Planning a “Grown-up” Gap Year

When planning your 2018 goals, did you consider travel? It may never have occurred to you to do this, or maybe its been a lifelong dream. It was the most amazing experience of my life when I did this in 2015/2016, and if you’ve ever wanted to do it, I’d urge you to go for it! You don’t know how much time you have left in this life, so why not jump in and get that bucket list started now?

Your Destination(s) determines your budget

This is the best bit! Where do you want to go?? Where is your dream destination? How long do you want to go away for (v.s. how much money you have in reality)?

Have a look at some of my snaps for inspiration…

New Zealand













There’s a catch though – knowing WHERE you want to go and for HOW LONG is essential because it determines HOW MUCH MONEY you need to take.

I locumed like a mad woman for 3 months to save up to pay for it, but it was still not enough. Unwisely, I chose expensive destinations such as Australia and New Zealand which used up the majority of my money (but I still argue it was worth it!).

I was pretty broke by the end of the trip, and at times panicked about how I was going to pay for “life” coming home. I had a very tiny supply of money to get me through the first month back, but it was not a nice way to live, and it took me a year to get my finances back on track afterwards! Bottom line, you NEED money for the interim period when you come home and you’re organising your shifts/new job etc so keep a stash saved.

It helps to have a job lined up, and there is always time when you’re away to organise it (I had a telephone interview in New Zealand at 2am!), but it would be so much better to have a buffer to take the pressure off you when you return so you don’t need to jump into work straight away.

Organise your funds

To keep myself organised, I opened different bank accounts for my savings to keep it separate from my regular outgoings to try and encourage me to save. I also opened a pre-paid travelcard to use while I was away to avoid using credit cards. There are plenty of options out there, so comparison websites are helpful.

Do your research – a AUD$30 per night hostel bed in Australia will get you literally a bed, maybe it’ll be clean, maybe it won’t…but US$30 a night in Vietnam will get you something very comfortable – likely your own room in a hotel. Now I’m not saying don’t go to Australia or New Zealand (you really need to see them at some point because they are literally amazing countries!), but if you do, take enough cash. There are loads of blogs and budgeting websites out there to get started.

Just one final tip on this topic – if there is something you really, really, really want to do, I would consider spending a bit more to go on a proper tour. This is how I did Japan, and I can tell you it was money well spent.


What are your plans while you are away?

The great thing about travelling as a healthcare professional is the transferable skills you have to use in (almost) any country. I didn’t work while I was away, but I have seen some amazing things that people have done on gap years. From flying small airplanes across Africa to deliver obstetric care, working on the front line with Médecins Sans Frontières in refugee camps, to staffing A&E departments in New Zealand, the world is literally your oyster (unless you try going to America – you have to do extra exams for that!). Working for part of your trip could help you to raise cash for the travelling part of it, or you may just be doing it for the personal satisfaction. Whatever your reason, it is worth considering as it can give you massive brownie points on your CV for your return. It ALWAYS makes for a conversation starter in an interview.

Plan out a little time-line and stick it on your wall. It will give you the motivation you need to do another shift to earn the money for it! My initial plan was a little, shall we say, ambitious….until I realised how much money I would need and how much time it would take! It went something like this:

Australia->New Zealand->Fiji->Japan->SE Asia->South Africa->South America->Home

This was clearly never going to happen with just 3 months of savings! The other thing I realised when doing my “time-line” was that my sister’s wedding was in July, and she needed my support as chief bridesmaid! The trip I wanted to do needed a whole year. I finished my trip after 5 months, and went home after Asia. I’ll do the rest of it one day….

Your Bills and Your House

This may not apply to you, but obviously the fewer commitments you have, the better. If you own your home, rent it out and give the responsibility to a management company with family or friends as backup. I got rid of my mobile contract, and declared my car off road. My best-friend rented my flat. I still had some bills, but they were kept to a minimum. I would seriously give this thought before you go anywhere, as any commitments will be a drain on your resources and will take away from you fun money!

Your Family

I don’t have children, but I’ve read with interest that IT IS possible to go travelling with your family if you do. I know of one midwife who went backpacking with her newborn to India – she was awesome! Now this may not appeal to you, but I think its a great idea personally (this may change when I eventually have kids, but I hope not!)

There are loads of blogs and articles on this, such as:

Why not take on the challenge together and use the “school of life” to teach your children for a while!

Your Job

I was granted a year off from Obstetrics and Gynaecology training after being in the job for 4 years. I had reached burn-out and literally felt unable to go on for much longer in this role. My supervisors granted me the leave to decide what I wanted from my life. You don’t have to be so dramatic! Lots of companies grant sabbatical leave, and if they don’t, why not put together a compelling list of arguments for why their company needs to start up one and become a trailblazer!

Your Return

If you have followed my advice above and planned your re-integration back into normal life again, then this should be easy, a little depressing maybe, but easy. All sorts of things have to be taken into account:

  • Where will you live?
  • Is your car road-worthy? (this caught me out as I hadn’t realised I needed an MOT before I could drive it again! I needed mum and dad’s help to get it done for me so I had it ready for when I came home!)
  • What bills have you got to pay within the first month? Do you have the cash?
  • Where will you work? Your old job? Or a new one?

Be prepared for “post-trip blues”. I was lucky in that I had my gorgeous boyfriend to return to, my amazing friends to hang out with, and my sister’s wedding was rapidly coming up, so I didn’t have time to be depressed! It does happen though, especially if you have been to poorer countries, and you find yourself shocked at the price of a beer or manicure! Another thing – be prepared for many people NOT GIVING A TOSS about your trip. Many people find it boring to listen to, or they’re just jealous and don’t want to hear it. Don’t get upset, just make some photo-books and indulge in your memories. You don’t need anyone else’s validation. You can write to me about it instead!

Your Expectations

As a final word to this post, I want to talk about the expectations you have when travelling. Contrary to what Facebook will tell you, travelling for a prolonged period of time is not always fun. Some days you’ll be so homesick you won’t feel like doing anything. Some days you’ll have to spend no money in order to keep ahead of your budget, and sometimes you’ll feel so pissed off with your travel companions that you’ll feel like throttling them…especially if they are under the age of 24 and you’re over 30! (speaking from experience!) Always keep in mind why you are doing this. What experiences do you want to tick off of your bucket list? Keep a journal – not only does it help with your emotions and thoughts, it’s a lovely thing to go back to in the years afterwards when the details become sketchy.

On the whole though, travelling is extremely rewarding, a whole heap of fun, and a great


opportunity to try new things. Exploring in New Zealand? Eating oysters in Tazmania? Photographing Mount Fuji? Attempting to cook a decent meal in Vietnam? Why not? You have worked so hard to get to where you are. There’s a lot to consider – but I promise you its worth it. I’m a much better doctor for it now because I am now content and I can focus on the direction of my life again.

Now over to you……Comment below, or come over and tell me in my FREE Private Facebook Group where you’d like to visit one day.


So on that note, until next time.

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