YanYan Yan, 34, was a Chinese expat in London until the day she decided needed a change. After moving to London when she was 24 for her second master’s degree in Economics and Business and then to Helsinki for a third master’s degree in Social History, Yan settled into a comfortable job as a project manager at Royal Bank Canada in London.
But with ten years in Europe under her belt, this didn’t feel like enough. She decided to quit without applying to a new job. “I love traveling and have always wanted to take a gap year trip around the world to do some hiking, volunteering and traveling,” Yan said. “I decided to quit my banking job without finding a new job so that I keep my door open to any job opportunities in any country.”
Now living the dream of most recent university graduates, Yan is on a self-designed gap year around the world. She hiked both the Camino de Santiago, a 900 km pilgrimage across Spain, and Tour de Mont Blanc, a 170 km trek through Italy, France and Switzerland. These treks left quite an impact on Yan, she twisted her ankle at least 5 times. This did not deter her, and she kept on hiking.
One of the most intense marks left on Yan throughout her travels came from her time in Latin America. While there, she backpacked and volunteered in Cuba, Guatemala and Belize. “I am proud that I am not restricted by my traditional Chinese background and being able to pursue my dream despite a lot of challenges and doubts from my friends, including myself.”
Sometimes they could only be understood through real experience, through your eyes, your feet and your heart.YanYan Yan
“I am also proud to be [one of the] few single Chinese females backpackers in Central America including Guatemala and Belize, two of the most dangerous countries, at my age.” Yan expressed in an email. “A lot of travelers told me I am the only Chinese backpacker they have seen in Central America.”
Yan is in the middle of her gap year right now and is enjoying a cross-country road trip of Australia. Next, she will head to New Zealand for hiking and eventually back to China to visit her family.
Her biggest take away from the year? “I think a lot of my favorite things share some similarities: the power and beauty of nature are truly beyond words and imagination. Sometimes they could only be understood through real experience, through your eyes, your feet and your heart.”