'I'm 31 and I just quit my job to have the gap year I never had.'

Last year, things were going pretty well for me, career-wise. I was working as a podcast producer at Mamamia, a company I’d always wanted to work for, and worked my way to producing one of the biggest shows on the network.

I was 30, and had changed career trajectory a number of times, so I was happy with where I was in life, and I was immensely proud of the work I had a hand in creating every day. However, every day left me with a tired, uninspired feeling that was hard to ignore. It wasn't burnout - burnout usually happens to people with incredibly demanding careers and/or people in their life to care for. 

I was a child-free able-bodied person with only my two dogs to care for, alongside my partner. It was more a stale feeling, the feeling of waking up every day and wondering if I wanted to bother getting up to do it all again.

My partner felt it too - he'd been running various businesses and working incredibly hard for close to 15 years. We needed a drastic change, something more than just taking some leave or finding a new job. We flirted with the idea of moving overseas, but the idea of organising a visa, finding work and a place to live and getting our dogs over didn't seem like the break from reality we needed. 

"What about we just travel for 6 months?" he offered one day. 

I had never considered this as an option; in my mind these kind of moves were reserved for more free-wheeling, easy-going people. Plus, how would we afford it? What about our jobs? All our belongings and our dogs? But the idea of taking the 'gap year' I'd never had to see the world, slowly and deliberately, hooked itself into my mind and wouldn't let go.

Image: Supplied.

When I was in high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I left. I had a singular goal based upon what I thought was the perfect job for me, and that was working in radio. 

While my classmates were picking universities, I was doing a course on radio broadcasting at TAFE outside school hours and volunteering at my local community radio station. So when I was offered a job at a huge Sydney radio station right out of school, the choice to go straight into full-time work was easy. 

The job itself was in sales, whereas I wanted to produce, so I also took a weekend job answering calls for the sports shows. This meant I was working 7 days a week, with the longest period I had without a day off being almost 6 weeks.

My attitude towards work was kind of set from that point; that I was grinding towards something. And because I was so young, I seemed to possess all the energy I needed to work and go out to socialise most nights of the week. And while I enjoyed trips overseas thanks to my new income ($35k a year!!), the idea of actually taking some extended time off to breathe after 13 years of education didn't even occur to me as I single mindedly marched towards my goal.

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As I got older, my attitude slowly changed. I realised I wasn't a single-minded career person, set on climbing a corporate ladder. I was also diagnosed with ADHD at 28, perhaps explaining my hyperfocus early in my career, but also why I needed hours and hours of alone time to do nothing after work and on weekends. Being surrounded by the smart, capable women at Mamamia was inspiring and amazing, but also confirmed what I already knew; I don't get the satisfaction from working that a lot of my colleagues and friends do. I wanted a change.

My partner and I started to break down the barriers in the way of doing an extended trip together. Our dogs could stay with our family (where they're currently living their best spoilt life), he could continue to run his business remotely to ensure an income, I could use my savings and freelance where I could. We have also been staying on friend's couches and dog sitting to keep accommodation costs down. 

While I know there's an enormous amount of privilege involved in an experience like this, it also took a rearranging of priorities. Maybe we won't be able to buy a house as soon as we'd like. Children aren't on the cards while we live a spontaneous, couch hopping lifestyle. And spending money on anything beyond food and experiences, besides the occasional thrifted piece of clothing or second-hand book, is out of the question. But the last three months of freedom, unpredictability and growth have been life-changing.

Image: Supplied.

Before departing on this trip, I referred to it a few times as a 'once in a lifetime trip' (corny, I know). 

But this experience has shown me that this doesn't have to be once in a lifetime. I don't have to go back to Australia, resume working 9-5 and always reminisce about that one crazy thing we did in our 30s. It's shown me the life I want to live will actually be full of varying experiences, and that I have every right to dive headfirst into them if I wish. 

We're already planning how we can do this all again soon, and the different ways we can achieve it. Maybe we'll go fruit picking for a few months, teach English somewhere or give nannying a try. We want to volunteer at places, meet new people, make new connections. My future is in my hands, and in other ways completely up to chance. And I wouldn't change a thing.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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