Lessons from a Gap Year: Part One

Two and a half years ago, I upped sticks and went to travel around New Zealand for a year. I stopped off in the USA for a couple of weeks to visit old friends in LA, fell head over heels in love with San Francisco (best place on earth) and forced an ex to endure the evils of Harry Potter World in Florida (muhahahaha!) I arrived in Auckland towards the end of September 2013, a fresh-faced backpacker determined to see and do everything there was to see and do in that sleepy little corner of the world.

I hiked steep mountain trails till my legs ached, dipped my toes in glacial lakes, jumped 15,000ft out of a plane over breathtaking alpine scenery, moonlighted as a hobbit barmaid, drank enough Jagerbombs to cause a national shortage, leapt off a bridge, a ledge and a canyon, and killed the Witch-King of Angmar. I met people from all over the world; laughed with them, grumbled at them, learned from them, drank wine with them on roof terraces and experienced true beauty with them. I wrote a travel blog. Obviously, I acquired a lot of wisdom in those twelve months. I present it to you now not in the tired old form of an Eat Pray Love-style memoir, but in the form of 27 Facebook statuses.

1.Always be gracious. Just because you are off on a year-long jaunt to the land of bungy jumping and sexy rugby hunks, does not mean you should rub it in the faces of your poor depressed, mortgage and children-saddled friends…

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2. You become less left-wing and liberal as you age. Also, sometimes there are just too many hippies.

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3. Tour guides are like teachers, they should really learn when to shut up.

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4. Never give away your anti-aging secrets. Or the location of the Fountain of Youth.

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5. Do not be afraid to explore alternative career paths. You may discover hidden talents.

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6. If your fellow Yorkshire-folk ply you with enough free shots, the plot of The Hangover ceases to be implausible and becomes inevitable. Shame Bradley Cooper didn’t make an appearance…

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7. Good things come to those who wait.

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8. It is entirely possible to take your love of literature far too seriously.

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9. Even rugby legends have phases of feeling ‘confused’…

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10. Workplace discrimination is unavoidable. Like the time my boss made it rain men on my day off. Rude.

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11. Everyone has a doppelgänger out there somewhere.

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12. If you feed me after midnight, I morph into the female Barney Stinson.

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13. Being dragged out on Valentine’s Day CAN be fun after all. Also, I cannot spell ‘Werther’s Original’…

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14. It is important to be at one with nature. Unless nature keeps buzzing irritatingly around your head, in which case KILL IT DEAD!

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15. Finding the perfect housemate situation can be nigh on impossible.

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16. There are few bonds stronger than that forged by booze and being from God’s own country.

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17. You are never too old for drinking games. Or to re-write geography…

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18. The language of arguments is universal. No Babelfish required.

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19. It is vital to stay in touch with your emotions and articulate them meaningfully

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20. Take time to stop and appreciate the beauty all around you. Especially if you live in the most beautiful place on earth.

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21. Know your root vegetables. You never know when such knowledge might come in useful.

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22. Caitlin Moran was right about children, they are essentially tiny drunken adults. Creative little blighters, though.

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23. Sometimes, you cannot help but despair at the human race.

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24. Some truths are universally acknowledged.

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25. Horrible places exist everywhere.

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26. Irony is lost on kiwis…

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27. Never trust a guidebook.

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