How Mark’s unexpected trip became one he would never forget!
In April I decided to apply for a gap year with Letz Live. I had just finished a year of Uni during COVID, which left me discouraged and unmotivated. I decided the course I was doing was not what I wanted to do for a career. The year had also put things into perspective for me, and I realised I wanted to pursue my dreams sooner rather than later. One of these dreams is to join the Royal Air Force in the UK. Despite having been born in the UK and having a passport, I have lived in South Africa for the last 17 years. So on application for the RAF I was told I would have to live and work in the UK for a couple of years before acceptance. This proved to be very challenging as moving during a pandemic and finding work would be a tremendous task.
A Gap Year with Letz Live
The opportunity for a Letz Live Gap Year was presented to me by a friend. Within a month or two of first hearing about Letz Live I had received an offer from Sherborne Boys School in Dorset, England. I was excited for the possibility of new opportunities and to get my life going and begin chasing my dreams. The only problem: the extremely expensive quarantine one must do on arrival in the UK from a red list country. Since South Africa was on the red list, and hotel quarantine would be unavoidable, I decided to look at amber list countries. This way I could possibly go through an alternate route to spend my first 11 days. This would mean on arrival to the UK I would only need to self isolate.
I found Albania after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to plan trips through Egypt and Greece. Despite not knowing anything about the country, I was excited to go on an adventure and travel to a place I’d never been. Situated in the Balkans next to Greece and Montenegro, Albania is a small country with a rich history and beautiful coastline. I took 4 flights to get to the capital Tirana from my home town Port Elizabeth. Then on arrival took a 6 hour bus ride to the coastal town of Sarandë. I was subject to no restrictions or testing and on arrival. I found that Albania had practically forgotten about Covid (their extremely low case rate supports this as well). After 50 hours of travelling I could finally rest in the beautiful coastal town of Sarandë I had chosen to stay in for 10 nights.
The trip of a lifetime
To say Albania was the trip of a lifetime would be an understatement. The beautiful blue, warm Mediterranean Sea lining the bustling coastline makes for a beach holiday paradise. Despite the language barrier and differing cultures, the locals are very friendly and hospitable and value their community and culture. The town was safe and petty crime practically didn’t exist. Food and living costs were very low and I was able to easily stick to my budget as everything was quite cheap.
I stayed in a backpackers hostel and met so many amazing people from all around the world. Young travellers from all walks of life that I was able to make friends with. We spent the time lounging on Mediterranean beaches, hiking to freshwater springs, or exploring ancient ruins and castles and learning about history. Discovering Albania with likeminded friends has been an incredible experience.
Travelling overseas is daunting. Travelling alone in a country you’ve barely heard of is even more daunting. However, my 12 days discovering Albania, along with everything I had to plan and organise due to the current travel climate, taught me so much. This instilled in me huge confidence in knowing I can be independent, leave home and start finding my place in the world. Before arrival into the UK on the 8th of August I completed the UK’s Passenger Locator Form and qualified for Amber. All my hard work and planning had paid off and I’d had a fantastic holiday in a place I never dreamed of going.
The next step: working in the UK
In total I cut my costs from just over 50,000ZAR, direct to the UK with hotel quarantine, to about 16,000ZAR, going through Albania. I was sad to leave, but enriched and full of memories that I would carry with me coming into this Letz Live Gap Year. I isolated with South African friends in Reading, England and have now moved to Dorset where I’ll start work in September. This opportunity through Letz Live has already provided so much adventure and once-in-a-lifetime experience. I am so excited to see what more it has in store for me!
If discovering Albania is on your bucket list and you’re thinking about a Gap Year, get in touch! Limited positions are available for January 2022 with Letz Live.