The Prologue: Life is what you make it

“Definition: the preface or introduction to a literary work”

I would hardly dare to call this writing a piece of literary work, but I see today’s blog as very much the introduction to the, what feels, very imminent traveling escapade. My last post talked about how it all came about, the practicalities in a way. This one looks at the why and goes right back to the very beginning, almost.

When I was young and care free, before starting and during the first year of university, I was adamant that I wanted to do a study abroad year. No one talked about work placements for my course (English Lit & History for anyone wondering) so study abroad was pretty much the only option. The plan was always to go away, preferably somewhere hot. A conversation with my mum went something like this:

“Mum: So where are you considering going to study abroad?
Me: Well, turns out the uni is linked to another uni in America based in California.
Mum: Oh ok cool, why is it you want to choose that one?
Me: Because I was thinking, if I went there it’s nearly always hot and sunny and nice, so I’d ultimately get an all year round tan
Mum: That’s seriously how you’re making this decision??”

I think it’s safe to say she was slightly concerned!! And as you may have guessed, I never made it to do the one thing I was at that stage adamant I would. If I’m going with excuses, life got in the way. If I’m being brutally honest, in a nut shell, it’s because I allowed myself at that age to be dissuaded and not go as some one else didn’t want me to. I promised myself I would never let feelings for a guy stop me going anywhere else ever again. Hence the following summer I completed a summer school in Germany. A fantastic experience, I would highly recommend, I met a life long friend from the other side of the world, which as allowed me to have to brilliant holidays in the USA, but it wasn’t quite the same.

So after that delve into my personal history lets fast forward to about late October 2013 roughly. After (possibly a few too many) drinks at a local pub establishment in the Hemel Hempstead area I was being walked home by a friend, when talk turned to how was life in general. I made the fatal mistake of claiming it was fine but work was stressing me out. BIG MISTAKE. Que an onslaught of your life isn’t stressful and you don’t know what it means to be stressful etc etc, which wasn’t really what I wanted to hear, but actually kind of true. The conversation was a kick up the bum/reminder, without getting to philosophical, that life is what you make it!!! I could get by and survive outside the bubble of Hemel.

As this conversation sank in and sat within my subconscious I hosted a presentation at work from the company USA Summer Camp. Images circa The Parent Trap (Lindsey Lohan version) started to go through my head and I thought maybe that would be something I’d enjoy doing/would kick start seeing the world a bit (or the Americas at least). The more I thought about it the more I thought yep that’s it, I’ll do that, just need to figure out taking 4 months off work. Until another fatal night, at another local pub, again in the Hemel Hempstead area. A trend may be emerging here. Except this time considerably less alcohol was involved, when a dear friend kindly reminded me:

“But you hate children!!”

That’s not strictly true, but in context she had a point, 24hrs a day with and looking after children was not my preferred activity here in the UK where they went back to their parents after an allotted time, so why would America make it any better? Apart from the obvious, hotter, sunnier weather! And so instead the idea to attempt to do a bit of animal conservation work and travel for a year was born. And I applied for the afore mentioned Leave of Absence. At least animals can’t talk back!


Taking the all important first steps…

Back in December 2013 I found out that my long time dream to go travelling was about to become a reality! After not taking a gap year before or after university I had started to convince myself that going to a new place each year on holiday would be fine. I would eventually get to see the whole world. However it didn’t take long for the realisation to kick in that that really wasn’t how I wanted to do it. A beach holiday somewhere hot, sandy and beautiful, followed by a few long weekend trips away with friends, possibly something family based (all of which are great and I love lots) but suddenly all your leave is gone and that dream of visiting somewhere new, exciting and culturally different for a substantial amount of time is gone with it.

So how have things now changed you may ask? If I’m honest a owe a little of it to my time working in HR; that may not be the starting point you expected. I spent 15 months in a job where I had great colleagues and friends but knew I didn’t want it to be my long term career. HR is however a great area to become familiar with everything your company has to offer you, I became highly familiar with company policy and the fact that after working for the company for so long you were able to apply for an extended leave of absence. Often used by academics for research it was also open to anyone who had a valid request and reason for wanting to take 6 months to a year out! A year after leaving HR to work with students in the university’s Careers and Placements service a lightbulb moment took place in the depth of my brain as I realised I could now apply for said Leave of Absence (LOA).

There was a few things going through my head in the run up to applying for my LOA which I will go into in another post, as with anything travel orientated, I am learning fast that things change a lot! But for now, as you have probably guessed, my request was approved just before Christmas and yes it has taken me almost 4 months to tell as many people as possible and write my first ever blog post (2014 looks set to be a year of many firsts).

I have to thank my manager at the time for her amazing support as I really was bricking it when I finally plucked up the courage to talk to her about taking a year out and of course my family for being 100% behind me as soon as I told them my ideas to go travelling, as they always are!!!

And the all important date, first flight = 18 June 2014, 1pm take off, London Heathrow to Edmonton, Canada 😀

Take off countdown: 85 days