If I were to ask you about taking a gap year, you, like I did, are probably going to think, “that’s young people ting.” You’re probably imagining teenagers delaying the start of university or a career to backpack through Europe or South America, because that’s what we saw in the movies. For many Caribbean people, after finishing our education, we’re expected to get straight to work, and then work, and work, and work some more. A number of factors affect this, such as high costs of living and low salaries. As a result, the idea of just taking a break from work when you’re an adult is unheard of and, for many, seems far-fetched.
When I first started thinking about leaving my job at the university, I dismissed it as me just being overwhelmed by the stacks of papers needing to be graded. “I’ll be fine once the semester ends and I can go on holiday.” Except, a new semester would start and I’d still be overwhelmed. After a few more semesters of this, the desire to leave grew even stronger. But what was I leaving to do?
I didn’t figure out my exit plan until late 2018. I submitted my letter of resignation in March 2019, and in June I removed my name from the office door ready to begin my grown-up gap year adventure. My plan? To travel the world and write!
With the world on pause right now, this year of travel is more like my year of staying home to write. Not mad, though.
Since I’ve been on my gap-year, I’ve fielded several questions about how I made it happen. So let’s answer some of these questions:
- Adults do this? Yes! To be honest, I didn’t know the concept existed before I met Shida from Shida’s on the Loose who provides gap-year guidance for the “grown and exhausted.” A quick Google search reveals several articles about why you should take an adult or grown-up gap year. This isn’t surprising as we are recognising the risks and complications associated with burnout. More of us are also coming to realise that there is more to be enjoyed from life than going to work and coming back home
- Weren’t you scared? Terrified, actually. Convinced the confused looks I kept getting were signs I was making the wrong move, there were more than a few moments when I questioned my decision. Was I really ready to leave behind stability and financial security? I’m crazy to be doing this now. Can I take back my resignation? But, as my seamstress pointed out “following your dream isn’t crazy. Not taking the chance to believe in your dream is what is.”
- What was the planning process like? To answer this question, I present to you my abbreviated 5 Step Guide to Quitting Your Job For A Grown-up Gap Year Adventure:
Step 1: Assess your current situation
Conduct an audit of your obligations, responsibilities and finances. You might have little humans depending on you for survival, student loans or a mortgage. Whatever they are, you must take into account all the responsibilities that don’t stop just because you left your job.
Step 2: Identify your grown-up gap year goals
This is the fun part! Make a wish list of all the things you’ve wanted to do. It could be moving to France for a language immersion programme, sailing the Ionian Sea or cultivating your woodwork skills. You might be interested in attending carnivals around the world, hiking in Patagonia, learning traditional Italian cuisine or conducting biodiversity research in the Galapagos.
Then, research the costs associated such as tuition, travel, accommodation, visa fees, etc. with your wish list. See how they align with Step 1, and this will help you determine what you’ll do and for how long. Everyone’s situation is different, so while you may not be able to take an entire year off, your gap time could be 3 months or 6 weeks.
Step 3: Start saving
Before you can quit your job and embark on your grown-up gap year adventure, you should have enough saved to cover all the expenses of your trip as well as the mandatory obligations during the time you’ll be away. You should also have a 3 – 6 month savings cushion for your return. It’s a lot. I know. And it’ll require sacrifices, but please don’t add stress and fatigue by adding another 11 jobs to your plate. We’re trying to avoid the burnout, not make it happen faster.
Step 4: Set a date
It might be one year from now or three, but set your departure date and work towards it. Establish milestones and watch your excitement build as you meet them.
Step 5: Leave room for change
Give yourself permission to change your mind about your plans. Remember, this is your grown-up gap time adventure, not anyone else’s. So don’t take on anyone’s “I thought you said you were going to…” criticisms.
My first plan was to visit every continent. Then, I wanted to explore as many countries as I could where I didn’t need a visa. But then, I got accepted to a summer writing course in Paris. And then, I had to learn (the hard way) that plans are going to change whether you want them to or not. I see you ‘Rona, I see you.
Taking an extended break from work isn’t going to be possible for everyone, but when the world does open up for us to experience it again, think about where you want to go. That way, when vacation time comes around, instead of going back to [insert that place you go every year], you’ll be ready to try somewhere new.
Need some travel inspiration? Don’t be afraid to reach out. I’m happy to share!