HOW TO TAKE A GROWNUP GAP YEAR

You’re never too old to em­bark on an ad­ven­ture

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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

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