I am in London, United Kingdom. If you asked me twelve months ago where I thought I would be, I would not have picked London. I would have said Tokyo or Osaka or even Okinawa.
For about six years my partner and I had been planning our dream trip – teach English in Japan for six to twelve months, do the Trans Mongolian rail journey from Beijing to St. Petersburg, travel through Europe and end up in the UK with the option of obtaining jobs so we could come with more money to settle down with.
Our desire to live and work in Japan became more apparent after my partner took me there for my 30th birthday in 2012. We fell in love with the food, the culture and the people and at the end of 2012 we started taking Japanese lessons. Many of our friends who had taught English in Japan thought we would have a great chance at landing a job…but it wasn’t so easy. After several Skype interviews and only one of us being successful in obtaining an interview for the 2014 Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, we had to re-assess.
The idea of taking a gap year to teach English in Japan sounded exciting and reasonable when we were in our early to mid twenties. But now in our early thirties, and with Masters educations under our belt and senior positions in companies that valued us highly, it didn’t make all that much sense anymore.
It became apparent that flipping our trip (i.e. starting in Europe and UK) would make more sense, given that neither of us had been to Europe or the UK before. If we based ourselves in London, there would be greater chances of finding a job within our chosen career paths and earning the British Pound Sterling would give us greater purchasing power for travelling around Europe and beyond. The logic was there, but it took a little while for my heart to catch up with my head – it was disappointing to let go of the dream and all of the preparation that had gone into making it come true over previous two years.
So, with only a few months before wrapping up our lives in Sydney, we turned our attention to planning for Europe and the UK.
The plan would be to earn some money in London and use it as a base for travelling the rest of Europe – a very popular formula for many young Australians in the UK. However, it quickly became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to work as planned, given that the UK closed their highly skilled migrant visa and that I was no longer eligible for the working holiday visa. Fortunately, my current company decided to keep me on to do freelance work…so the financial prospects didn’t look that bad.
We decided rather than leaving our jobs in Sydney and heading straight to London (for my partner) to look for work, we should treat ourselves to a 4-week holiday in Spain and Portugal. Then we realised it would be cheaper to fly into Athens instead of Barcelona. And if we were heading to Greece, we had to do the Greek islands. Plans changed again when my partner’s newly-engaged friends suggested joining them on 7-day island hopping sail trip in Croatia, so we threw that in. Then realising that we would be ending our Spanish journey in the Basque country, we thought why not cross the border into France and go to Bordeaux and Paris?
Our Europe trip quickly went from 4 weeks to 9 weeks and the itinerary went something like this:
Greece: Athens > Mykonos > Naxos > Santorini > Crete
Croatia: Dubrovnik > Sail Croatia (Mjet, Korcula, Hvar, Hvar-Stari Grad, Makarska, Omis, Split) > Krka > Plitvice Lakes > Zagreb
Spain: Barcelona > Valencia > Granada > Seville
Portugal: Lagos / Sagres > Lisbon
Spain: Madrid > Bilbao > San Sebastian (including a day trip to Biarritz in France)
France: Bordeaux > Paris
And so that is how I got to where I am now.
Sometimes life doesn’t work out as planned. But that doesn’t mean what you end up doing or where you end up going instead won’t be as good as you had envisaged. Sometimes it is the opposite – sometimes a plan that doesn’t work out leads you to a place you didn’t expect, which in many ways is more exciting, more challenging and maybe even less disappointing. Which leads me onto the topic of the next blog – Expectations.