As my gap year comes to an end, I’ve been thinking a lot about all that I’ve experienced and accomplished this year. If I think back to this time last year, it’s hard for me to believe everything I’ve actually done, and how far I’ve come in 12 months. I decided that a post like this would be exactly what Millie-one-year-ago would like to read, so I’m hoping it can help some people in the same position as me last year!
Summer was over and I’d decided to turn down my apprenticeship offer for a year of fun. Had I really thought this through? Not at all! As my friends all headed off to uni or back to school, I entered panic mode. I have always struggled with lack of structure and organisations (I was always that kid who hated school holidays) and with the prospect of a whole empty year ahead of me, my mood started spiralling. I began looking for full time jobs so I could just work the year away and forget it ever happened…
I had a job interview coming up at an outdoors centre I had visited over the summer, to work there residentially on their outdoor leaders apprenticeship. I attended the interview and realised it wasn’t the right opportunity for me (cue more panic) before getting a text from a friend asking if I fancied a trip to North Wales to go climbing. I’d never climbed before but packed a bag and we set off that night, arriving at 1am and camping in a layby… We spent the next few days climbing and hiking and I felt the happiest I had in a long while. As soon as we were home I booked myself onto a ‘learn to climb’ course and haven’t stopped climbing since! (People always enjoy the story of me learning to climb in the rain on a trad multi pitch in North Wales).
Back to work for me with our autumn wave of NCS. This time we went to the Isle of Wight for a few days which was a fun getaway! In October I also received an email from my employer about a training course in France, fully funded by ERASMUS! Mum convinced me to apply and soon I got the email confirming I had a place on the course…
I took my theory test this month and thankfully passed first time, a big step towards finally being able to drive! It was also time to head to France…
Time for some gap year reality! I cried (literally sobbed) the whole way to the airport, was convinced I was going to throw up from anxiety and was 99.9% sure I was going to get mum to turn around and go home and we’d write the whole thing off as a mistake. Somehow (and I thank the universe for this every day) that teeny tiny 0.1% won out and I walked into the airport, checked my bag in, headed through security and made it to my gate. In complete honesty, I hate flying. Like, ‘I’ve refused to get on flights before and have been literally dragged on crying’ kind of hatred. I have no idea how I found the strength to do that but it is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. After an eventful journey (that’s a story for another day) I made it to Veynes and had the BEST week in the Alps, learning about intercultural conflict resolution with a group of the coolest people ever, hiking, sleeping in a draughty old farmhouse in a room with 10 other women, playing games in the evening and learning traditional dance from other countries… This trip opened my eyes to how this year could look and for the first time I felt so excited about the freedom I had ahead of me.
My Dad was heading to Belfast for work and asked if I wanted a trip to Ireland, obviously! When we arrived in Dublin, dad dropped me at my aunties and he carried on to Belfast. I spend a couple of days with family and then a day with dad exploring the Dublin outskirts (and eating doughnuts).
My friend then texted asking if I wanted a trip to the Lake District so I booked a sooner flight home, packed my outdoors gear and headed off the next morning. We spent a week walking and climbing and it was so much fun; this was when I realised I actually quite like cold weather, and especially mountains in cold weather!
In December I also did my week-long NPLQ course to become a lifeguard (and earn more money to travel with). I stayed at my aunties whilst I did this- as you can see I wasn’t home for much of December… I finished up 2017 in Northumberland with my godmother and family for a few days of rest!
January meant it was time for my first big adventure, off to Iceland! I flew to Reykjavik alone and navigated the bus into the city, encountering a lot of angry American tourists on the way. I checked into my hostel late and shuffled into my bed to get some sleep. This was my first real hostel experience so there was a lot of learning! In the morning I walked through a very dark (but beautiful) Reykjavik to our pick up point (I got quite lost) where we got a bus out to Hveragerði where I spent 2 weeks volunteering at a health clinic. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life: I met some great friends, experienced a completely different culture, had my first proper taste of solo travel and fell head over heels in love with a new country. This time I cried on the plane home as I was so sad to be leaving!
So that’s the first 5 months of my gap year over! I hope this has been interesting (and not too boring) to read, stay tuned for part 2:)