When you’ve just finished high school or university, it’s almost a rite of passage to flit off into the sunset for the trip of a lifetime.
But what about when you’re a little older and taking the conventional route of climbing the career ladder, paying off a mortgage or raising kids?
We asked three couples why they believe a grown-up gap year is just the ticket.
Happily spending the house deposit
Stu and Ali Heppell had considered their adventure for a long time.
Melbourne’s Stu and Ali Heppell, both 28, had long dreamt of taking an extended adventure before they jetted off in March.
Stu had been working as a cameraman for The Project, while Ali was a speech pathologist. Both were ready for a change.
“It was nerve-racking to quit, but we knew it was the right thing to do,” says Stu. “I think both our careers sort of lent themselves to being OK with a bit of a hiatus.”
So far they’ve travelled through India, trekked in Nepal and visited a multitude of countries, including Jordan, Israel, Dubai and Scotland, documenting the trip through their photo blog. Currently they’re on a Workaway assignment in Belgium for two weeks, helping to build a straw bale house in exchange for food and accommodation.
The couple have travelled through India, Nepal, Jordan, Israel, Dubai and Scotland.
Stu happily concedes they’re spending what could have been a house deposit. “Our [rental] house actually went up for sale before we left. My first thought was, ‘Can we do both?’ Then I did the maths and it was definitely no,” he laughs.
Of course, they miss home and their families – especially their little nieces and nephews. “But we’ve had such amazing experiences and we’re so very lucky to be able to do this now,” says Ali.
Escaping the rat race in Bali
The Collins family in Bali.
Simone Collins had always wanted to experience living overseas, but “never in a million years” had she considered Bali.
In fact Hawaii was a frontrunner, until they decided it would be too expensive and her husband Trent suggested Bali as an alternative.
“We wanted to live life and enjoy life, not come back in debt – and still have a great school for the kids,” says Simone.
Trent visited solo first to investigate schooling options, and the couple eventually applied from Sydney to a school in Seminyak with an Australian curriculum.
In January 2016, the young family moved to Umalas, between Seminyak and Canggu, intending to stay 12 months.
A major advantage to moving was that Simone, who’d been working 12-hour days, could now afford to quit her council job.
Liam and Demi go to a school in Seminyak with an Australian curriculum.
“[In Sydney] there was no balance whatsoever – it was just churn and burn,” she says. “My kids (Liam, now 10, and Demi, 8) were getting really upset with me because they never saw me.”
Her husband, who runs a one-man market research company, now operates from Bali.
They rented out their house in Sydney but were thrown into a panic when the tenants broke their lease after six months and the agents couldn’t find a short-term replacement.
However, they quickly decided to stay another year and lease their home for 18 months.
In Bali, they’re renting a house with a swimming pool, with the luxury of a cleaner and a driver. “The children are probably going to be scarred when we go back [to Sydney],” laughs Simone.
She says they’ve all learnt to become more open-minded and patient.
“We were rushing through our lives trying to tick the boxes. I’ve always admired people who go on a gap year and just do their own thing and not rush through life.”
Swapping an apartment for a motorhome
Pauline and Kieran Morrissey with their motorhome.
Pauline and Kieran Morrissey had no qualms about shelving plans to buy – and swapping their one-bedroom apartment for a motorhome.
They’d been debating whether to keep saving for a house or take a big trip. That was until an identical one-bedroom apartment on their floor sold for $895,000.
“From then on, we had already began packing our suitcases in our minds,” says Pauline. She swapped her full-time producing role at Domain for a part-time contractor role, while Kieran, a contract manager, took unpaid leave for nine months.
They also wanted to travel extensively before starting a family. For Pauline, anxiety had also become a battle, with a change sorely needed.
The couple in California.
The couple started their adventure with a two-month sublease on an apartment in New York. From there they flew to Mexico, then California, where they bought a motorhome for $5000 and spent two weeks renovating it.
Over the next five months they’ll cover most of the US by road before selling their new home and finishing up with another month in New York.
They’ve grown used to not setting an alarm and enjoying the surprises of the open road.
Pauline says she’s also become far less anxious. “These days I’m quickly learning the value and importance of downtime and I’m learning the art of switching off.”