craig, worked in construction and part-time on the blog.

We started the blog in 2010 writing stories from our adventures that we’d began in 1997. We wrote a lot of How To style blog to help travellers and wrote from memory so it was time to refresh the cache!

We had a suburban all-wheel drive car and a tent at the beginning but it didn’t take long to realise that was not going to work. It was horrible! Setting up and taking down all the time. We bought a Jayco pop-up trailer which was so much easier.

We had no plan so we headed south from Sydney without realising that we were heading into winter. We got into Victoria the temperature was dropping so we decided to turn around, backtrack and head up into the warmth.

It was such a great decision. I loved spending so much quality time as a family on these amazing adventures. The blog exploded and we were given as income so we could just continue indefinitely and all we needed was to find the occasional wifi or internet café.

Most of our travelling prior had been overseas. I’ve always loved Australia but now I can say I have experienced Australia and come to know it, and understand it in a way many people never get a chance to.

Australia is so diverse, and I love the beaches but the outback is one of my favourite places in the world.

I was confident and comfortable doing distance education with my eldest child and we know that this experience is the greatest learning experience that anyone can have.

We got over each other after 18 glorious months. We were ready for creature comforts and space from each other so we settled back into a home on the North East Coast on NSW, but travel is never far from our minds.

Now we’re planning a trip across the United States and it’s such a big country we know it’s going to be at least another 18 month adventure.

©Sara Ebadi

Sara

My husband and I have been together for 14 years. When we first met when I was 18 and he was 19. We knew we wanted to travel together. We decided if we didn’t get into our first choice of uni we would go, then if we didn’t get great jobs, we would go, then we moved to Australia from Sweden and life just got better for us and we became settled in our great home with great jobs.

We married and decided before we started a family we should do the trip we had always dreamed of; the AAA – Africa, Asia and South America.

We saved our money, packed up our home and bought a round the world ticket. We decided we would go for 12 months so we could truly experience all of the places we went to and not rush it.

Our families thought we were crazy. They were happy for us, but they wanted us to just have a holiday. They were ready for grandchildren and worried about the practical stuff like careers but what we gained from the trip was priceless.

We volunteered in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Brazil in a mix of orphanages and preschools. In Kenya, my husband, Mehrab, was the first man to sign up to a program called Power Women that helps HIV positive women who have been shunned by their community.

He set up a website for them with an online store for their beautiful handmade jewelry so they had an ongoing source of income. He advocated for them with a local bank to set up Paypal and created a business. Before they made about $50 a month but now they make between $600 and $1000. I’m so proud that he did that and we left a mark that really helps the women.

We made no plans, and had no expectations and really immersed ourselves into the journey and stayed off the beaten track. Since then we have come home and had a child, but this adventure is something that we will never forget.

It was the best investment we have ever made and this enriching experience has left us with a great sense of gratitude for where we live.

©Samantha Johnson

Sam

Neither my husband nor I can remember which one of us suggested taking a family gap year. We were on the verge of selling our house but couldn’t decide where we wanted to live and when whoever it was mentioned going travelling the other jumped at the idea. Our children were two and four years old, they hadn’t started school so the timing was perfect.

Nick managed to get a sabbatical from work, we rented our house, sold or stored most of our possessions and slung the few that remained in our back packs.

We flew to Delhi on a one-way ticket with very little in the way of a plan. Our vague idea was to make our way through Asia towards Australia where my sister lives. We were on a backpacker budget and knew our money would not go far in expensive countries so we spent most of our year away travelling around India and South East Asia.

We packed a lot into our time; visiting India, Nepal, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sydney, New Zealand and New York. We moved every three days with longer stops to recharge when we got tired. We were often asked whether it was hard to travel with young children but it didn’t feel hard.

We had the same issues on the road as we have at home; sibling squabbles and meltdowns from being tired or hungry. Situation normal.

Mealtimes were one of the more challenging aspects of the trip. Not because my children are fussy eaters (they happily tucked into scorpion and tarantula) but because it was never straight forward. There were tears and tantrums and eating out three times a day every day became a pain towards the end of our time in Asia.

We had so many wonderful experiences its hard to narrow down the highlights. We loved trekking to Anapurna Base Camp in Nepal, volunteering at a school in Cambodia and touring New Zealand in a camper van. The boys love wildlife and it was such a privilege to be able to show them animals in their natural habitats.

To anyone thinking of taking a family gap year I’d say don’t think about it too much! We have been back six months now and we talk about the trip every day. It was an amazing experience to share with our children and one I hope they will always remember. I wrote a travel blog called The Intrepid Johnsons so we will always have that as a precious momento.

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