Is it really that crazy to give up everything and travel in your 30’s? What about when you have kids? The answer is no. It’s not crazy, although other people will definitely think you’ve lost it!
This post first appeared on my original blog that is no longer. I had planned to show the evolution from the planning phase of full-time travel to actually doing it.
Spoiler alert: We did it.
The original post will appear like this.
Why Take a Gap Year?
1. You already don’t have anything
Original post – January 2021 :
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.
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 adoption, and a collapse in oil, coincided beautifully in 2015.
So this is 30. (Actually 33, but who’s counting?) We have nothing.
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!
I probably (definitely) could have been more concise here. We were faced with a decision:
- Go back to school for another two years and change professions
- Put two years into a dream instead
We chose option 2!
2. For your mental health
Taking a break isn’t wrong.
I don’t care how much Western society tells us if you aren’t busy all the time it is less honorable than filling every minute. Truly, YOLO.
3. Because it’s hard to see the world in just two weeks per year
I’ve already spoiled the surprise, we made it happen! I can say now with travelling full time that it is even hard to see the whole area in one month.
It’s crazy how “productive” we managed to be with our vacation time before, but it certainly wasn’t ideal for Slow Travel.
Choosing a Timeline for Your Gap Year
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.
We did not meet our original goal of January 2022. We pushed it out to April, and then to November, but in November of 2022 we were able to begin our gap year.
I’ll be honest that I knew the January timeline was a stretch. The problem is that I have ADHD and I knew anything longer than that would be too difficult for me to work towards. It’s like a little trick…for yourself.
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.
I actually was able to make some money in October (more on how in just a minute) but it wasn’t that realistic to expect a small amount of money by October to be enough income by January.
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.
I left this in here for the lols, because we can all see my goal wasn’t particularly “SMART.”
At the end of the day, the goal is just for you. Try to set one that is as realistic as possible, but not so far out that you can’t stay motivated.
How To Fund Your Gap Year
There are really only two ways to fund an entire year off:
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.
Can confirm that we neither saved up a bunch of money, nor paid off debt before we left. Our living expenses were so high that we had no wiggle room to be able to do that.
There were times before we left that it seemed like a very bad idea to give up everything and leave the country when we were barely getting by. When we did the math though, it actually made more sense to be travelling.
We would need a lot less money.
It’s so insane that it doesn’t even seem right! When you get scared just remember, it’s cheaper than staying home.
Unfortunately, neither of us 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!
Preach. If we can do it, anyone can!
Brainstorming Income Opportunities
Most of this information is still pretty accurate:
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.
I know a little more about this now, and I do think it would be possible to do, although the time difference remains a challenge. You would need to work with clients who don’t require meetings all the time.
Planning social media really doesn’t need to take that much time. I can plan my own posts for the month in about an hour now.
If you did it for a living you would include a certain number of hours for engagement, but you can definitely make it manageable for yourself.
Fiverr and Upwork
If you don’t know, these are platforms where freelancers can post their profiles and apply for short term assignments.
There is everything from copy writing and 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.
I actually did freelance on Upwork for a few months, and that’s how I managed to make a small amount of money by October.
Freelancing platforms are feast or famine. One week you are swimming in work and then you may go weeks without anything.
Upwork was excellent for practice and learning to write faster. If you write faster, you make more per hour. Unfortunately there was a huge shift to online work over the past few years, so everyone and their pupper is on there looking for work.
Upwork is an okay side hustle, but a hard way to eke out a living. (Who knew “eke” was spelled like that?)
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.
This is the best way to make an income through freelance writing.
- Start your own blog
- Learn as much as you can
- Network in facebook groups
- Apply for writing jobs on ProBlogger (competitive, but it’s a numbers game and typically has better paying gigs)
I was able to make the most money freelancing through my connections in blogging groups. Every once in a while people will be hiring writers and you can throw your hat in the ring.
Once you know more about the kind of content that people are looking for, you can also write blog posts and sell them in content buying Facebook groups. (More on that under “Virtual Assistant” in just a minute.)
The big surprise here, is that I make a full time income just by having my own blogs. These “niche sites” earn an income off of display ads. See item #2 on that list? “Learn as much as you can.” Bingo.
Think of something that you are uniquely qualified to write about, and make a super specific niche website answering popular queries related to that topic. You could have a website for being a dogwalker. You could have a niche site all about making ice cream at home. Just be really specific.
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!
If you decide to go the blogging route, it’s easier to incorporate paid products into your site. (E.g. Ice cream recipe book.)
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.
These next two are new additions that I didn’t know anything about when we were first planning our gap year.
There are a LOT of small tasks involved with blogging, and it’s hard to grow your business while still doing everything yourself.
There are several Facebook groups where you can look for work doing these small jobs for bloggers. This could include:
- Uploading content to WordPress
- Updating old content
- Sourcing and uploading stock photos
- and more!
You can also find work as a food photographer, recipe developer, or other specific jobs if you have some experience.
The important thing is to have your own site, so that you can actually learn how to do this stuff. Even if you just start a hobby blog, that will get you some experience.
You do not need to take a course to become a VA. Join some Facebook groups, network with bloggers, and advertise yourself.
Did you know that most of the pins on Pinterest are actually designed by bloggers and uploaded directly onto the platform?
Me neither. (But to be fair, I haven’t spent a lot of time on Pinterest.)
A LOT of bloggers choose to hire out their pinning to VA’s or Pinterest Managers. Again it’s helpful to have your own site so that you can learn how to do it all, but you could also practice on someone else’s site.
To do this well, get yourself a Canva Pro subscription and spend some time on Youtube.
What If Your Job Can’t Be Online?
This is a reality for many of us. There isn’t always an easy way to transition to an online job.
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.
We have been fortunate that I was able to come up with enough income to support us. Realistically someone needs to do tot care anyways! I do think there would have been a way to make this work, but he was happy to leave his job for now.
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?
The good news about going affordable places, is that you really don’t need two full-time incomes.
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…
Calculate How Much You Will Need to Live
In hindsight, I think this is less about how much you need, and more about your comfort level.
I can tell you that we haven’t been doing this for long and we thought we needed far more than we actually do. My comfort number was $2500 USD. Jason’s was $3000 USD.
In reality, you can live comfortably in inexpensive places for $1700 USD.
Things to Think About When Budgeting for Your Gap Year
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.
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.
I feel as though we chickened out here a bit. Eventually we will get there, but for right now we are doing one month in each place.
A little of that probably has to do with it still not feeling real that we could actually travel for the foreseeable future. If we’re only gone for a year, than 3 months might be too long in one place.
Ideally we would like to spend three months in Bulgaria and then three months in Portugal.
Portugal is slightly more expensive now, so we will have to plan that around winter travel. We are earning less in these first few months than we would like for Portugal, so we went with the ultra inexpensive Albania for our first month.
Next month will be in Croatia, because a Dubrovnik Christmas has been on my bucket list for a while.
Beyond that we haven’t decided, but we will be sticking to budget countries.
We prefer some of the more affordable destinations because they tend to be less crowded.
A lot of people wrinkle their noses at some of the places we would like to live, but we honestly enjoy quieter less-postcardy places.
Just remember that every time you move around will greatly increase your expenses because of airfare, train tickets, more meals out, etc.
Considering and Cutting 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.
What a LOL. Don’t buy a house kids. It’s an anchor. We still own that nugget and got to replace the furnace amongst the chaos of moving to Albania.
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.
We actually decided to be ruthless and not even have a storage locker. When your rent overseas is only about $500 per month, all of a sudden it doesn’t make a lots of sense to spend $150 to $200 per month here just to keep your stuff.
We have just three boxes in a relative’s shed, and one with my Mom because we found a couple items at the very end. We were careful to keep very little, because we didn’t want to burden a family member with storing a bunch of stuff.
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.)
Worser worst worstest scenario: You can’t sell your house because clearly gremlin spirits cast dark spells on anyone who crosses the threshold to view it, and you have to keep it and the debt payment.
C’est la vie. We will try again in the Spring. We took 2022 off from trying to sell our house. You know, for a nice little break from that seemingly FULL TIME ACTIVITY.
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.
We did hire a Property Manager, who charges much more rent than we did, which negates their fee. The house still doesn’t quite cover it’s own expenses, but it’s close.
In my ideal scenario, we love the lifestyle, we can support ourselves, and we stay gone. If that’s your ideal, sell the house.
Still the goal!
School for the Kids During Your Year Off
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.
We have the blessing/curse of her still being very far behind. It certainly takes the pressure off because we can work on basic concepts and not worry too much about her being behind.
Consider What You Will do With Pets While You Travel for a Year
This is highly individual, but worth thinking about early!
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.
This is exactly what we did. We made sure to have them visit her new space several times before we transitioned them, and we were able to visit a few times after.
If you plan to bring your cherished pet, make sure you check vaccination and quarantine rules around bringing a pet into specific countries. (Also airline rules!) 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.
Is it Realistic to Have a Gap Year in Your 30’s (Or With a Family?)
Some thoughts now that we’ve actually done it:
Don’t Overthink It
An expat on a Youtube video I was watching in the months before we left said:
“It’s not that hard, and you can afford it”
And doesn’t that kind of cover it?
A Gap Year is Achievable, and You Can Do It
A big part of me was always thinking “If it was possible, wouldn’t everybody be doing it?”
Of course it seems like the dream, and it is the dream…for some of us. Most people, think we’re crazy at best, and really really dumb at worst.
Even if it was easy, most people would stay home. You can absolutely make this happen. It may take longer than you plan, but that’s okay.
You WILL get there if you think it’s possible and you’re willing to be flexible to make it happen.
If you’re in the planning or dreaming stages, I want you to bookmark this post and just read this last section over and over when you feel like it won’t happen. I really can’t stress enough, this is something that YOU can do.
I hope you enjoyed this past and present post. It’s not as structured as I would write these days, but it was one of my first blog posts and it was so fun to update it from this side.
Stick around for these other fun reads: