In spring 2017, I decided to go on a gap year. I didn't call it a gap year then but when I look back, what I did was custom design a transformational year as a highway to my dream life.
In hindsight, it marked the beginning of really living a life that's on my own terms. Here's the 7 levels of depth to how that happened:
1. The Plan: The plan is not to have a plan
In a journal from May 2017 I wrote about wanting to create a life full of belonging, freedom, authenticity and purpose. I had figured that much out from my life experience so far but what would a life like that actually look like?!
After uni, I decided I didn't want to pursue a career in geology. So I clarified my dream exactly and then let go of any attachment to how I was going to achieve it. I wanted to achieve my dream by following my heart and my nose, by turning any opportunity into something that will serve me and through the magic of spontaneity.
The plan was to not have a plan. The direction was to achieve my dream life. So for the first time in my life it was the dream that was concrete and apart from a vague idea, the plan was not. Read on to find out how this was probably the best way to start my gap year.
2. Experiences: Each experience I have, brings me closer to my goals
First stop, Bali. Mt. Agung was errupting at the time and my flight would not have been able to land if I had arrived 2 days later. I became a yoga teacher. It was a month filled with love, gratitude, huge amounts of learning and moving through challenges with compassion. I was basking in the indonesian beauty, climate and spirit. It has given me a gift to connect with my feminine whenever I need to.
A couple of months later I moved to a beautiful small town in Western Australia and worked for a company called Adventure Works where I worked with teenagers in the outdoors helping them with their transition into adulthood. I learnt so much about managing dynamics, holding delicate conversations and turning conflict into learnings but perhaps the biggest thing I got out of it was seeing how a small company operates. An invaluable system to observe first hand.
While still in Dunsborough, I got to teach yoga twice a week and truly experienced the gift of giving. The life energy that I felt from delivering a beautiful class to beautiful people was amazing!
During a part of my stay here, I lived at a yoga retreat centre with the owner, her 4 kids, 2 dogs, 12 chickens and a sheep. I was an au-pair and helped out with the kids and business in exchange for delicious ayurvedic food ever and a love-filled home. I reconnected to the joy of play through the kids and since I left that place, I have had some amazing rituals in place to look after my wellbeing. What a gift!
The training was one hell of a month filled with love, gratitude, huge amounts of learning and moving through challenges with compassion. One of the challenges was the erupting Mt. Agung. The other was me trying to hold onto a relationship from my ''old life'' during a period of rapid transformation and personal growth. I eventually realised that with personal growth the right relationship also evolves.
Overall I was basking in the beauty of the island, sacred teachings, strong friendships and a great feeling of empowerment that I'm now actually qualified to earn money by doing something I love. But I knew that it was the first step into the journey of creating a life full of that feeling.
4. First leap of faith
During the training I started thinking about where I was going to spend Christmas and what job I was going to do in Australia. I really didn't want to be on my own in a hostel room during Christmas and I really didn't want to just work in a cafe in Australia after experiencing so much purpose i Bali. As I was trying to stay as present as possible on my journey to becoming a yoga teacher, I only ended up applying to 2 jobs in Australia. One was a company called Adventure Works in Western Australia who work with young adults, taking them on outdoor expeditions while having important conversations about their transition into adulthood. After a skype interview with them with very dodgy Balinese internet, I got the job!
5. Generosity of distant friends
I had one month before I had to be in Perth for a training to start the job. So I flew to Canberra to stay with a friend I met in Russia on a volcanology field trip. We had a bbq on Christmas, spent the week exploring the Blue Mountains and drove down to the coast south of Sydney for New Years (2018) where we ate, played the guitar around the camp fire and woke up to 2019 on the beach.
The month before I started at Adventure Works turned out to be a great time to travel and connect with the distant people I knew in Australia. In Sydney; I met Vicky, A family friend as well as Claire O'hara the 2018 freestyle kayaking world champion. In Adelaide, I met my life coach Juliet Lever and when in Perth; I stayed with Sandy Robson, a well-known kayaker that paddled from Germany to Australia.
When I finally got to Dunsborough, to the little paradise 3 hours south of Perth that would end up being my base; I was very lucky to be welcomed at my mums friends house who by chance happened to be living very close to my work.
During this month, I was exposed to the generosity of people I only know very little. It was heart warming to have homes opened up to me and create beautiful connections around Australia. Its a beautiful feeling when a door is opened in a place that feels so far from home.
6. Building a new life in Western Australia
Within a matter of days I had bought a car for £900 and was renting a spare room in a locals house with 2 sausage dogs and a beach view! I was surrounded by a new community of people passionate about making a difference. I felt valued for my outdoor experience and supported in holding important conversations with young people. I was teaching yoga twice I week in a beautiful studio and I realised that for the first time in my life that I was earning money only doing stuff that I loved and wanted to spend my time and energy on!
3. Qualifications: Amplifying the progress towards my goals
My yoga teacher training was the first qualification I ever got where I could actually earn money by doing something I loved. But it was just the beginning.
Since my childhood, I've been exposed to the outdoor activity for recreation industry through my parent's profession, which helped me get jobs along my journey. But Adventure Works was what bridged that gap from an outdoor educator to the personal development coaching field. Realising my passion for how powerful the mind is, I returned to England halfway through my gap year and studied to become an Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner. I understood so much about the human brain and consequentially about my and all young people's potential. I started smashing all my goals I set myself.
Throughout my gap year, I developed a brand of my own called Be Water Yoga and Coaching where I worked 1-1 with people doing mindset coaching as well as private and public yoga classes. However, the bit I was unfamiliar with was the business side - I had no idea! But the right teacher attracts the student, and when the time was right that's exactly what happened. I found a mentor who taught me how to set up my own consulting business and I started specialising in helping young people define and achieve their dream life without any wasted time. So Alara Vural Coaching was born. What a rewarding investment!
4. Communities: I realised that on this trip, I got to attract my own community. Everyone I interacted with was because I consciously choose to.
- Dogs. I had such a strong calling to have a dog on this adventure of mine, but logistically it was a nightmare But looks like the universe was listening because I had a dog with or around me for the whole trip!
- Distant friends. I was welcomed into a very distant friends' arms like I was their sibling. No matter what the circumstance, no matter how late I called; the generosity of people I hardly knew left me feeling like I belonged wherever I went.
- Yoga friends. These were total strangers to me who I would now call siblings. Bonded through our dedication to yoga and sharing of such an raw experience. These are friends that I might not constantly talk to but can count on whenever I need to.
- Tribe. The beautiful people I met in Western Australia through work, through the yoga classes I taught and through the yoga retreat centre I lived at (Premalaya). Since knowing them, I feel like I belong. I feel that they've got my back, they affirm I'm on the right road and that I have a home there always.
- Mentors. My yoga teachers, books I read, seminars I went to, my life coach, my consulting mentor. I never thought I had role models but after this journey, I have a list!
5. Lessons: Exactly what I needed to learn to be the person who can achieve my dreams
- Being transparent.
I had a boyfriend before leaving England whom I admired so much. But we knew that long distance wasn't going to be easy. When in Bali, I felt divided. I was so present in every part of my life and evolving but holding onto a relationship I had before I started my journey. We kept being transparent and kept communicating until I realised that the right relationship evolves with the evolving individuals. However, when it had been about 4 months since we hadn't seen each other, I felt I was attracted to a friend. This was a very difficult and vulnerable time for both of us and by being brutally honest and open with him, not only did we overcome the challenging time but our relationship grew stronger because of it. He later came to visit me in Australia, I went back to the UK for a few months during my NLP training and by the time I was flying back out to Australia again to start my second season with Adventure Works we knew how we would make it work. Communication and connection.
- Risk vs. security balance.
I saw the value in taking risks and grabbing opportunities while appreciating the security of having a stable family to live with, a home back in the UK, a beautiful family in Turkey. Never before have I been so out of my comfort zone than I was when I was on my gap year. Be it when I landed in Bali and I only applied for a couple of jobs in Australia; be it when I moved to WA and had 4 days to buy a car, find accommodation and sort all my work documents out or when I tried to build a social life from scratch. But eventually, being out of my comfort zone became comfortable and I was making the most of opportunities.
- Listening to intuition/callings.
My number one guide in deciding on where to go and what to do. Its surprisingly easy to do when you have the space to be whoever you want to and all the noise of external influences on you are silenced.
- Overcoming fears.
As any tourist does, I was also terrified of snakes and sharks in Australia. When my mum came to visit me, we went to a reptile centre and for the first time in my life, I held a Children's Python. As I was holding it, I could feel my brain re-wiring itself and changing the beliefs it has around snakes. I had the same realisation around sharks when I met someone who has dived with the 5 most dangerous sharks in the world. He said they are inquisitive but really have no intention of eating you. When witnessing his passion and love for them, I realised the less we know about something, the more fear we have around it. What a paradox!
- Speaking my truth.
Through situations where I was misunderstood or was done wrong I learnt to have difficult conversations around with dignity, integrity and honesty. As a person that used to actively avoid conflict and confrontation, it was very hard for me stand up for myself. But I thank myself every day now for staying true to myself.
Perhaps one of the things most worried about on a gap year, but it is no more than an irrational fear. I self-funded my whole gap year which included 4 long haul flights, 4 short haul flights, 3 courses/qualifications, a car and accommodation. It is possible. You do have to give thought to it and not be reckless but with the right mindset finance is not a limitation to having a transformational gap year.
6. Tools I learnt: The 3 powerful tools I obtained that are perfect for the job when it comes to achieving my goals
- Yoga and wellbeing practices: Surrounding my self with principles, practices and students of yoga, I learnt some skills and developed practices which mean that I can bring myself into balance and maintain a healthy wellbeing through everything I go through
- Safe space: My love-filled month in Bali, the beautiful nature of Dunsborough, the family I lived with, friendships I made... All of these are very vivid in my mind
- Mindset tools: Through studying to become an NLP practitioner; I learnt some priceless mental tools to deal with anxiety, limiting beliefs, internal and external conflict, overthinking, setting goals and re-generating feelings and strengths as and when I need them. Like I said, it amazes me what the mind can do how huge the potential of each individual actually is.
7. Returning mindset and plan
Feeling a beautiful sense of completion, when I came back from my gap year, I knew exactly what I wanted and how to go about it. I decided to work with young people to help them define and achieve their dream life. I have learnt what I need to, built a beautiful community of people, got amazing and relevant experience, got training in my passion and am ready to add value to the world with it. I feel a great sense of calm and excitement at the same time!
Alara believes that the path to a fulfilled life is to make a unique meaningful impact in the world. So she now helps business owners and is an NLP practitioner, a yoga teacher and a Contemporary Rites of Passage facilitator. She helps entrepreneurs align their life and business with their purpose in 8 weeks.