As digital features editor at Marie Claire magazine Suzannah Ramsdale, 29, had her dream job, but then she decided to give it all up to see the world. Here she explains why she took the brave decision to change her life.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Who doesn’t love an inspirational quote, right? And this one from Mark Twain, as cliched as it might be, has always struck a chord with me. That’s why, three months ago, I quit my job as an editor at a national fashion magazine and booked a 12-month round-the-world ticket.
I’ve always loved the idea of travelling, loved the thought of not knowing what each day would bring, loved the thought of adventure and of meeting new people – but never thought it was something that I would have the chance to do. I presumed it would be forever a pipe-dream, one that I would watch others live out on Facebook, and the rest.
Being, for the most part, sensible, driven and job-focused, the nomadic travel dream sat in the back of my mind for the best part of my twenties (resurfacing every Monday morning as I squeezed face-to-armpit onto the Northern line on my way to work) as I got on with establishing my career in journalism.
But now, as I approach my 30th birthday, I’m about to embark on a year-long trip around the world. The decision to uproot my life hasn’t been an easy one, though, far from it.
I enjoy my job, rarely have the Sunday blues, get on well with my colleagues, love my London flat and have an amazing group of friends and family. Add to that all the other obvious fears and niggles that have gone through my head: what will my boss think of me for jacking in this sought-after job? How will a year out of the industry affect my career prospects? Will I ever get a good job again? What if everyone is younger than me? Can I even hack it as a backpacker? What if I HATE it?
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I don’t know the answers to these questions yet, but one of the many great things about taking a gap year a little bit later in life is that I’m now pretty established within my industry, I have lots of contacts, my CV looks a hell of a lot better than it did in my early twenties and I’m generally a more confident person.
Another advantage of travelling later is the appreciation of life I now have. Having worked my arse off to carve out a career and a name for myself – working nights, weekends and early mornings with just the odd holiday thrown in – boy, am I going to appreciate every last second of my year off. I’m going to cherish every Monday morning that’s spent snorkelling rather than commuting and every Tuesday lunchtime that’s spent eating fresh street food rather than last night’s re-heated leftovers will be precious.
I also like to think I’m more curious, eager to learn about the world and open-minded than I was when I was younger. A trip like this would have been wasted on my younger self and a good chunk of it, I suspect, would have been spent face down on my bug-ridden dorm bed suffering from last night’s game of beer pong.
Once I worked through all these more existential worries about quitting my life as I knew it and hitting the backpacking trail, came the more boring, practical decisions. The main one: money. I won’t lie, saving up for this trip has been tough.
I’ve had to turn down invites to festivals and city breaks with my mates, I’ve endured some questionable store cupboard dinners, plus I haven’t been shopping in what feels like years – not a good look for a fashion editor. They say you should budget roughly £1000 for each month of travelling, then on top of that you need to pay for flights and pre-trip bits and bobs like vaccinations and visas. I saved hard, but knowing that this is an unrepeatable experience makes me all the more determined to embrace every second of my trip.
On top of the many, many life admin questions – should I sub-let my flat or move out completely? Where do I store my stuff, or shall I just sell the whole lot on eBay? What happens to my pension? And what will become of my student loan? Which vaccinations should I get? Which countries do I need a visa for? – there were the more fun decisions to make: where in the world do I want to go? How long should I spend in each place?
My rough route, as it stands, looks something like this: South East Asia – Malaysia – Indonesia – Australia – New Zealand – South America. Necessary life admin aside, I’ve loved planning my trip and there are a wealth of resources out there to help. A good place to start, if you’re thinking of travelling, is booking an appointment with one of the experts at Flight Centre, that’s what I did and found them so helpful.
I’m leaving on my round-the-world trip soon and, as I type this, I feel a sense of excitement about the unknown that I’ve not felt since I left home for the first time and went to uni. I’m up for the adventure. I’m ready to learn more about the world and the people who live in it.
It’s unlikely I’ll get the chance to do something like this again, so worrying about will happen when I get back is pointless. For now, the immediate plan is to explore, dream and discover.