I am by no means the first person to plan an OE, nor am I anything special as a writer, but the Tarot cards told me to do this so here goes.
My best friend, M, and I are planning our OE, our gap year, our year abroad, whatever you want to call it. I'm no longer entirely sure when or how this was decided, it all seemed to flow together, there was never a step between it being a hypothetical thing and being a certainty.
In high school, not long after we had met, and almost instantly become close friends, we used to talk about going travelling together in an abstract maybe-sometime-in-the-future kind of way. But then we both went to university in different parts of the country, only seeing each other once or twice a year and barely speaking in between, but when we were together it was like nothing had changed. During this time although we both meant to travel at some point, neither of us really mentioned it as something that we might do together.
After university, we decided to move in together, and there were many conversations along the lines of:
"I've always wanted to go to X"
"Yes me too, ha ha, why don't we go together"
At first it always seemed to be hypothetical, a joke almost, but there were so many jokes, and as we both wanted to go travelling through Europe, and as it would be so much more fun with a friend and "hey, we get on well, we barely ever fight, why don't we go together?" So it went from being a joke, to something slightly more solid. But with nothing else decided it still didn't seem real. After a little while, and much discussion, we decided that we needed at least 18 months to save up enough money to go. So we started telling people.
After a little while we realised that for the last few months we had been telling people we were leaving in 18 months, and that at the moment it didn't seem real, neither of us had yet started saving any money. In fact nothing at all had changed. So we sat down and discussed when we actually wanted to leave. Eventually we settled on a date that we both agreed to. May 16th 2012. This was 18 months away so we had enough time to save, was after Mother's Day, and my brother's birthday, so we could have that last event with our families, would mean that M had two years industry experience allowing her to get a decent job anywhere in the world, and was in the middle of the week, meaning that we could get the cheaper flights. So the 16th of May became a shining beacon giving us something to work towards, something that was calling us on.
Fast forward a few months, and I decide for a variety of reasons that I would have to leave my job looking after intellectually handicapped children. This was unavoidable, but posed a minor set back and came at the worst possible time. We had just signed the lease on an expensive little flat in the centre of town, and until I found a new job I would have to live off my savings. However it was the right thing for me to do, I needed the change. After a couple of months job hunting (and completely draining my savings), I got another job, which very fortunately was a twelve month contract. Due to some delays in starting the job, we put off the day for us leaving for a month, to the 20th of June.
We had twelve months to start saving in earnest, learn everything that we needed to know in order to do this safely, buy our tickets, sort out my British passport, M's Visa, and anything else you could think of.
As M has never left New Zealand before, I was worried that maybe she might find Europe a bit of a culture shock. My solution to this was to spend a few weeks in somewhere completely alien on the way to Europe, so she would feel more at home there, and luckily I have an uncle I wanted to visit, conveniently located in Kuala Lumpur. Which was a double blessing, KL is not far from Singapore, which is somewhere I spent a fair amount of time as a child and would love to go back to. So we looked at, and compared, ticket prices, decided that we didn't mind flying budget if it meant we could have more money to spend while we were travelling. Eventually (but still months and months ahead of time), we found that Air Asia X, was having a sale and that we could get tickets from NZ to KL for $400 (NZD) each. We bought the tickets, one way departing from Christchurch at 3:10pm on Tuesday the 19th June 2012.
That was it. It was really happening. The moment of no return had been and gone. We were definitely going now. We had the tickets to prove it. We posted it on Facebook (because nothing is real until it has been shared with the facebook world), called our respective parents (who were excited, anxious for us, and saddened all at the same time), and then went out to celebrate spending lots of money, by spending more money on a fancy dinner.