Gap year reflections – a year of discovery

The Gap Year Edit is one year old!

The significance for me is not in the anniversary of a website, but the celebration of a year of change. Time for some gap year reflections on this period of discovery – things I’ve given myself a pat on the back for, stuff I’d do differently, where it’s taken me, and – excitingly – what’s next.

A pat on the back

gap year reflections - Leon cathedral

My most liked instagram photo – the roof of Leon cathedral, Nicaragua

There’s plenty in the past year that’s given me a sense of a “job well done”.

The day I got my first piece of paid travel writing.

Or when I googled myself and my website and realised I was there in the results! And, even better, when a new work colleague told me he’d googled me before I joined the company and found me straight away … and not only via LinkedIn. Turns out that Search Engine Optimisation course was worth the pain 🙂

My writing chilled out a bit. Thank heavens. Corporate speak can only go so far.

My photography skills have gone up a notch, meaning my instagram account now looks mostly pretty – whoop whoop! Admittedly I need to show it some more love on the follower front, but it’s getting there.

And, overall, in having a grown up gap year I learnt more than I ever thought possible (and not just about search engines!)

If I had my time again …

Would I have done anything differently during my gap year? Of course.

I’d have a slightly less corporate-looking web design. My writing’s evolved. My design needs to do the same. It’s on the list, folks; it’s on the list.

I’d have got my backside into gear more on the social media side of things. If I’m honest I’ve not devoted anywhere near as much attention to this as I could, particularly on starting conversations with readers and peers. Work to do on this one.

I’d get less frustrated with myself when I don’t accomplish everything. Being me, I made myself more goals as the year went on. I wanted to write an ebook. But I’ve not managed it yet. Paid work has been the priority since returning from Nicaragua in March. I need to chill out about it – the ebook idea isn’t going anywhere 😉

gap year reflections - Meteora, Greece

I have no regrets about spending time to admire this view instead of starting my e-book 🙂 This is Meteora, Greece.

On a more personal level, I’d tone down my stubborn streak a bit more. Sometimes. I’ve been making a huge effort over the last year to occasionally show my more vulnerable side. It’s been commented on in a positive way, but I feel there’s still room for me to do more.

gap year reflections - stubborn

Definitely not hellish, but most definitely frozen

The fact remains – when I’m hurt by someone’s actions, I’d rather hell freeze over than the have the person who hurt me know how much I felt wounded. My pride (or ego!) kicks in. My inner voice says: “I won’t give you the satisfaction.” Even though in reality that person is unlikely to be feeling smug or happy.

I (appear to) outwardly exhibit my inner strength on the occasions when I feel far from strong.

Yeah. Sometimes I need to not do that.

It made me wonder – are there are people who thought: “maybe Julie didn’t care?” When that was far from the case.

Sometimes, the stubborn brave face needs to get back in its box. That can be my ongoing challenge for this year!

Where my gap year has taken me

I didn’t think for a minute when I handed in my notice last year from my corporate job that I’d now be working contract roles through my own Limited Company. But that’s been my working life since the end of March.

gap year reflections - flexibility - Zagreb

Work flexibility means I can head back to the Balkans soon 🙂 This is St Mark’s Church in Zagreb, Croatia

In reality, I had no idea what I’d end up doing! Moving away from my usual comfort zone opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities.

The big appeal of contract work? Flexibility. The desire to keep flexibility in my life hasn’t changed, but it’s only now that I’ve figured out how to make it happen whilst still paying my mortgage.

I’m currently working a three-month contract for a company who trade mostly through e-commerce. I’m one of their Marketing Managers. This website was a big plus point for me in the company’s eyes. It was further reinforcement to me that my gap year was the right choice.

What about my gap year aims?

Of course, there were also all my “what I want to achieve” ambitions, penned back in July last year. Being the do-er that I am, those were – broadly – done.

OK, my earnings from this site are low, and there are some pictures that remain unframed and shoved behind the chest of drawers in my spare bedroom, but everything else “practical” has been duly despatched to the “done” list.

Well, apart from one …

What, no amazing boyfriend?

Sadly, despite having a whole bullet point devoted to it back in July 2014, the Indiana-Jones-esque-reliable-boyfriend-who-can-put-up-a-shelf-knows-what-a-phone-is-and-is-ideally-at-least-five-eleven hasn’t yet miraculously materialised in my life.

gap year reflections

A guy like Indy would be proud of me 😉

Although I did get propositioned last week. But a slurred suggestion of marriage and babies from Mr-male-friend-so-drunk-he-couldn’t-walk-in-a-straight-line doesn’t count 😉

In a nutshell, I could do better. But at least I’m providing my friends with entertaining stories along the way.

What’s next after my gap year?

This week has also been my birthday. The big 4-O. Or the big four uh-oh as I like to call it. Scary. No more gap years in my 41st year, but plenty of other exciting stuff on the horizon:

  • I’m heading to London for a weekend next month to see the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition. Inspiration awaits!
  • I’m going back to the Balkans in October for a two-and-a-bit-week trip through Southern Croatia, plus parts of Bosnia and Montenegro. I fell in love with the Balkans last year on my journey from Budapest to Athens.
  • I’m aiming for South America in the new year – for a month if I can. A bit more contract work will be needed between now and then to make it happen; but I’ll be doing my best to make sure it does! Colombia or Argentina are currently my favoured options.
  • And I WILL write the ebook; and sort out my site design (just not for a few months yet!)

And, of course, an amazing Indy-reliable-shelf-phone-tall-man will head my way 😉 All together now, * sings theme tune * der der der der, der, der derrrrr …

The story doesn’t end. It’s just time for the next chapter.

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