Microgapping: How To See The World On Your Annual Leave

Choosing between your career and travelling the globe? You can do both!

Microgap: The act of taking short breaks that offer the same enriching opportunities for self-development experienced on a typical gap year or career break. 

Lisa, 33, has a 9 to 5 job in IT. In the past three years, she’s travelled to ten different countries, including Italy, Belgium, the States, Morocco and Sweden. Her Instagram feed looks like the inside of a glossy travel brochure and her trusty suitcase is never fully unpacked before she’s packing it to capacity for her next exciting escape. After each trip, Lisa returns to the job she loves and starts saving for the next adventure, while searching the best flight deals at her desk on her lunch break.

Like Lisa, a third of Irish workers spend over three hours a day daydreaming al desko, with travel being the number one thing that’s on our minds, according to research carried out by Travel Republic. There’s no disputing that we’re a nation of people who love to get away. You’ll find communities of us tucked away in every pocket of the globe, and an Irish bar on every street corner, but 9 to 5s and money restraints can put paid to our wanderlust – and often we believe that when it comes to travel and career, one must come at the expense of the other.

Enter microgapping: It’s the gap year alternative for those of us who don’t fancy giving up our jobs but still want to sip cocktails on a beach and climb mountains at sunset. And really it’s not too complex a concept to explain. Set to become a major travel buzzword in 2019, micrograpping is the act of taking short breaks throughout the year in destinations that are closer to home. It garnered traction thanks to a marketing campaign by VisitEngland that discovered that while 82% of 18 to 34-year-olds would like to take a career break to travel, only 8% said they are likely to do so, thanks to financial restraints and the impact on career progression. In short, gap years are out, microgaps are in.

Trips of a lifetime

For Lisa, microgapping has been the gateway to enriching herself through her love of travel and continuing to work in a job she absolutely adores. “I’ve always been a keen traveller. After college I spent two years traveling around Australia and South East Asia and it was the best time of my life, even though it completely depleted me financially. When I came home I landed a great job and figured that was the end of my traveling days. It was only when I worked my way up the ladder a bit that I figured that I could do both – and this time I could do it with money in my pocket.

Since then I’ve been averaging about four breaks a year. I write out a list of destinations I’d love to visit at the start of the year and a general idea of when I’d like to go. Then I find the best deal on flights, rope in a friend or two, budget for it and go. I’ve had some amazing experiences this way and because I’m working full time I have the cash flow to fully enjoy it. It really is the best of both worlds.

Microgapping doesn’t just apply to short, European jaunts either. Jessica, 34, has gone one further and uses her time off from work to go somewhere exotic. “In my job, we get a fortnight break at Christmas. I used to spend this time at home with the family, but now I jet off somewhere on Stephen’s Day every year. It seems silly to me to spend the time sitting about at home when I could be on a long haul somewhere.

“So far I’ve visited Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Mexico in these breaks. Is it depressing when I fly back home and start work again in January? Of course it is, but I immediately get planning the next trip and it means I have a whole year to save up and organise a budget. My job is a really important part of who I am and I don’t think progressing in your career should mean putting your travel aspirations behind you. Working full time and taking trips in my time off is how I manage to do both.”

Getting away

So how can you make like Lisa and Jessica and have your travel dreams become reality, without stealing focus from your career? Lisa reckons it all comes down to planning.

“There are so many destinations, both near and far, that are really accessible from Ireland now, so your first port of call should be deciding where you’d like to visit. New York is great for a long weekend away and isn’t too expensive to fly to. I love France and Italy for really quick breaks as well. You could spend Friday night eating antipasti by the Trevi Fountain and be back in time for that Monday 10am meeting.”

As for when to go? “Take advantage of public holidays,” advises Jessica, “and make any annual leave you have work around that. You can actually wrangle yourself a big chunk of time off without using up all your leave days if you organise it right. Easter is a great time for doing this. And Christmas too. If you want to be really smart you can get really great deals if you travel just outside of peak season – just be sure to check the climate before you book.”

And if money is on the tight side? Says Lisa:

If you’re on a really tight budget I’d recommend staycations around Ireland. I’ve had some wonderful weekends in Ireland that could rival any foreign holiday. The Wild Atlantic Way is a must-do – and I love Belfast. It’s a great night’s craic.

“Wherever I’m going, my travel motto is to squeeze in the most amount of trips while spending the least amount of money,” Lisa adds. “I use AirBnb or apartment bookings to keep accommodation costs down (Hostels can be great for meeting people too if this is your thing!) and I use Skyscanner to search the cheapest flights on any given month. It helps me to plan where to go and when more effectively.”

For Jessica, what matters is making the most of it. “If you really want to make the most of a short break, do your research and plan, plan, plan,” she says. “Write a bucketlist and keep your itinerary relatively tight so you get to see everything you set out to. It might be a ‘micro’ trip, but you don’t need a year away doing bar work or picking fruit to find yourself; a little break away can be just as enriching if you do it right.”