In 2008 I finished school and had no idea what to do with myself, a common theme amongst the youth of today. I’d delayed university by a year, simply because I couldn’t be bothered at the time, and suddenly I had this huge amount of time to fill. At first I did the usual stuff everyone does having just turned eighteen and completed their A-Levels. All the mates were still around so we spent the summer getting hammered and enjoying our new found freedom. Then as quickly as it had started, the summer was gone and people started to leave. University, ski seasons, work placements, travelling etc. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who had been saying they had no plans, no idea for a plan, but it sure as hell felt like it at the time. Even my own mother had made plans to follow a dream and head off to the Caribbean for a season. Fortunately for me she was looking out for me till she went and got in touch with my old housemaster. He had heard about an opening for a GAP teacher at a local school and put in a good word for me. At the time I wasn’t too keen on the idea of heading straight back to school, albeit from a different perspective, but without any better ideas I wasn’t exactly in a position to be picky about my next move.
Within a month I’d started my first full time job: teaching sport to primary school kids. Back then I don’t think I appreciated the job itself as much as I should have done. It was incredible being able to go from trying to get a 13 year old to realise their potential in competitive rugby to trying to control twenty individual five year olds in a gymnastics lesson. With all the different sports and age groups, not a single class was the same, a definite change to the repetitive, monotonous crap that comes with a standard office job. However, what I really appreciated were the other GAP teachers I met. As a rule, the school only recruited one GAP from the UK. The rest came from around the world, but most of them from one country in particular: Australia. It was the first time I’d spent a significant amount of time with people like this. Having spent the last five years in boarding school with friends who enjoyed the protective bubble as much as I did, it was an amazing experience. These guys had just upped and left their home behind purely to experience something new. It was inspiring. I found myself booking weekend trips to Europe, even just places in the UK, just to explore. As much as I was enjoying myself, it didn’t take long for me to realise it wasn’t enough. I was still too close to the bubble.
Fortunately for me, I had some money stashed away, some of which had come from me, but most of which had been saved by my parents. I think they weren’t keen on the idea of me spending all the money I had in the world on a three month trip but shortly realised I wasn’t to be persuaded. From that point forward they were fully supportive for which I’m extremely appreciative. Mum even found a round the world ticket for about half the price the others were going for at the time. Having done some initial budgeting and general planning I went for it and booked my flights. The next month is a blur of rushing around to make sure I had everything I needed. My packing list was fairly solid and there weren’t too many hiccups, with the minor exception of forgetting to pack any warm clothes. Who knew New Zealand actually gets cold in winter? Apart from that I was pretty comfortable I had everything sorted and the rushing and planning turned into a game of patience. One of the worst things about travelling is the build up to it when you’ve done everything you can possibly do. After what seemed like an age, I arrived at the airport with a rucksack and the briefest of itineraries. The goodbyes weren’t as emotional as I had foreseen but I think I was far too excited by that point and I was used to leaving the country on my own having visited Dad regularly when he worked abroad. The next thing I remember is walking out of the airport in Bangkok and the excitement/anxiety that came with it. There’s nothing like that feeling of realising you’re on your own and I’ve been chasing it ever since.
I won’t go into too much detail on that trip. I think it suffices to say it was incredible and inspired me to do what I’ll be doing come April. I’ll leave you with a few of the highlights:
Meeting a 28 year old Thai local in Chiang Mai, promptly losing my virginity and falling into a six week relationship. Regardless of the idea that this trip was supposed to be about me getting out on my own, this was one of the parts of my trip I regret the least, purely because I don’t think I would have seen so much of the real Thailand had I not shacked up with a local. Temples in the middle of nowhere, eating at restaurants that were Thai only whilst not having a clue what she was ordering for the two of us and walks to parts of Thailand undiscovered by tourists. It was an amazing experience.
On the other end of the scale, getting quarantined in Christchurch with a suspected case of SARS was the least enjoyable part of my journey. Holed up for three days in a dingy hostel room only to find out I had a bad case of tonsillitis.
Lastly, I’d say my time in Queenstown was the best part of my trip. The scenery and sheer variation of stuff you can do there epitomises the ease at which you can fall in love with New Zealand ‘s South Island. The Nevis Bungy one day, snowboarding the day after, followed by a walk in the sun around the incredible lake in the middle of the city. Such an incredible place.
I have to stop there because I could rant on for hours about some of the places I visited. This is a prologue about the next adventure and how I got to where I am in my life right now. I hope you enjoy following the rest of the jouney and enjoy sharing in some of the new stories I have to tell.