HOW TO TAKE A GROWNUP GAP YEAR
You’re never too old to embark on an adventure
Ican remember exactly when we first thought about taking an adult gap year. It was May 2016, and we were on holiday in California when I received an email from a headhunter asking if I was interested in a role with a large retail brand in San Francisco. I wasn’t at all, having said goodbye to big corporate retail brands when I left Topshop in 2007, but when I mentioned it to my husband Barry (a criminal defence lawyer), he said that he’d always wanted to live there. We went for a hike and by the end of it, had decided to take a year out to travel down the West Coast of the USA – with the dog. I’d been the CEO at Whistles for eight years. We’d successfully turned the brand into something relevant, but it needed additional financing, and I felt that now might be a good time to leave it to new management and move on. We don’t have children, and my parents had both passed away the previous year, which had been emotionally draining as I was very close to them. So, we wanted to change the whole narrative of our lives. We needed adventure and opportunity, and this was it. I love taking risks and have always been impetuous, so while the decision was scary, and it was painful leaving my team at Whistles, it also felt right. Admittedly, I’ve had career breaks before. When I left as brand director of Topshop, I also took a year out. I drove through South America, hiked Patagonia, worked with Oxfam and People Tree, had a blast, then came back and took on Whistles.
We reckoned that by renting out our house, we could get by for a year. We gave away most of our possessions and stored the rest in a lock-up. With every piece I discarded, I felt lighter and freer. Barry, however, found it more difficult to cast off the shackles of our previous life, and most of the disagreements we exchanged in an entire year happened then.
We had a rough plan: start in New York, then drive to Vancouver. We would spend three summer months exploring British Columbia, before driving down through Washington and Oregon to San Francisco and then LA.
Packing was a liberating experience – my uniform of jeans and a striped top would suffice for most days, but I took a few Isabel Marant tops for when I wanted to look smarter, and, for sartorial emergencies, a pink Prada
Awe-inspiring views of the Grand Canyon
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, South Carolina