By Alex Kallimanis: We originally met at the Bauhaus youth hostel in Brugge, Belgium in 2002, while backpacking solo after college. Bell had just finished a bachelor’s degree in Melbourne, Australia and I had just finished a bachelor’s in history in Orlando, Florida. Fast forward 16 years, and we’re about to celebrate our 13 year wedding anniversary. Our individual decisions to take time off to travel were not only good for our personal lives, but also our professional endeavors.
While beneficial for many, neither of us participated in a study abroad program in college. We instead chose to save our money and travel for months on our own, when the opportunity presented itself after graduation. If you think studying abroad is too expensive, traveling post-graduation is a great alternative that is less costly. And it doesn’t have to be lonely; hostels and meet up groups like those found on Couchsurfing, meetup and elsewhere, present a lot of opportunities for solo travelers to connect and travel together. For example, we met because we were in a co-ed dorm room with around 6 bunk beds. That environment makes it easy to chat to your bunkmates!
When I made the decision to move to Australia so we could be together while Bell was finishing her master’s degree (and I decided to leave my MBA program), I successfully arranged a 1 year Australian working holiday visa before traveling there. That visa allows people aged 18-30 to travel for a longer period of time while being able to legally work to fund their travels. Check out the Australian government’s website on their working holiday visa program for all the latest rules and to apply for an Australian working holiday visa.
A lot of countries participate in reciprocal working holiday visa programs. The US has at times, but Canada, the United Kingdom, and many European countries are far better at providing these opportunities for their younger citizens. Consider another like the UK government’s official tier 5 visa application (Youth Mobility Scheme), which allows successful applicants aged 18-30, a 2 year working visa.
During my year living in Melbourne, I answered calls on the Australian stock exchange and worked in an international call center. I had the opportunity to broaden my horizons and it wasn’t so hard to find decent work since the economy was good, and the language was the same.
During Bell and I’s chance meeting in our early 20’s, we met up a couple more times, in Amsterdam, Rome and a couple years later in Thailand. During our Amsterdam rendezvous in 2002, neither of us could have believed that in 2008 we would make the decision to move there together. Bell was offered a PhD position at the University of Amsterdam and we decided to move to Holland. And in a nutshell, moving to Europe eventually launched my career in travel.
Read more travel tips and check out the gap year statistics found from a survey of 2040 United Kingdom residents on Netflights Gap Year Survey. Below is a handy gap year travel checklist to help you prepare, plan and pack.
We hope to inspire you to experience more of the world. Please feel free to share your story of taking time off to travel in the comments. Or let us know where in the world you’re interested to live for awhile!
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Netflights. But this is our true story, and you can read more of it on the About Wanderlust Marriage page.