Today is the 19th July, Mark’s 26th birthday. It is also exactly 3 months until we fly from Manchester to Cancun, leave behind our normal, respectable young professional lives – complete with jobs, a house and even a sodding herb garden – in favour of frivolous, exciting, wonderful travel.
I shan’t mince my words: I am fucking terrified.
When you’ve been (metaphorically) balls deep in planning this whole mad jaunt for what feels like forever, spent countless months working, saving and staring aimlessly at maps, it kind of comes as a surprise when you actually take a step back and realize you have less than 12 weeks of normality left.
Mark and I first chatted about going away together back in our final year at Sheffield University, when, along with the countless other soon-to-be-graduates, we looked bleakly upon the job market and realised we weren’t quite ready to be grownups just yet.
In the end, Mark spent much of the following year working in a surgery back in Lancaster, while I alternated between waitressing full time and solo backpacking trips. As a result of our parents’ rent-free accommodation, we saved up a decent amount pretty quickly, but, rather than immediately run away to foreign lands, we cooked up a different, far more boring plan. We would move back to Sheffield, get proper jobs, buy a house, save some dollar, rent out said house and THEN sod off abroad. So that’s what we’ve done. Admittedly, we did have a few awesome holidays in the meantime.
So here we are, ready to go off on a trip that has been in the pipeline since 2012, which has taken four jobs, a ton of preparation and a healthy dose of bickering, and here I am, bricking it.
I think in part it is because – unlike the average pre/post university gap year, which is accepted, even encouraged nowadays – we are massively deviating from the norm. I don’t have a shitty job with no career prospects. Perhaps not brilliantly paid, yes, but certainly not shitty. I actually enjoy what I do, and were the financial prospects for such a career better, I would probably be a lot less willing to leave it. Mark on the other hand does not adore his job, but objectively speaking it is acceptably paid and does have career prospects. We have a lovely home. Brilliant friends. Close families. We’ve achieved much in a short time, and to a lot of people we look absolutely mad for leaving it all behind.
As much as we may justify our choices, and trust me, we do, it’s hard to face up to that sometimes. Despite the usual insecurities, I actually feel pretty confident about our future, and always have. We’re hard workers who – certainly for a couple – work brilliantly together. We’re not afraid of elbow grease, getting our hands mucky, or any other work-related cliché.
I have no doubt that we will be OK. But when you wander around your overly cushioned house (I have a slight soft furnishings obsession) and imagine strangers living there, sitting at your desk at work, hanging out with your friends, it’s hard not to feel afraid.
But then I think of everything that lies ahead. The strange and wonderful places that we will temporarily call home. The people we’ll meet. The complete change of pace. The food that will make us very happy and probably (at some point) very sick. Most importantly, it’s the possibility that this trip might be the one that makes everything clear – what we want out of life, what we might do to make ourselves useful on this little blue planet. I look at that damn map and I feel hopeful.
We’ll keep you posted how it all pans out.