The great thing about doing your ‘gap year’ after university is that it doesn’t necessarily have to end.
When I left the UK in May 1992 I had no idea it would be for good. Quite possibly part of the appeal of a Gap Year was that I could put off figuring out what I was going to do with my life for another 12 months. I’m sure I had every intention of returning to England to carry on with a responsible adult life. I don’t remember much about planning the overseas trip. I knew I wanted to go to Australia. It’s the other side of the world. Far Away. So I stuffed a few clothes, a towel, a couple of pairs of shoes, a guidebook and a camera into my backpack. My family and (then-ex) boyfriend waved me off from Heathrow Airport. I vividly remember the exhilaration I felt when the plane took off, transporting me to my far-away adventure. (And even further away from that sensible office job.)
My route to Australia included a month-long stopover in Thailand (which turned into two months and also included Malaysia). Of course I did all the usual visits to temples, tuk-tuk rides, trekking, elephant riding, full-moon parties, etc. A couple of spots I loved were Phi Phi Island and Perhentian Kecil in Malaysia. I was bitten by the Southeast Asia travel bug and knew I would be back for more.
Asia was so exotic that Australia felt like such a let down when I arrived. But it didn’t take long to get into the next adventure. I packed so much in to the 12 next months and it’s hard to believe that I only visited the Northern Territory and Queensland. (plus a few days in NSW) I camped in Kakadu and the Red Centre (which blew me away), I dived the Great Barrier Reef, I Bungee jumped over tropical rainforest, I worked for three months on banana plantations around Tully, I hitched a ride down the east coast on a yacht, I learned to sail and took my skipper’s ticket, then worked on yachts in the Whitsunday Islands.
Twelve months later and the time was ticking down on my air ticket…. but I was not ready to go home. I totally had the sailing bug and I was determined to continue to another country – but not by plane!