How we prepared for this gap year


One more week and we – finally – get started. And it’s about time! We’ve decided to take this gap year early last summer, so it’s been over a year of preparation. And that’s definitely long enough!

We started off by dreaming away of all the things we could do. And also – being a practical human being – by making a retroplanning of what should best be done by when. Here’s the different topics we arranged before being ready to go, in the order we tackled them:

1. The financial part: let’s first figure out if we can afford this!

We created a budget file, split into 3 big phases: before, during and after.

What we need for preparing the year:
It’s not that we were already well equipped, so we needed to buy quite some gear (mainly bikes and camping gear, but also new digital stuff) and we wanted it to be qualitative things so it comes with a price tag. We also took a decent travel insurance on top of what we already have. In total we have estimated ànd spent over 9.000€ on this.

What we need during the year:
Do we take a lot of planes and have big transportation costs? What does it cost to sleep somewhere? Maybe we can sleep in a tent from time to time to save on accommodation? And what does it cost to eat and drink and eventually buy/do something extra.

On the www you can find travelers going from 3€/day to 100€/day depending on your comfort level and destinations (e.g. Europe or big cities being more expensive than Asian countryside). We finally decided to go for :

  • A daily eat & sleep budget of 55€ for the 2 of us *;
  • A separate budget for the intercontinental flights;
  • A spare envelope for local transport, visa, expeditions etc of 3000€ *;
  • A buffer budget for unforeseen circumstances, mainly meaning we can afford to take the first flight back home, whatever the price.

We’ve also listed the fixed costs at home: insurances, taxes, … that whether you’re around or not will keep coming.

What we want to have left after we come back:
Since we’re at a certain age, we don’t want to get started all over again when we’re back, so we don’t want to spend our last dime here.

* We’ll let you know in 1 year time if all above was realistic 😉

2. The work area: how do we arrange this time off with our workplace.

We both work for a boss (not independent consultants or having our own company) so we started up the discussion with our company pretty early on. I have the luck to be allowed unpaid leave for the whole year while Dave stops his current job and will look for another one once we’re back.

For both of us, it was good to have this cleared out well before we started the rest of the preparation. It just gave us peace of mind being open about the fact that we’d leave the workplace (temporarily) and it gives the company the time to look for good replacement.

It also allows you to share with your colleagues what’s keeping you busy day and night!

3. The itinerary: finally the fun part!

Of course you start dreaming of all the places you could go and things you could be doing, but we only decided on our full itinerary about 5 months ago.

You often see or read stories of people travelling that have had this specific idea or plan since years e.g. cycling the Silk Route or cycling from home to family/friends in a faraway destination. We did not, so the whole world was an option. That was probably the reason why it took us months (!) of going back and forth and back, before we could pin it down!

Finally we decided for this route. And although Dave dreams of starting to cycle from our doorstep and/or finishing at home, I think we have plenty more years and short holidays left to explore Europe after next year…

4. The home: what to do while we’re sleeping in a tent.

Part of the financial picture of this year is to rent out our apartment since we still have a mortgage. It’s also better if a house is lived in, heated, cleaned, … Besides that it’s very very convenient if you can rent it out fully furbished so you don’t need to move all your stuff out. On top of that I wanted a solution that would give me peace of mind while we’re away, nothing to arrange or worry about while out on the bicycle. As we won’t (want to) be online the whole time, it needed to be a self-sufficient solution.

We explored 4 options: rent it out to someone for the full period, rent it out temporarily and full service via an expat agency, turn it into an air-bnb or leave it empty. In the end we found a nice man who will live in our home while we’re off. But since this man only came last minute, it was good to know that we could afford to leave even if the apartment would have stayed empty.

5. The gear needed: researching and getting all the stuff needed.

Final step is to get all your material, which is also depending on where you go (cfr. weather). You can get really good advice from specialised cycle (De Geus Berchem!) and camping stores (De Kampeerder!), experienced travelers online (pedalpromise, bicyclejunkies, vakantiefietser, …) or experienced travelers offline (book and inspirational talk from Nicole & Ingrid, adventurous travel/cycle fairs, …)

I’m really happy we had a lot of the new gear in time so we could test and fine-tune before taking off. In June we made a 5 day test-trip in Belgium with our new bikes and camping gear, and it was really useful (and fun!).

A more detailed post will follow on what gear we’ve chosen, why, and our evaluation after we tested it a little longer!

14 months of preparing. It feels more than enough, and I’m sure you can do it in a much shorter timeframe. It’s time to go now. The only thing between now and departure is saying goodbye, something I’m not looking forward to…

One thought on “How we prepared for this gap year

  1. Hallooo Iris en Dave
    Ja hoor, ook wij tellen af naar het moment van jullie vertrek. Mooi weer is er verwacht die dag, maar wij blijven achter en zien de winter te gemoet, terwijl jullie een maandenlange verlenging maken van die warme zomer. Fantastisch dat jullie zo iets doen. Het is stellig een super vakantie. We duimen voor deze buitengewone wereldreis doorheen zoveel landen. Van Noord tot Zuid, door berg en dal en doe dit zonder pech of platte banden.
    Wij wensen jullie een heel goede reis met veel zon en zonder regenjassen en, zoals men het in onze streek zegt, met de wind van achter !
    Werner Latte en Erna Van Ceunebroeck


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