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How We Are Planning a Gap Year In Our 30’s

This past year, after a crisis and trying to decide whether I should over-educate myself even more, or what else was there?? I took some time to think about what I really wanted. I have always wanted to live somewhere else. In an ideal world, travel full time. So we talked about it, and the craziest thing about being wildly unsuccessful in your 30’s, is that you have nothing to lose.

 

Pinterest Pin Black block text says "How To Plan A Gap Year" The background is a faded picture of a train with graffiti on it, under the sculptural canopy of a Lisbon Train Station.

 

In the summer of 2020 we found ourselves in a pretty dark spot, and while that statement applies to a lot of the world, I am talking about our family specifically. I lost my job. Jason went down to three days a week at work. We decided to sell our old house and found out it was worth basically nothing. We were (and still are) carrying a large amount of debt since our first adoption, and a collapse in oil, coincided beautifully in 2015.

 

So this is 30. (Actually 32, but who’s counting?) We have nothing.

 

I don’t want to sound like this is when I really decided to find meaning in life, because I hadn’t been able to come up with any personal goals for a few years, but this was a very low point professionally. That, and I felt pretty sure life was always going to suck, because it hadn’t stopped sucking for a quite a while.

 

So I screamed, cried, and snivelled – But THEN, we decided to make the nothing work in our favour! And now I have my precious gap year to plan!

 

Choose a Timeline

 

Orange background square collage. A laptop and coffee cup on saucer in the top right corner on a wood plank table. Below this, mint green text on a navy square shape says "Are we really doing this?" Below on a paintbrush stripe of navy, white handwritten text in very small letters says "mark your calendars!" Low centre left is a square calendar page set to January. Top left quarter a paper airplane sails by

 

We decided in September of 2020 that we needed at least one year to plan and set up for our gap year. We are planning for January 2022. Because we are trying to set up income streams now, my goal is to make at least some money by October. That will be the real test for how feasible our deadline is. You’ve probably heard of the SMART goal acronym, and this is a perfect time to make one! Make a plan that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. For me, Specific was “travel for a year” and we came up with a Realistic Timeline. Measurable is my deadline for making some income. Achievable is all the “how” in between.

 

How To Fund A Gap Year

There are really only two ways to fund an entire year off. Savings, or income. Since we are hoping to pay off debt before we leave, there is no way that we could also save enough to fund the whole trip. 

Enter income.

Unfortunately, neither of use have work from home jobs. Jason is a Machinist (a trade) and while I have a marketing degree, I have worked primarily in admin. This is troubling, but that also means if we are able to do it, then you can too!

 

An open book on a speckled white and grey countertop reads "if you could open a door to anywhere, where would you go?"

 

Brainstorming Income Opportunities

Obviously my field of work lends itself more to trying to work online, so I have been puzzling over some possible income streams for a few months now.

 

Social Media Manager for small businesses. This is something that pays well, but it is a LOT of work. Ultimately I decided that it would be unrealistic for me to plan, write, and schedule social media posts for more than one business while travelling, and therefore likely would not pay enough or I would not have any free time. For someone who is travelling solo, this might be more workable! I just know I won’t get enough predictable quiet hours to do this, AND be in contact with clients.

 

Fiverr and Upwork are platforms where freelancers can post their profiles and apply for short term assignments. There is everything from copy editing to website building, graphic design, and more. After I have my blog properly running and SEO optimized, I am hoping to apply some of my skills to these websites. I would really recommend seeking out the reddit groups for both of these sites, and for freelancing, because they are a great source of information for setting your rates, how to get clients, etc.

A collage of social sharing symbols, centre: YouTube play button, Top Left: Pinterest Circle, Top Right: Instagram square, Bottom Right: Twitter circle, Bottom Left: Facebook circle.

 

Blogging and ghost-writing. This is another way to make money on a freelance basis if you enjoy writing, and feel like you can write on a variety of topics. The problem is that they want examples of your work, and I doubt lengthy Instagram captions qualify. So this is the real “why” behind my blog! Hopefully this is a two for one, and I can get enough traffic through here to monetize with ads, but I feel like it’s important to try various income streams and see what sticks.

 

Paid services and products. I am still in the early stages of brainstorming paid products that I can offer as either a service package or for downloads. There is a huge boom in recycled jewellery, so if you are at all crafty and have a good idea there is money to be made in that industry. This is an ideal venture for globetrotting because jewellery is small and recycling/mail is everywhere. Probably not for me, but I’m open to my own crazy ideas, should one arise!

 

That’s as far as I’ve gotten right now with income ideas for myself. Truthfully I need to stop and focus myself on one thing at a time, so that’s what I have been doing. 

 

What If Your Job Can’t Be Online?

View looking out an airplane window over the wing. A city is visible below. Along the horizon is a thin layer of cloud. The rest of the sky is light blue and clear.

 

This is the Jason category. As a Machinist, he works at a shop and his job is not mobile. So what can he do?

Ideally there would be programming jobs (for Machining) that he could do online. We’ve done some research and while a few people have done it, they didn’t like it. Time zones and supporting the customer were a headache. We are still figuring out whether or not this is a possibility. This would be best case scenario obviously, and the easiest/highest paying. Try to think if there any components of your job or transferable skills that you could take digital. Is there a way that you could do consulting? Teach from your knowledge online?

 

If not:

A passion project. Maybe you have always meant to start a Youtube channel for your larping. Maybe you want to review video games. Maybe there is something on Fiverr or Upwork that falls under your particular set of skills or interests. Creativity is your friend here! It’s an interesting time, trying to carve out your own job.

Okay, so now that you’re thinking about income…

 

How Much You Will Need To Live

The pressure to earn can be more or less based on your expectations. No matter what your expectations are, the most reassuring phrase I’ve read in all of this is “It’s cheaper than staying at home.” And I’ll be darned if that isn’t the truth! Of course if you want to live in Paris or Central London, that may very well not be true.

 

A quiet corner in Venice at the end of a stone street. A white and grey mottled plaster wall in directly ahead. The left hand side of the frame is a yellow restaurant on a corner with a green awning over outdoor tables and chairs. The tables have black and white checkered table cloths on them. An old fashioned street light hangs from a fancy bracket on the corner of the building. Beside it a sign with an arrow reads "Per S. Marco." Centre frame in front of the plaster wall sits a small red fire hydrant. Right of frame, a dark sliver of another awning pokes in.

 

Where you want to go, and how often you plan to move around, might seem like a premature question, but it’s really not. If you want to live on as little as possible, plan to stay in one place longer and choose budget-friendly destinations. For us, we want to slow travel. That’s how we prefer it anyways. We want to take our time at locations and stay the maximum allowed on our passports. For most countries that we are interested in, this is 90 days.

We love Eastern Europe so ideally we would like to spend three months each in Bulgaria and Portugal. Beyond that we haven’t decided, but we will be sticking to budget countries. I prefer some of the more affordable destinations because they tend to be less crowded. Just remember that every time you move around will greatly increase your expenses because of airfare, train tickets, more meals out, etc.

 

Expenses Back Home

Okay, so that’s money covered for the actual travel, but what about your expenses back home? We end up being lucky that we have nothing really. Our unfortunate house (currently a rental property) never did sell last year, so we will have to try again to sell before we leave. Hopefully this summer. We will move out of the house that we rent for ourselves, sell whatever we can, and put our precious things in storage. We will also sell our car, so that leaves just the storage locker for at home expenses. Worst case scenario: We sell the house and it doesn’t pay off our debt so we have to keep a debt payment. Worser worst case scenario: We can’t afford that and have to wait a few extra months. We can do that! We are in the driver’s seat here! (Kind of sorta.)

 

As a current landlord, I really would not recommend keeping your home and renting it while you are gone, unless you can comfortably afford the expenses regardless of whether or not you have tenants. The reality is, most tenants do not pay on time, and you do not want to be sweating bullets 1,000 miles away, wondering if you will have any money at all. Let alone if they stop paying altogether, move out without notice, or have a major problem. If you insist on keeping the house, at least hire a property management company who will collect the rent for you, find new tenants, and fix problems as they arise.

In my ideal scenario, we love the lifestyle, we can support ourselves, and we stay gone. If that’s your ideal, sell the house.

 

School

A young girl with tanned skin and dark wispy hair in a ponytail leans over a homework school book resting on a white couch. She colours a picture of a rocket ship with her green crayon. A blue marker sits in the centre fold.

 

We will have to homeschool while we are gone for the year, so if you have kids, start thinking about what you will work on with them. I am planning on spending more time working, so Jason is going to do the schoolwork. In my opinion, it is not enough to say that the travel is homeschooling. If your kids are ahead, I suppose that is an option. Our little is already behind from her late start so we can’t afford to take a year off from academics. Since our goal is to start our gap year in January 2022, it doesn’t make too much sense to pick curriculum now. We will have to see where she is at and plan accordingly.

 

Pets

This is a hard one when planning a gap year! Most of us have pets. Will you bring your pets? Leave them with a trusted friend or relative? We currently live with my sister and we have two cats. We plan to leave them with her as they are all very attached. 

 

A black cat with pale green eyes sits on a window ledge beside a plant, staring up into the snow coming down. Out the window, trees are faded into the distance behind the falling snow flakes. The whole ground is white in a fresh blanket of snow.

 

If you plan to bring your cherished pet, make sure you check vaccination and quarantine rules around bringing a pet into specific countries. This might change some of your destinations! Of course if your gap year involves driving or RV-ing across your country, taking your pets is less of an issue.

These are all the basics to getting you started with planning your gap year! When we have some extra time we will have to sit down and work out more goals in the timeline. Right now I am so glad that we planned for just over a year ahead, because already with the end of January approaching, I am feeling the squeeze of less than a year to our arbitrary deadline!

 

Do you have a work from home job? Have you ever worked abroad?

Here is a blog that I found to be really helpful with planning, but they started on savings: World Travel Family

Visit my other travel posts to see where we have been on a short term basis! : Travel Posts