I'm no teenager anymore and my days of student parties and beans and toast are fading slowly into the past. But, 2 weeks ago - I started my (very delayed) gap-year and couldn't be happier. The truth is, I had planned to take a gap-year when I was 18. The thought of travelling the world seemed perfect back then too - and my itchy feet couldn't wait to go.
But I didn't.
Partly because I was frightened of being left behind. What with all my friends heading off to university instead - I thought perhaps, maybe that's what I should've been doing instead and if I didn't... well, they'd have something over on me. And I'd be lacking.
The other reason? I couldn't afford it. Unlike many kids who head out travelling on their parents cash or their trust funds, if I was going travelling - I was going to need to fund it. And although I worked part-time between studies I was never going to make enough to see what I wanted to see and do what I wanted to do.
Oh, and I was intimidated. I wasn't sure I wanted to go alone.
So I didn't go. I went to university instead.
The thing is though, that 'longing' and those itchy feet never went away - and now, at 23, the time is finally right and things are finally in place for me to go and see all those things and do all those things my 18-year-old-self was dying to do. Yes, it's 5 years after I initially planned my gap-year, but everything is going to be so much easier now and the decision felt easier too. The thing is - when everything falls into place like it has done - you can't question it. You just have to go.
So what has fallen into place?
- I don't feel like I'm being left behind this time. Actually - I feel like the opposite now. I feel like this experience is something so many others wish they could do too - and that makes me feel so lucky. Whilst other friends are working graduate jobs scared of missing a day - I was lucky enough to build my career enough before now - for it to "be OK" if I jetted off for a while.
- I can afford it now. Partly because both my boyfriend and I saved so much beforehand - but also because I've settled into a great career path where luckily I can work freelance online. Writing is one of those jobs which lends itself to any location as long as you have the internet and a laptop. So thankfully - I can afford to go all those places and see all those things without worrying about bank balance, because I'll be working along the way.
- I won't be alone. I'm heading off with my boyfriend - so actually we're doing this together. Which is kind of nice. It's nice to know I'll be sharing these memories with someone.
- I'm old enough to appreciate it and appreciate how lucky I am now. Whilst I wasn't immature at 18 - in retrospect I was still young and wouldn't have appreciated how lucky I am back then. It's good to have perspective.
I don't know what the point of this article actually is. But I wanted to share my story with someone - incase it inspired them to travel too. I think many people get into their late 20s and 30s and worry that it's too late to leave home and travel, but really nothing is better than travelling and you couldn't make a wiser decision than to see the world. Think of it as a 'life experience' and don't even feel the need to justify it to anyone other than yourself.
I don't think you ever learn more than when you're seeing new cultures and meeting new people, and I don't think you ever grow more either. And, despite what many people think - you're never to old to learn and grow. Yesterday I saw a couple in their late 80s with backbacks and walking boots in New Zealand - how amazing to still have an explorers spirit at such an age.
I'll be writing about my travels here as I go: www.theworldandthensome.com