So you’re taking a year off?

If you’ve been following our social media, you’ll know that we’ve recently had a baby! Shortly after we found out we were pregnant, and after the pandemic started, we decided to find a way to spend the first year of his life together. In effect we’re taking an adult gap year; here’s why and how.

What’s our motivation?

We found out that Amy was pregnant on New Years Eve of 2020 and since then, the world has been a little bit crazy.

In February we felt the full force of Mother Nature as Wales was lashed with extreme weather. An incredible amount of rain fell in a short space of time, which resulted in the River Taf flooding. The majority of houses on our street flooded; fortunately only our car fell foul to flood water.

Although we weren’t as affected by the floods compared to our neighbours, it was a frightening experience. We’ll never forget tying both of our cars to the railings at 4am in a vain attempt to stop them floating away (spoiler alert – it worked). The river rose to a staggering 5.5m at its peak and you can watch our experience of this here.

One month later, the UK (and most of Europe) went into lockdown to try and manage the impact of Corona Virus. It was like living on a movie set; no cars on the road, businesses closed, very few people out and about, government warnings all over the television. Guess that’s what a zombie apocalypse looks like.

Part way through lockdown, our perspective on life changed dramatically. We realised just how much we took for granted on a daily basis. Being pregnant, we also thought about the future that we wanted for our little one. This led to us talking about living a life less ordinary and making the next 12 months as adventurous as possible by both taking the time off together.

Ollie arrived on 12/09/2020

How can you both afford a year off?

We made a bold and slightly scary decision. Amy is going to take a full year of NHS maternity leave, and I’m taking a year’s unpaid career break from the National Probation Service.

Before making this decision, the first thing to figure out was maternity pay. Traditionally, maternity pay is paid at full wage to begin with, then it decreases after a certain amount of time (dependent on your employer). Eventually, you may end up on statutory maternity pay which isn’t a great deal.

Thankfully, the NHS give Amy the option of averaging maternity pay over the full year; much better for monthly budgeting. We also came across the Maternity Money calculator which helped us to figure out a monthly income figure. This gave us the confidence to take the financial plunge but we still needed to severely reduce our outgoings.

Maternity pay will be our biggest source of income for our ‘adult gap year’ and we’ve also got savings in the bank if we need to use them. We’ll also be looking for innovative ways to earn a few quid. I’ll continue to plug my little book among other things, and we’ve saved money by making another big change with where we live.

We’ve moved house!

In August 2020 we gave up the tenancy on our flat and moved into a static caravan on Amy’s mums farm. Getting the van onto the farm was quite an achievement and you can watch how we managed it here. Want to see what it looks like inside? Have a look at this video too!

We’ve calculated that on average, we’ve reduced monthly household outgoings by 80%. That’s a MASSIVE saving. Living in a caravan isn’t for everyone, but we are loving farm life and keeping warm. In addition to these cost savings, we’ve also paid some bills in advance so that there won’t be as many ongoing monthly bills to worry about over the next 12 months.

Our new home

What are you going to do with your time?

A year sounds like a long time but we know it’s going to fly by; especially with baby Ollie now in our lives. We know that we’ll have our hands full with learning how to be parents, but we also want to travel.

Despite the current pandemic, we’re actively making campervan adventure plans and have already started sticking pins into a Google Map. We know that travel restrictions are changing on a weekly basis right now, but we’re determined to get away for some sunshine.

Where are you going to visit?

We’ll have to make travel plans around baby’s injections (and pandemic restrictions) but so far, we know that we’ll be heading to Portugal as one of our first visits to see family. We visited Portugal in January 2020 and loved it, so we’re excited to go back.

To get to Portugal we’ll be travelling through France and Spain. France is one of our favourite places to visit, and we hope to do some cycling as we travel through. We had such a good time following Le Tour de France in 2018 that we want to do it all over again (watch our Tour de France video here).

geraint thomas
Geraint Thomas in Le Tour

Gibraltar is on Amy’s bucket list and we both love Malta. Therefore, a nice Mediterranean coastal drive / cycle looks promising. We would both love to see the Northern Lights so maybe that will be an option too. Or maybe we’ll head east to see a friend for a beer in Turkey. Aside from these mini plans / dreams, the year is open to new adventures.

Your recommendations?

What are your number one destinations in Europe to visit? We’d love to hear your must-see places. Where have you been that you would love to go back to?

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