My divorcee Gap Year

All sensible divorce advice suggests that you give yourself time to grieve, be honest with your kids, learn to let go of the past, and take up a new hobby – perhaps something you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the chance to whilst married. My divorce took a good seven years to complete, so I’d already finished grieving by the time it came through, and I have no kids to lie to. I maintained a few hobbies during my marriage, but the one thing I’d always wanted to do was travel; something my ex wasn’t interested in.

I suppose I could’ve gone by myself, but I didn’t. The other thing I’m trying to learn is not to regret past mistakes.

If, like I did, you feel a bit timid post break-up, start your travels by visiting friends and family around the globe; luckily I had some in Japan, California, and Sweden, although none of these are particularly cheap. Since then, I’ve discovered South East Asia, where Western money goes a lot further, and also rail travel, which lets you see much more of a country than you do from 40,000 up in the air. Here are my top recommendations for a divorcee gap year of your own:

Climb Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

At just over 4,000 meters, Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in the Malay Archipelago, and climbing it – providing you’re reasonably fit – will give you a deep sense of achievement. The trek takes two days, staying overnight at the foot of the final peak, which you ascend at dawn to take in magnificent views over the surrounding rainforest.

The descent takes the rest of the day, and the rest of your trip can be spent exploring the forests, meeting rescued Orang-utan, and perhaps even seeing them in the wild, along with thousands of other species including the Pygmy Elephant, Sun Bear, Leopard Cat, Serpent Eagle, and the comprehensively named Bornean Ferret-Badger.

Tour Europe by train

This looks like an expensive proposition until you realise that, with a Eurail, Interrail or BritRail pass, you can travel as much as you want within Europe for a set price. There are different levels of flexibility, from a few days of travel within one country to unlimited travel across the entire continent.

It’s impossible to generalise Europe – it’s hugely varied and full of surprises – but you can (from my experience) expect particularly excellent food in France, Italy & Belgium, sunshine and impressive ancient ruins in Greece and Turkey, splendid scenery and magnificent castles in Germany & Romania, many beautiful, fascinating historical buildings in Britain, and a lovely relaxing rural summer scene in Sweden. And they’re all easily accessible by rail.

Drift through Cambodia on the Mekong River

Cambodia, unlike most of South-East Asia, doesn’t have a rail network, and the bus journey over the border from Vietnam is notoriously uncomfortable. Clever travellers float there, instead – you can travel the Mekong River all the way up to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s ancient capital, whence you can take a boat through Tonle Sap, the bio diverse lake in the country’s centre, to connect with Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. You can even travel the Mekong up into Laos, which borders Cambodia to the north.

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1 Comment

  • Jeremy Branham

    May 28, 2012

    I didn’t take a gap year but I’ve been down this road. I don’t want to go into the details but I took a trip like this for a month. I had a great time in Europe but I had a lot of ups and downs. It was an escape but it was also something I had always wanted to do. I am glad I got the chance and I’ve been traveling ever since.

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