How The Heck Do You Pull Off Off A Gap Year of Travel?

 The way I see it, we’re banking experiences. At the end of the day, my happiness is defined by what I’ve seen and done and how those experiences have shaped me, not by the kind of car I drive or the type of countertops I cut my carrots on.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this question, I’d be able to fund this trip! The ability to pull off a gap year can be pared down to a few key things: values, discipline and risk.


I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes me happy. My most fulfilling memories and moments in life can always be traced back to people and places. I feel most alive when I’m on some new adventure!

A yearlong trip with my family is something that has been on my brain for a very long time. It is not a whim; it’s a dream, it’s what I value.

Most of my choices over the past few years have been informed by this goal.  I don’t have some bottomless pit of cash so I make decisions that are always driven by that dream. Were there times I wanted to trade in my 10-year-old car for something newer? Did I want to reno my bathroom? Would I like to not get mocked about not having an iPone 13 -- or whatever number they’re at now? Yes, yes and yes! But I’d always ask myself, would these things in any way get me closer to my goal of traveling around the world for a year.  Ten, twenty, forty years from now will a new car or the experiences of a year spent traveling be of more value to me?

Isla and Oskar playing in the surf at sunset with all of the friends they'd made - locals and travellers.

A few years ago we had a lake front cottage lot. We were about to develop the property when my husband said to me, “You know this means our time, energy and money go into this cabin. Travel is on hold for a while.” My heart sunk.

It was a difficult and heartbreaking decision to hand back that property. But nine years later I’ve hiked 11 National Parks from Yellowstone to Yosemite, visited vineyards on Vancouver Island, camped on Cape Breton Island, wandered the streets of Chicago and San Francisco, swam with dolphins, walked with penguins, cruised through Milford Sound, tramped around Costa Rica and Africa…you get the  idea.

Presently, I’m spending the year traveling around the world, writing this blog under the billowing clouds of the South Pacific.

"The Trench" - a phenomenal swimming hole in Samoa

Whatever you value most in life, whether it’s a cottage, technology, cars, amassing money, sports or family, – it should become the priority and be the foundation and drive of all your choices.

Discipline & Budget.

I’ll be the first to admit, I pretty much suck at self-discipline and budget – so having this trip as a goal has been really good, if a little annoying, for me. 

I get the impression that some people think we’re on some kind of yearlong all- inclusive vacation. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Obviously, the discipline comes when saving for the trip – but it also happens ON the trip too. 

I’ve posted lots of lovely pictures on Instagram,  – but if you look really carefully at the pictures you’ll start to notice that the things we are doing are usually free –not the byproduct of some overpriced tour. Think wildlife watching – seals, penguins, albatross and dolphins, think tramping in rainforests, think swimming in the sea. You will see tents and campsites, rivers, mountains and rustic huts on the ocean. You won’t see expensive boat excursions, swim up bars, bungee jumping, or even lattes in my hand – okay, well, maybe once in a while.

We are on a clear budget – one that I find hard to maintain, one that I’m constantly reminded of by my 8 year old who has been charged with the responsibility of tracking via an iPad app. But it’s more or less working. Unless you are completely loaded, there is no other way to do a trip like this. (Maybe hit up Disneyland or a 4 star all-inclusive for a few weeks instead.)

A typical fale in Samoa. Rustic, but the view of the ocean and stars cannot be beat!

 In New Zealand we mostly rocked our tent in state campgrounds along with the odd lodge or B&B; in Samoa and Fiji we’re staying in fales and bures --which are basic huts on the beach.  It is not feasible for anyone, other than Richard Branson, to stay in hotels for an entire year, and quite frankly, who would want to? Kind of boring!

We say no to our kids a lot. We’d be back home after a month if we indulged every go kart ride and chocolate factory tour they come across, the same way we’d be back home if I toured every winery I saw.

Although, we do splurge for the occasional treat – like luging down a mountain in Queenstown, or riding up to the top of the Sky Tower.   Last week, when no one was looking I stole the VISA and booked us into a resort in Samoa for a few nights. I filled up on wine and real coffee (rather than the instant crap they seem to be peddling in all the places we stay)! I hoarded fancy soaps.

The kids yucked it up in the infinity pool.

 But I was ready to get back to the fales where we’d been meeting all sorts of interesting people and had unprecedented access to the culture.


Between what we have saved for the trip, renting out our home, and my husband and I both working from the road a little, our goal this year is to break even. (Other than our children’s RESP’s, we won’t be socking a lot of money away this year.)

I’ve met many, many people on the road. But, interestingly, they are often either in their twenties or retired. You don’t meet a lot of people midlife who have decided to pick up and go traveling – especially long term.

Forties are supposed to be your big “earning” years and you’re supposed to be banking money according to the way our society is set up. And then you are supposed to travel when you retire. But the benefit of traveling now is that our mobility and strong sense of adventure has allowed us to see and do many bucket list things; we have been able to pull our children out of the daily routine of life to show them the world.

The way I see it, we’re banking experiences. At the end of the day, my happiness is defined by what I’ve seen and done and how those experiences have shaped me, not by the kind of car I drive or the type of countertops I cut my carrots on.

If we buy a car or a house, or, um, a new pair of full price Fly boots, no one (other than my husband) asks, “hey, how’d you pay for that?” because it’s perfectly acceptable in our world to spend money on material stuff. It’s what our world values.

I think sometimes in life we can get sidetracked, spending time, money and energy on things that aren’t connected to our values.

I know of a guy who spent years biking around the world and people would always ask him how he could afford his lifestyle. His response: How do you afford your lifestyle?

So, when people ask me “how can you afford to take a gap year?” I think to myself, how can I afford not to take a gap year?

Daria Salamon2 Comments