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.


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

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.

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Little Grey Box

I'm a writer and presenter and my husband Matt is a videographer. Together, we run Little Grey Box; an award-winning travel blog and YouTube channel.

34 thoughts on “How my gap year changed my life

    1. Hi Vanessa 🙂 Both my husband and my job’s fund our travel. Companies ask me to feature them on my blog and I also work as a freelance writer.

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 – wish I could make it as a travel blogger but i’m not much of a writer lol

    1. 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.

  4. Hi Phoebe! Just came across your article on 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.

    1. 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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