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Karina Chronicles

Why I Traveled The World By Myself + How You Can Do It, Too!

In October 2011 I quit my day job as a journalist and set off on my very own grown up gap year, completing 30 challenges around the world before I turned 30. I think everybody, no matter what their age, should get the chance to experience a gap year and when I returned to the UK I created The Grownup Gap Year to help to answer some of the practical questions about deciding how and when to take one, as well as pointing out some of the amazing places travellers might want to add to their own bucket list.

I was very happy to be asked to be an ambassador for Karina Dresses and thought I should begin my first blog post by introducing myself.

My name is Emily-Ann, I’m a journalist in the UK and I think everything you need to know about me can be summed up in the following sentence: I am a travel addict.

I was bitten by the travel bug during my first year at university when I spent the summer working at a kids’ camp in America. After completing my studies I took a gap year and travelled in South America and Asia before returning home to begin my career.

I tried to take holidays whenever I could to satisfy my wanderlust but I always hoped that at some point I’d be able to do another long trip, taking the time to travel slowly and go to some of the countries I’d been reading and dreaming about for years. But as the realities and responsibilities of the real world took over, thoughts of travelling were pushed further and further down my to-do list.

It was only as I approached my 29th birthday that I started to think seriously about where my life was going. I worked in a job I enjoyed, but wasn’t really progressing in, I was single and I realised that if I really did want to do something big, now was the time to do it. I began to think about the last year of my 20s and how I wanted to spend it: another year sat behind a desk or on a big adventure? Funnily enough the adventure won.

I started to write a list of all of the places I wanted to go and suddenly 30b430 was born – a round-the-world trip doing 30 things I’d always wanted to do before my 30th birthday.

A few months later I set off on a nine-month journey that would take me from South America to New Zealand, Australia and up into Asia. Along the way I danced a tango in Argentina, swam with 400 dolphins in New Zealand, went diving in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and stood on the Great Wall of China.  I also got caught up in a rock fight in Bolivia, experienced an earthquake in Peru and became a minor local celebrity in China.

It was the most incredible adventure and since returning home so many people asked me how I did it that I decided to set up thegrownupgapyear.wordpress.com to help other travellers to plan their dream trip.

Most people have been very complimentary about the trip but there have been a few who have questioned why I’d planned to do it all before I turned 30. “Life doesn’t end at 30,” is a statement I’ve heard several times and I’ve always assured people that I know that. (And having now passed that threshold I’m happy to say life is just as fun and exciting as it was in my 20s.)

But to me 30b430 wasn’t about aging, it wasn’t even about travelling really, it was just about taking the time to do something I’d always wanted to do. It was about giving myself a time frame to do the things I’d always said I’d do ‘some day’.

I think sometimes in life we get so caught up in what we think we should be doing or what those around us are doing that we don’t make time for the things we really want to do. Whether that is learning a new language, quitting the job you hate, or even just spending more time with family or friends.

For me 30b430 was the biggest adventure of my life. It also taught me that it’s okay to be different and it’s alright to be scared, but that shouldn’t stop you from living your dreams.

Want to plan your own trip?  Here are a few tips to make it happen:

* Make a list of all of the places you’d love to go and then narrow it down to what your time and budget will allow.

* If you’d like to take a longer trip but are worried about handing in your notice, find out whether your employer offers a sabbatical or career break scheme.

* Research accommodation options before you go. Would you be happy to stay in hostels to keep the costs down or do you need a bit of luxury along the way?

* If you’re going on a short trip plan what you want to see and do in order to make the most of your time. But if you’re going on a longer trip then leave things more flexible – you never know what might happen along the way.

* Keep an open mind: Try new food, speak to new people and embrace new experiences.

Do you ever travel on your own?  What tips can you share?

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