Naomi Gardom is spending her Gap Year in Cambridge, holding down a job, paying rent, and trying to avoid the other aspects of adulthood at all costs. Her hobbies include going to visit her friends at university and living their lives vicariously; she is grateful to them for showing her what mistakes she shouldn't make when she joins their ranks in a year's time, older and wiser.
‘Oh, you’re on a Gap Year. So, where are you going?’
I am getting tired of this question. When I decided to take a Gap Year in August 2013, I was aware that most people expected me to travel somewhere; that is, after all, what most people do when they have the opportunity to do whatever the hell they like for 12 whole months. I was not prepared for the mixture of confusion and pity that would greet me, whenever I explained (again) that I was sticking around in Cambridge, working, living with friends, applying to university, and working out what bits of life I’d missed out on during 14 years in full-time education.
So, here are my answers to your unspoken questions:
‘Don’t you want to travel?’
Yes! I love travelling, but it didn’t feel like the right time for that. Once I’d got through UCAS and bagged a place at Oxford, it was already mid-January, and I had just found the perfect job. I will do a bit of travelling over the summer, and I look forward to doing more in my university holidays, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out now.
‘Don’t you feel a bit trapped, staying in the town where you grew up?’
Not really. I am living with some friends, rather than with my parents. So far these wonderful people have introduced me to: Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2, Ben and Jerry’s Core Ice Cream, the pleasures of making animals out of cardboard loo-roll tubes (our bathroom is rapidly becoming infested), the importance of being non-judgemental when everyone shares a kitchen, and at least 15 new kinds of tea. One may be able to form this kind of bond while white-water rafting on the Zambezi, but frankly, investigating the ominous smells lurking at the back of the fridge is enough of an adventure for me, for now.
‘You’re going to spend your entire life working. Why would you choose to start now, when you don’t have to?’
As well as having the world’s best housemates, I have also found myself with the world’s best Gap Year job. Having skivvied as a waitress/kitchen assistant in a café for a couple of months, I got a job as an administrator for a small charity that advises people with debt problems. Glamourous yes? I’m paid enough to live on, the work is interesting, and I get to make a positive difference in people’s lives. One friend of mine is teaching in Borneo this year, and another in Namibia; I truly admire them, and the work that they are doing, but I was also very happy to discover that it is possible to be useful in the world without having to travel half way round it.
So, in answer to your question – no, I’m not travelling anywhere. But I am going places.