In 2009 and 2010 Mr BOTRA and I went away on a later life gap year. Gap years weren’t fashionable in the late 1970s when Mr BOTRA graduated and I went straight to work at 16-years old; taking a gap year wasn’t something that working-class young people did. So between us we had never really spent much time when we weren’t in education, working [or looking for work] or being the carer of our child. In 2009, after saving up loads of money, selling the house and downsizing and buying a campervan, we gave up our jobs and took off for mainland Europe for a year living in that campervan. We had a ball on what we called our ‘Big Trip’ and the fun times were recorded on our blog. The gap year refreshed us and we were lucky enough to find employment when we returned . Of course, if we hadn’t blown a load of cash on our gap year we could have been retired by now but I find myself wondering how important that year travelling was and if we would have made the leap into early retirement without the gap year?
What with one thing and another the gap year cost us a bit more than the savings for one extra year of retirement. If we had done without the year away and carried on working and saving, we would have reached our target last year and now be twelve months in to retirement. But that would have meant waiting seven years before getting the break and the truth is that I have an impatience to do things sooner rather than later and I worry that opportunities might disappear. This anxiety and need to take action means that I am not a procrastinator. When you have seen a parent die in their 50s you learn that putting things off can lead to regret and I prefer to take my chance. Mr BOTRA is always the more cautious one but when we returned from our year away we both felt pleased to have done it; we knew whatever happened no one could take that year away from us.
So the gap year was fun but I am sure that without the gap year we might not be about to retire now. Without the year away we would not have been so sure that retirement [still in our 50s] is the thing for us anyway. The year away from full-time work made us braver, stronger and more sure that we wanted to stop work as soon as we could. After spending a year away living in a campervan we knew more about what we were capable of and felt confident that we would be happy doing it together. The gap year helped us to formulate our plans for early retirement and financial independence. This clarity of the goal we were working towards made it more likely to happen.
Fingers crossed we will both have a long and happy retirement over many decades but if that isn’t how our story goes then at least we took an opportunity when it was there and had that year away. Now roll on retirement!