Personally having a gap year was a dream come true. I was even more grateful that one year became two.
Deep down I always had a longing to experience life abroad and enjoy the challenges and new beginnings it would offer.
Did I plan to do a year away before having kids? Unfortunately I was too busy getting the degree, working and saving for a house that I didn’t have time to think about it.
So I guess what I am saying is that you can have a gap year or go on sabbatical at any stage of your life. I certainly wasn’t expecting to do it with two young children but that’s when it fell into place for us.
There is definitely a rise in the ‘adult gap year’ and I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on ABC Radio on Focus with Jessica Strutt about this topic. Have a listen here as I talk to Jessica about our experiences and another lady shares how she like to take a year off at a time and travel around Australia with her pugaler.
There was never a specific country on where this adventure had to take place.
Sure the likes of New York or Hawaii sounded very exciting but after some initial research it didn’t make any financial sense and there would be roadblocks with visas and the like.
Even after thinking about places in Europe, it quickly made sense for us to explore South East Asia. My husband, who took a lot of convincing in the first place to do this gap year, was the one to suggest Bali!
The idea of living in Bali came as a huge surprise to me and we had only ever holidayed there nearly a decade ago. However, it made perfect sense when he explained his criteria for such a move “we can enjoy our life and afford things we couldn’t do back home, kids can go to an Australian school, good time zones, not far away, and we don’t come back in debt”.
Bali gave us all a life that was so different to what was back home and every day there was never a dull moment.
Having done a gap year with children everyone tells you how brave you must have been.
Being honest I really didn’t stop to think it was brave at all. Yes it took us out of our comfort zone and gave us many challenges. But these challenges hopefully will teach our children resilience, compassion and so much more. Doing our gap year later in life with our 7 and 8 year old has made it even more special as we can share these memories and adventures as a family.
A gap year is short term – there is nothing brave about it. Brave to me is permanently immigrating to another country with no support system at all.
I never knew what it would be to have the ‘expat’ title. It is strange to be lumped into that category and to find yourself in new and strange community. You are also torn between being part of an expat community and also being involved and mixed in the local community and culture that you came to live in. One thing for sure, it gave me new outlook, clarity and time to reflect. I have learned lessons and grown and developed in ways I never would have if I’d stayed at home .
Together as a family we did things we normally wouldn’t do back home – shopping for fruit and vegetables at the local markets, regular visits to a baby orphanage, teaching English to village kids, sponsoring schooling for Balinese children, making international friends, learning a new language and the list goes on.
It takes a lot of planning and organising if you want to make this happen but it is definitely worth the hard work. That is also why I decided to create a consulting business helping other families on how to make a move to Bali. If it isn’t Bali that you are interested in, I can also consult on all decisions we made and research that was done in order to transition to expat life so you too can have a gap year. My skills and experience can be replicated for other countries.
I am so grateful we were able to do a gap year because it has made us change the way we wanted to live our life. We never returned to our home in Sydney and decided to move to the Sunshine Coast, a regional centre in Queensland.
On the Sunshine Coast, I feel we have moved to another ‘expat’ community but within our own familiar country. Everyone I meet wasn’t born here and has moved their families from other Australian cities. It is great to be amongst like-minded people who have made the move like us. Often these families have lived overseas at some stage in their life too.
We would have never done this move interstate had we not done our gap year overseas. Bali was good training! We needed to leave our bubble and realise that maybe there was a different life available to us and our children.