In October 2014 I took a leap from a solid career at a multinational company that had treated me very well for over 10 years.
I've been living my life a bit out of order and realised that I'd never had a "gap year", a phenomenal idea that many European/British/Aussie/Canadians do, but in my generation not very many Americans did. The idea is to take that time between High School and University and see as much of the world as you can; usually as a "backpacker".
So I consider 2015 to be my deferred "gap year". But since I've been working for over 15 years, I was able to do more than the stereotypical backpacker.
At the beginning of the year I set out some goals, so let's see how I've progressed.
Priorities for the year:
1. Become fluent in Mandarin
2. Write more blogs - watch this space!
3. Become an Australian citizen
4. Plan an Epic Destination Wedding to Jordan
5. See more of Australia
6. See more of Asia
1) Become Fluent in Mandarin: I spent 2 months in Shanghai mid 2015 and managed to pass the HSK Level 4 (out of 6) exam (just barely). I am far from fluent, but I can read about 1000 characters and navigate in China where Mandarin is spoken. 我住了在上海两个月。我过了HSK四，太难了。我还不会流利的中文，但是我能认识大概1000汉子，也可以在中国旅游起来方便。
|One of the HSK Practice Exams|
2) Write more blogs: I thought I'd write more blogs with all my time off, but instead I found myself enjoying being away from a computer and decided that I'd rather experience the unique places and people rather than immerse myself in digital descriptions. Perhaps in the years to come I will take the time to document all my experiences. But for now, there are a few posts here plus the blogs I did for my wedding planning and a few posts on my LinkedIn profile to develop my awareness of Privacy issues. I also found I read a lot more than I wrote, a very rewarding luxury that I tracked using Good Reads and managed to get to more books because of Audible.
3) Become an Australian Citizen: Turns out I have to get an exception because I haven't actually been IN Australia for 4 years due to all my travelling. So rather than bother with the paperwork, I just travelled more. I do hope to qualify someday...or be bored enough to file for the exception. The downside is I can't vote here. The upside is: the current leaders are not my fault!!
4) Plan an Epic Destination Wedding: Probably my biggest success of the year is the exploration and development of an Epic Destination Wedding in 2016. I am truly blessed to have a partner willing to help make such a unique event come into being and to have friends/family willing to join despite the distance and expense. If you missed it, you can get a taste of the process to plan out a week long celebration and find out 5 Reasons we are planning our wedding in Jordan.
|It's been a long journey and we aren't done yet!|
5) See more of Australia: Australia is a very large, sparsely populated continent and I still spend most of my time in the South East. I was lucky enough to get a few days in Tasmania, explore parts of Gippsland, Wilson's Prom, Grampians, Great Ocean Road, Blue Mountains, back to Uluru and a bit more of Sydney. I enjoy epic travel, but I'm finding a lot of enjoyment from lots of local excursions in between, much like the lovely bloggers at yTravel.
6) See more of Asia: I managed to have a packed tour of Myanmar, including 7 days on a live-aboard dive boat, a few days in Thailand and 2 months in Shanghai. But honestly I spent more time exploring new lands like South Africa, South America and New Zealand. I still call this a win because I was able to spontaneously join friends in interesting places I had never been before.
|Myanmar's temples in Bagan are a treasure, and the men get to wear skirts!|
|The Sea Lions off Cape Town, South Africa were as friendly as the ones in South Australia.|
The great thing about a year off is the freedom to imagine all sorts of things and without other people's deadlines in your way they seem tantalising and possible.
So the goal I've set for myself for 2016:
Launch YouLi, and inspire travellers to go places they would never go on their own. Guests of my wedding will be the first to experience what a product built by a planning obsessed traveller can do. #youlivetotravel