How my gap year changed my life

I relate to Beyoncé on many levels, but perhaps one of the best ways I relate to her is through her hit song ‘Best Thing I Never Had’. The whole song is about dodging a bullet, which in Bey’s case was a man, but in Matt and my case it was a completely different life, one we thought we wanted, but really didn’t.

Three years ago Matt and I were different people, we were madly in love and thought the next steps for us were getting married and buying a house. So, we set about trying to find ourselves a fancy little love-nest. It took a while, but we found one and quite happily signed a contract, determined to buy a stunning inner-city apartment, one which was at the very, very top of our price range.

After we signed the contract we spoke about how it would be a stretch financially, but we would make it work. Sure, we’d have to sacrifice our love of travel and put it on hold for a year, or maybe five or ten years, but it would all be worth it. Then a funny thing happened, our contract fell through and we both woke up to ourselves. What were we doing? Both of us wanted to travel and see the world, not be tied down in one place, that sense of adventure was what drew us to each other in the first place. Buying a very expensive, but beautiful apartment would have meant the end of our travel dreams for a very long time.

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This wake-up call came at a very good time for us and we did a complete u-turn. Overnight we went from settling down and buying a house, to making plans to live in London for a year or two. This kind of indecisiveness is exactly the reason we should not be making a very expensive and quite permanent commitment to any kind of property.

We had our UK visas approved and moved to London toward the end of 2011. The move was rough on us because we both love the beach and being out in the sunshine, we’d gone from an Australian winter straight into a UK winter, freezing our backsides off and dossing on a good friend’s couch. Within a few months of being there though, we had already visited Hungary, Morocco and Germany and were really enjoying the adventure and the freedom.

Before we’d left Brisbane we’d often spoken about starting a family and settling down, we’d even talked about when we might want to do all of those things and had a plan in place. But something changed in London, that year opened up a world of opportunities for us and showed us something we didn’t know we could have. It was a life path we didn’t know existed and an option we didn’t know we could choose.

About half-way through our gap year, we spoke about what we wanted for our lives and we both felt the same way. Neither of us wanted to settle down and start a family any time soon. In fact, we didn’t want to start a family at all. We wanted to get married, yes, but we wanted to travel as much as possible for as long as possible and didn’t want to be held in one place by big financial or family commitments. It was a little bit scary making a decision to go against ‘the norm,’ but it felt so good and so right.

Sharing a German sausage in Munich

Sharing a German sausage in Munich

The rest of our gap year was incredible, we drank sangria in Spain and buzzed around Greek islands on four-wheelers, we road-tripped through California and contemplated getting married in a Vegas chapel. We stood on the Top of the Roc and marvelled at New York City, snorkelled through an earthquake in Indonesia and spent a very cold night camping in the middle of the Sahara desert. We drank German beer at Hoffbrauhaus, ate eggs tarts in Portugal, chocolate in Belgium and perfect pasta in Rome. We saw Gotye perform live in Eindhoven, caught a train to Amsterdam and paid respect to the Anzacs in Turkey. We saw breath-taking scenery in Iceland and Canada, watched the sunrise over the Grand Canyon and rolled down lush, green hills in Switzerland. It was only a year, but it was a year that changed the course of our lives. It’s also how I became a travel blogger.

If the contract on that heavenly apartment had settled as it was supposed to, Matt and I would have woken up one day and realised we hadn’t done what we were supposed to do with our lives, that would have been a really tough realisation for us. Thankfully though, it did, and that apartment turned out to be the best thing we never had.

Watch the video Matt made of our amazing gap year!


Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.

34 Comments on How my gap year changed my life

  1. Love it! Keep up the good work!

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  2. kalemmcquillan // August 16, 2014 at 2:53 am // Reply

    hey ive just finished school and taking a gap year!, first im moving to berlin and then want to head towards india, thailand, australia etc any suggestions? im getting a bit scared because all of my friends are going to uni and its not a normal thing to do in spain :S
    xxx love your story! xxx

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    • Hello! That’s so exciting, good on you for having the ability to listen to your heart and really go for it. People may tell you it’s crazy, dangerous or won’t work, but don’t listen to them okay. You can do whatever you want to do and your plans sound incredible and life changing.

      Don’t be scared. It takes a lot of courage to go against what’s normal.

      Places like Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia are great to visit as they are budget friendly. Just check what visas are available to you for every country you plan to visit.

      Thanks for the kind words 🙂 stay in touch okay. Are you on Instagram? Would love to follow your journey.

      Phoebe

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  3. yes yes yes!! i totally echo your thoughts that my gap year was one of the best decisions i ever made. it was a tough decision to make because in the states the idea of a “gap year” is not the norm or known about at all. and also because i was a sophomore in college when i decided to take mine. a lot of people questioned my judgement for leaving school, but i am so grateful for that time and it has changed my life for the better without a doubt. 🙂

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    • WOW! It’s hard to think of a gap year not being the norm, it’s so widely accepted here. I guess everyone usually goes straight into college in the States, right?

      I had no idea what to study, so committing to college would’ve been bad for me. Travel is life-changing! I feel like a gap year should be mandatory haha 😀

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  4. How does blogging fund your travel?

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  5. I loved reading your story, it was so inspirational. My husband and I would do it in an instant, but there is one thing that worries me. What do you do when you get to be in your 60s, do you rent for the rest of your life? We love our jobs, but if we travelled every year like we want to, we would never afford to buy a house or invest for the future when we won’t be working and earning a decent salary. How do you get around that? What are your plans for when you are at retirement age, sure you can still travel, but where is the income, the lifestyle you want to lead? Cheers.

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    • Thanks Belinda, I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. We plan for when we’re older and work hard to save for it. We spend what we can afford on travel, living within our means and save the rest for our future. We’ve managed to find a balance that works for us. I guess that’s the key, finding a way to make it work for you.

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  6. Thanks for commenting Brad 🙂 I really appreciate you sharing your point of view. I see my friends and family with their little ones and wonder how it must feel, maybe one day we’ll find out, maybe not. We’ll see 🙂 the way you write about your kids is very beautiful.

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  7. I did the 2 year in London travelling around europe on weekends and after that did 5 months travelling around usa with the missus before coming back to aus. I feel like I was meant for london and wish I was back there making a life there because there is so much opportunity and cheaper than aus (sydney is way to expensive!) I’m glad I stumbled on your blog via news.com.au – wish I could make it as a travel blogger but i’m not much of a writer lol

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    • Thanks for commenting Don, you can still start a travel blog or any blog even if you aren’t the best writer. People like to read about you and your journey! I started mine just as an outlet, I had no idea it would grow so much.

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  8. Hi Phoebe! Just came across your article on News.com and loved it. Thank you for the inspiration and the opportunity it gave me to reflect on my own life. I was in the same situation as you – but in reverse. When I was 20 I was saving to travel the world. I bought a backpack and travel books and all I needed was some savings. 20 Years later and I still haven’t taken a true career break or gap year. I bought a home and then some investments – I was really worried about financial security. A different path choice, not rightly or wrongly, it was what it was. And so now in my forties, I’m finally starting to plan for travel. Can I ask – does blogging cover you travel expenses? And do you plan to continue to travel indefinitely? Regards H.A.

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    • Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment H.A. I like how you said ‘a different path choice, not rightly or wrongly’. I agree with that whole heatedly. Everyone takes the path they are supposed to.

      Yes, my blogging covers my travel expenses and that’s the most important thing to me (and Matt). We have so many places we want to see, I can’t see us stopping anytime soon 🙂

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  9. Martin Anthony // June 26, 2014 at 9:15 pm // Reply

    That was very mind blowing Phoebe. I spent my life saving traveling america for 6 weeks but i was wasting my money on flight, hotels and allot of things in american came with big stings.

    So i haven’t been back to America in 4 years and i don’t think i will ever return, but in that time i have visited 26 nations in Europe, Asia and Africa and i have been very glad to go overseas when others are complaining to me about their lack of travel.

    My stupid imperialist family wants me to stop traveling, find a wife, get a career and a house. But I don’t want any of that crap. All i want to do is work in Birmingham and get a property in Eastern Europe.

    I really dislike living in Australia and i want to do the reversal migration of what my father did. So ill be happy to go back to the UK and stay there for good.

    Someday you shall get a property that is allot more cheaper than Brisbane or anywhere in Australia

    Overlandmetalhead.com

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    • Thanks for commenting Anthony 🙂 it’s interesting hearing your story. I really like that you know what you really want to do with your life, are you going to move back to the UK soon?

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  10. Great article Phoebe!

    My wife and I are 2 months into our travels around the world and just starting to discover how travel can change your outlook in so many ways! Keep it up!

    Levi
    runningtravelr.wordpress.com

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  11. Hi Pheobe! Just read your article on news.com.au – loved it all, and I can certainly relate to it. After working my butt off in Brisbane and finally saving enough money for a house deposit, I decided on a whim to quit my job, pack up my life and move to Shanghai, China. Fast forward three years and I have met the love of my life, formed life-long friendships with people from all over the world and have travelled to places I never dreamed of going before. My crazy, spontaneous move has turned out to be the best decision I have ever made. Good luck with the travel blogging, you are a fantastic writer. And if you guys ever come to Shanghai please get in touch!

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    • Thanks so much for the kind words Melissa. I love that you were so brave and took a big leap like that, you’re amazing 🙂 I will definitely get in touch, I watched a great TV series on ABC recently about China and it has really inspired us to go. Would be lovely to meet a kindred spirit. Would you mind sending me an email to littlegreybox@hotmail.com so I have your email address to stay in touch if we head over your way? 🙂

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  12. Can I ask one thing? I’d very much like to do the same but how can I afford the travel expenses?

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    • Hi Cindy! It’s great that you know you’d love to take a gap year. It took a bit of planning and hard work to do it financially, but it was worth it. We paid off all our debt then saved really hard, which meant sacrificing a few things day to day in Brisbane. We also had the benefit of double income to help. We wanted to travel but not spend all our life savings, so we scrimped and saved, then worked really hard in London to earn as much as we could. When we took trips, we did them on a shoestring, but we don’t feel like we missed out on anything.

      It’s possible to do it, you just have to be really committed and willing to save really hard to get there. Basing yourself in London , with an income, is a big help too!

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  13. backpackbee // June 25, 2014 at 8:18 am // Reply

    Wonderful open post!

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  14. Love if Phoebs! I didn’t know about the apartment but I’m so happy for you both! We’re going to the top of the roc today!!!!

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    • Not many people do 🙂 we never really told anyone. Have a really great time! It’s one of the coolest places I’ve been. I’ll be cyber stalking you for pics 🙂 x

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  15. Sweetie, if the apartment had not fallen through, you and Matt would not have woken up one day and regretted your decision- you would have been exactly where you were meant to be had you taken that road. But because you didn’t, you are exactly where you are meant to be because you didn’t take that road. Life is a series of choices, and not all of them lead you where you think they’re going to, but if you’re brave, and smart and just a little bit lucky, you end up exactly where you’re meant to be. There is no right way or wrong way to do this!

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    • The same thought flicked across my mind as I was writing it, Aunty A. That we would’ve been exactly where we needed to be. But man I’m happy it worked out how it did 🙂 I miss you guys a lot, hope everyone is happy and well. Tell my cousins they’re welcome to move to Australia and have a gap year with us whenever they want!

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      • Happy’s all that matters. And careful what you wish for- I’m sure one of them is going to end up living on your couch for a bit 🙂

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  16. I couldn’t agree more! You summed it up perfectly.

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  17. That post made me cry. You two are fierce, it’s beautiful. Keep it up and screw the norm!

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  18. We didn’t have a whole year but we had a three month travel gap that was similarly life and priority changing, and how I started blogging too! Here’s to unconventional pathways and thinking about what is truly best for you, no-one else 🙂

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