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  • jlentz24

What I Wish I Knew Before My Adult Gap Year

Updated: Jul 9

For the last few years, I felt like I should quit my job to travel. But I kept asking myself, “Could I really quit my job in my 30s? What would an adult gap year look like? What are the pros and cons for long term travel? What are the hard parts of solo travel that never make it to Instagram?" Let’s take a look at the things people don’t tell you about long-term travel. Here are my top 10 tips I wish I knew before starting my adult gap year!

jordan sitting with a glass of red sangria and tan shirt

1. Burnout is real

If you are planning a long-term adventure, the best advice I can give is to pace yourself. I love getting up each day to explore a new city, walking 25,000 steps and soaking up the local culture. But 7 days of this each and every week is not only taxiing on your body, but overstimulating. It’s important to build in rest days, even if that means just wandering to a local coffee shop and reading a book. I have found that I need 2-3 weeks of down time every 3 months. I use this time to plan the next leg of my trip, work on Lifetime Tidbits (which is a constant anyway! 😊), read new books and even watch the latest Netflix craze. I love finding an apartment so I can do laundry, have fast Wi-Fi and cook at home. If you need to save extra pennies during this time, housesitting is a great option. I use Trusted Housesitters to find places around the world to stay, sometimes for weeks at a time. Staying in someone’s house makes it feel more like home too, and for those missing their dog or cat, it’s a great way to get some extra cuddles. When you click to join TrustedHousesitters - get 25% off annual memberships with code TIDBITS25


2. Logistical planning is constant

I was not prepared for this fact. If you are moving every 2-3 days, you are constantly planning for your next stay, i.e., booking hostels, trains or buses, flights to your next country, etc. This doesn’t include also figuring out public transportation in each city, top sights to visit and places to eat. I usually find I am not able to do much planning on activities until I reach the city. But that means I sometimes miss out on some wonderful spots because tickets are sold out. In order to avoid this (and the burnout it causes), try to stay in one city for more than 2-3 days to give yourself time to really soak up the local culture and navigate more spontaneously.


3. You can never have enough snacks

I’m sure this seems like a given, but I can’t tell you how many times a bag of nuts or a granola bar has stopped me from a hangry outburst. Flights get delayed, trains or buses take hours and sometimes you wind up in an area of town with nothing to eat! I always carry my “emotional support” water bottle (with built-in filter, like this one; but it’s also important to carry a few snacks for those emergency moments. I stash granola bars in every bag of mine, so I’m always within reach of a few calories to reenergize me!


4. Good bags are clutch!

When doing my #adultgapyear, I was tempted to save money as many ways as I could to make my travel budget stretch further. However, skimpy on your bag only hurts yourself and usually has you spending even more money in the long run. Spend the money on a good travel bag, like my Osprey. It will be the only thing keeping all your stuff with you and having wheels break off or a zipper bust is the worst way to lug your bags at 2 am from the airport.



5. Laundry days

jordan in hunter green parka and neon yellow gloves with snow behind her

Laundry is a travel necessity, but it often takes at least half a day. And thank goodness Europe seems to have laundromats somewhat frequently. But other parts of the world are not as well “stocked.” We once had to walk 45 mins from our riad in Morocco to a laundromat and then wait 4 hours for all our clothes to be washed and dried. As a solo traveler, you also have no one to “watch your stuff” while you go grab a quick bite to eat. Pro tip: Laundry sheets are king. I carry these with me and can do a sink-wash if needed or even use the sheets if a laundromat doesn’t have washing soap (which so many do not). Washing and drying can be as much as $20 each time, so you should budget for it.


6. Wi-Fi generally sucks

I’m actually pretty shocked by this discovery, especially in Europe. I quickly learned that Germany is considered to have one of the worst Wi-Fi networks in the developed world. Often on trains or buses the company will limit each user to 150 MB. If you’ve ever tried to work or even stream a movie on Netflix, you know 150 MB is good for about an hour. Plan ahead with a data plan that will keep you plugged in or buy an e-sim and data plan for each country. When I first started traveling, I did a lot of research about the e-sims and found Flexiroam to be the best option for calls and data. However, they have changed their system and are now just a data plan – you can no longer make calls on their network. I still use them to supplement my data plan with T-Mobile, but it’s not perfect. Pro tip: Most e-sims, especially Flexiroam, have big promo offers, so don’t every buy data at full price. I regularly get 80% off of listed prices to purchase data.

7. You must have a good battery pack

I’ve stayed in countless hostels without a working plug or ridden a bus 5 hours without a charge. It’s so important to bring a good battery pack with you. Yes, you can usually find something on your travels, but if you are planning to bring your laptop (like I did) or other electronic devices that run on a higher wattage, you should do your homework BEFORE you leave. I ended up having to send back my first battery pack as it wasn’t compatible with my laptop. I spent more on a charger (and it even weighs more than I’d prefer) to have this one that charges my laptop and my iPhone multiple times.


8. You will get so sick of your clothes

Yes and Amen! Wow, six to eight outfits is all that will fit in my backpack. So after wearing each item at least once a week, you quickly get sick of them all. I was hoping that I’d find my own Marie Kondo moment and feel the zen of a capsule wardrobe, but I sadly did not. I did, however, cheat and have every friend and relative who came to visit me along this #adultgapyear bring me different clothes. If you too have friends and family join you throughout the year, pack an extra box of clothes for this exact purpose. The first time my parents brought me a new wardrobe about 7 weeks into traveling I actually got teary trying to decide what to wear. I had so many choices! 😊 If you can’t cheat the system, be sure to splurge once in a while for a new top or shoes. It helps boost your drive, and I believe reduces the likelihood of booking a one-way ticket home.


9. Strangers become friends

This is the absolute bee’s knees when traveling. This microcosm of people traveling along with you are a special sub-set of the world – they, like you, also share a love language in travel. You often meet wonderful locals, but I have to say that the other travelers have become the lifelong friends. Step out of your comfort zone and say hello to the stranger in the bunk next to you, join a walking tour or attend an international church. It’s a great way to feel like part of a community when you travel and great way to meet your next travel buddy!


10. Learn the basics in each language!

While English is the universal travel language (thank you God!), it makes life so much easier (and you will find locals more friendly) if you can learn a few basic words in the native tongue. Even saying “good morning” or “thank you” goes a long way. Locals have gone above and beyond to help me with directions, ordering food or even explaining transportation announcements. Responding in their local language shows them you care about their culture. Plus, we all need to do our part to break the stereotypes of American tourists.


You can quit your job and travel the world in your 30s. Traveling, not just a quick vacation, changes you, stretches you and teaches you so much about who you are. An adult gap year is an adventure I’d do again and again, but I hope you go into your own with a little more preparation. #noregrets


If you want a full list of all my travel essentials, check out my Amazon storefront for more!

 

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2 Comments

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Guest
Nov 05, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Awesome information and the details are very helpful. Thank you, Jordan

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Guest
Aug 29, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Yes! Love #9 too!

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