10 Years of Adulthood
2017 marks a whole 10 years since I turned 18 and entered the adult world! I’m a summer baby and I sometimes write a blog post in July to mark my birthday (see my 25th and my 26th birthdays), and another in June to mark the anniversary of starting this blog (see my 2nd, my 3rd, and my 4th anniversaries), but this summer I’ve been distracted zipping across Europe on lots of trips, so I haven’t done so yet!
Nevertheless, 10 years of adulthood is a big milestone and it has got me thinking about my life now in 2017, compared to my life back in 2007.
2007: Finishing school and flying the nest
2007 was a big year for me: I passed my driving test, finished my A-levels, turned 18 and officially became an independent adult, set off on my Gap Year, received my offer to study at the University of Exeter, learned how to survive without my parents and took my first big steps into being a grown-up. It was also the year I got Facebook, which in some ways is an unimportant anniversary, but in other ways it was a pretty significant event for my friends and I, as Facebook (and its offshoots such as Instagram) has changed the way we live our lives and how we interact with other people and society around us.
Three days after my 18th birthday I balled my eyes out at Security in Heathrow Airport while waving goodbye to my mother and sister, before flying to Chile for the first trip of my 15-month-long Gap Year. It was my first solo flight to a new continent, where I knew no-one, and I was frankly petrified! Back when I was 18, a month felt like an entire lifetime, so I’d only booked my trip to work in a Chilean ski resort for 1 month, before returning to the UK to collect my A-level results and set off on my next adventure to Cuba. But even the prospect of one month away from home was enough to terrify me. Of course in the end I loved my time in Chile, had some of the best skiing in my life, improved my Spanish and I met some fantastic friends, and it gave me the bug for travel and also the confidence to travel. My month-long trip to Cuba after that was an even bigger rite-of-passage, as my friend Libby and I battled culture shock and got to grips with real travelling. We both learned a huge amount in Cuba and that experience set me in good stead for my next big adventure: a 4-month ski season in Italy beginning in December 2007. So after all this, I started 2008 a completely different and more confident person, a million miles from the inexperienced and slightly naive 17 year old I’d been just one year beforehand at the start of 2007.
2017: Transitioning from student to professional (again)
After my Gap Year wrapped up with a big 4-month trip across China and Southeast Asia, my backpack lay neglected in the back of a wardrobe for most of the last decade, until I dug it out last year for my 2-week trip to Sri Lanka and my 4 months in Nepal, and I dusted it off again this year too. I’ve just returned from a month’s backpacking around the Western Balkans (Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, plus Hungary and Sweden) and I’m off again today for 3 weeks’ backpacking in Italy (specifically Padova and then my longed-for Sicily). It seems bizarre that I’ve reached my 10-year-milestone just as I began, off exploring with my life in a backpack!
Yesterday my younger sister Olivia headed off on her first ever backpacking trip, aged 26. Olivia’s now in Peru for two weeks (she’s a busy working bee so it’s only a short trip), but it’ll be the longest she’s ever been outside of the UK. We’re very close sisters but have always been very different in that sense. Watching her pack, get her vaccinations, plan their itinerary and head to the airport for her first backpacking trip reminded me a lot of my first adventure all those 10 years ago…
This year, 2017, also holds some other big milestones.
- My mother is retiring next week, so both of my parents will then lead a life of leisure, while my own career is only really just getting started (for more about my new job and career change head over here).
- I’ve finally got into the civil service job I’ve been aiming for for literally the last 9 years.
- My blog is now 5 years old!
- It’s 10 years since my friends and I left school (although I won’t personally be seen at my school reunion) and I’ve also finally started sorting and throwing out old boxes of belongings that I’ve been sentimentally holding onto since my teens.
- This summer I’ve attended the first two of my friends’ weddings, firstly the spectacular wedding of Lukas and Natalie in London in July, and secondly my schoolfriend Emma’s adorable wedding just 3 days ago. Emma and I have known each other for a quarter of a century, since the age of 3, and we spent 15 years together at the same schools. She’s the first of our schoolfriends to get married and as we all celebrated together on Friday, it felt like something of a pivotal moment in our lives, as we grow up and starting ‘adulting’ for real.
In some respects I feel like I’m a lifetime away from such grown-up things as getting married, as I pack my backpack for another trip travelling the world and temporarily shirking adult responsibility again! Ciao Italia!
10 years of jumping between adventures
As I look back over the last decade of my adult life, it’s stunning to think that 10 whole years have passed since I flew the nest. I’ve spent 5 of those years at university, 4 of them working and 1 of them purely travelling. I’ve spent a total of 4.7 of those 10 years abroad. My lifestyle has changed an infinite number of times in the last decade: from Gap Year traveller to university student, from Erasmus student & intern to young professional in London & Madrid, from volunteer in Nepal to Master’s student in the Netherlands and Sweden. I haven’t sat still very much and there hasn’t been too much consistency in my lifestyle over the last 10 years.
I’ve also just finished watching a few episodes of Eden: Paradise Lost, which was a year-long experiment filming 23 strangers alone in the Scottish wilderness. The community they build from scratch all descended into very entertaining and addictive carnage, but parts of the show really reminded me of life in Nepal (where we had more home comforts for sure, but some of the same conditions: 15 strangers all living together in a remote Nepali village in basic houses, with limited supplies and restricted freedom to move around). A couple of years ago I also met and spent a weekend at the house of one of the guys in Eden, called Jack, which made it all the more interesting to watch. Watching the show really gets you thinking about unusual or alternative lifestyles, as they tried to escape the modern world and “find Eden”. It prompted me to think quite philosophically about the type of lifestyle I want to lead, and to look ahead to the next 10 years (gulp).
The next 10 years
When 2027 arrives, after another decade of adulthood, I’ll be 38 years old. Goodness knows where I’ll be then and what I’ll be doing with life! Given that I’m a woman, it’s fairly safe to say that any family I may want will have to be started by around then. That adds some sort of boundaries to my next 10 years, but apart from that, the world is pretty much my oyster!
I feel incredibly happy and lucky to have spent the first 10 years of my adulthood as I have done: seeing and living in as much of the world as I can, meeting wonderful people of all nationalities, learning about different cultures and ways of life, chasing adventure. I can only hope that my next decade of adulthood turns out as fun, as formative and as exciting as my first decade, and that it delivers everything that my friends and I could hope for in this next stage of our lives!
That’s incredible to think of how much you’ve packed into the last decade; I guess too often we get caught up on the smaller details and don’t stop to look at the bigger picture. I’ve only just hit the five year “adulting” milestone, though it’s fair to say I’ve got a way to go yet. Even five or six years ago, I would never have imagined this life for myself, as at school I loved art and textiles (still do, but don’t spend so much time on them these days) and was convinced I’d study fashion design. I had a change of heart within days of starting my course, and ended up on a completely different path that’s led to me spending almost two years (in total) living in France. I definitely hadn’t seen that coming, but I’m pleased with how things have turned out. Have fun backpacking round Italy!
It’s funny how changes of heart can lead us in totally unexpected directions, but hopefully for the best and you’re lucky that your path has taken you to such a beautiful country as France!
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You’ve certainly packed a lot in there Virginia. I’m not sure life gets any more stable with adulthood – or even older adulthood ! I will be 60 this year, in 2004 we (partner and I) returned to UK after a period of working in Hong Kong and guess what ? Bored with UK we returned to Hong Kong in 2015 to live once again – perhaps that’s what the Buddhists call the circle of life ! The world is certainly your oyster to live in as you wish, some folk will settle down; it’s something I could never quite do and I’ve no intention of starting anytime soon – not before my pension age anyway lol !!
You have achieved a lot – well done! I must have been born in the same year as you and have also turned 28 this year – feels quite old doesn’t it! It’s nice to look back at what we have done and achieved. Congrats on 5 years of the blog too! That’s a long time to keep it up!
Thank you very much!