Gap Years for Grown Ups
"Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God." - Kurt Vonnegut
A growing number of people are putting day to day life onto the back burner and packing up their children and possibly spouses and going off to travel around the world. In February two years ago I decided that I wanted my children to see a world bigger than their school playground. We have just come back from a trip that was phenomenal; educational, relaxing, stressful (at times), fun or, as nine year old Sarah would say; Cooooooooool.
Lots of people have said how brave I am. Others have wanted to know where we went, how long we went for etc. Very few have actually asked what I can see burning in their eyes, the WHY on earth!
(This was right next to how in heavens name did I pay for it?! ;-) The why is the easy bit.
I wanted to get to know my girls.
This isn't two weeks in the sun. This is weeks in each others pockets. From my own point of view, not only have I found that I love my children, I have also found that I really like them too.
I wanted my children to know me.
Not the 'late for work/school' stressed out parent. I got stressed on the trip, without doubt, but it seemed to be a different sort of stress. At home I was stressed because of bills, laundry, shopping, homework, work, deadlines, things they couldn't relate to. On the trip the children learnt it was okay for Mum to get stressed sometimes, it wouldn't last.
I used the time away to evaluate
Many people use the Gap Year to evaluate their career, their lives. Life is too short to live a half life. A good length of time away from the day to day can really open your eyes to what it is that you really want in life and I learnt so much.
Finally, there is a miraculous world out there.
To see the children gasp as wild dolphins twist and leap in the water, to have them hand feed orphaned baby elephants, to climb volcanoes, strenuous and exhausting and celebrate when we get to the skyline and hear them yell; WE DID IT!!!! Those are memories that I will always hold special.
Explore it, experience it; while we still have can...
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.” St Augustine
It is fairly easy to talk yourself out of an experience like this. 'I can't do it, there are money issues, I'll need time off work, and of course there is school work... While it is a wise person who assesses the risks remember too that Analysis causes Paralysis.
It is easy to assume that you have to be very rich to do a trip around the world. I am certainly not that but I did it. If you really really want to do something like this, the money takes care of itself.
My boss was brilliant, I asked him for time off, explained why and he shrugged and said sure and he wished he could have done it too. (Hmm!)
My eldest is in high school, the youngest still in primary school. Both schools were taken aback but both said words to the effect of, 'Education comes in many shapes and sizes, go for it.'
There is no right 'when' to do something like this. (Apart from travelling to somewhere like Iraq. Now is certainly not the right 'when'.) If you dream of doing something like this, do it. With sensible planning you can achieve whatever you want. There are, however, certain issues to consider. The ages of your children
What you want them to learn from the experience must be weighed against their age. What a toddler will learn is very different from a 6 year old, equally a 9 year old will appreciate something entirely different from a 15 year old. None the less, children of all ages will benefit enormously from simply being with you.
The term 'Gap Year' isn't essentially a full year, with this in mind do you aim for cool or hot, summer or winter. Sunny Christmas versus Snowy Christmas. Whatever you are used to, experiencing the opposite is always memorable.
Where you travel is entirely up to you. We went to South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, The Cook Islands and the States.
I asked the children to colour in on a map the places where we went. Once accomplished we stared at the map in disbelief, this was a tiny tiny tiny percentage of the world but it took us over four months to do.
It's a beautiful world out there. We can't wait to do it again. Problem is, for all three of us, not only do we want to visit new places, we want to go back to previously visited ones too...
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