Chris Berry tells us how he stumbled into his big year abroad. Not that he’s regretting his clumsiness - his gap year in Australia gave him some real life experience you can’t find in a classroom. Chris also runs a great website called Five Free Things - check it out if you're stingey like us and want to save money while travelling. This article originally appeared in NomadHead Gap Year Magazine Issue 11.
Whilst still studying at school I had no intention of taking a break before going to university, let alone visiting faraway mysterious lands. Sure, I had heard of this idea of taking a year out to go travelling but it just didn’t appeal to me. Perhaps I was too scared to go gallivanting around the world back then, or maybe I was too excited about moving to a new city to make new friends. It could even have been that I was eager to continue academia so that I could climb that first rung on the career ladder (but probably not). Anyway, the plan was to finish my studying at school and accept my offers to start my university degree!
However, much like the best laid schemes of mice and men, it didn’t quite go as expected. Due to a combination of overestimating my potential grades and general laziness when it came to revising, I did not meet any of my university offers. Not even the backups.
This left me in a sort of no-man’s-land between academia and the world of work that I had not even previously considered a potential outcome. Whilst my teachers were trying to give me pep talks or stifling tears whilst telling me that it wasn’t the end of the world (which I was well aware of) I was trying to come up with a new plan.
I decided I still wanted to go to university, which meant I needed to wait a year so that I could apply again. This left me with a year of my life to work or otherwise fill with useful activities. I wasn’t thrilled about this – it was the exact thing I wanted to avoid by going to university! To make things worse I was constantly being updated by my friends who did manage to get to university and the all fun they were having. So, when another friend whose intention was to have a gap year invited me along, naturally I jumped at the chance.
His idea was for me to travel with himself and his cousin to Australia for just over a month. I didn’t know much about Australia, only that it was filled with poisonous creatures, beaches and kangaroos. I also knew that it was comparatively more expensive to live in Australia so only going for a month would still leave me with plenty of savings for university. I didn’t really know what to expect - but I was excited.
After a 23 hour flight with stop-overs at Changi airport in Singapore (which even has a swimming pool!) and Darwin, we embarked on what would become the greatest experience of my life (so far). Instead of recounting every little detail and telling you all the great things that happened, I will put it into perspective. Words won’t truly do it justice anyway, and I don’t want to be the guy everyone hates because he keeps boasting about all the cool things he’s done.
Whilst my class mates were discussing the various features of macroeconomic policy, I was taking a tour round a rainforest. I saw a wild crocodile swimming just outside of the small boat I was in. I saw a cassowary, a bird with claws that could rip the door off a jeep, run out across the road in front of us.
Whilst my classmates were sat around watching daytime television and nursing their hangovers, I was snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. I was being terrified by a real life shark and saw all the characters from Finding Nemo.
Whilst my classmates were making new friends on their university courses and around campus, I was going on adventures with new people each day. All this was just in the first week!
Ok, so it kind of sounds like I’m the guy who boasts about all the great things he’s done... but I just wanted to give an impression. To make it clear I didn’t write this to disparage people going to university or studying - I definitely did have fun there too. I write it to inform people in the same position as me of the alternative options of going straight to university.
...And even if you hate every minute of it, you can at least get a new Facebook profile picture out it!
This story originally appeared in Issue 11 of NomadHead magazine. Get it now for free! Just click here: http://bit.ly/NomadHead.