A Gap Year (and a bit): In Review

Happy new year! Well, almost. Technically I should have written this in September, but it never really felt like my gap year was over. There seemed to be adventures around every corner and new things to be learned – things that typically make the world feel gap year-y. But now, with 2018 just hours away, it’s maybe time to accept that the gap year has been, done, and been made the most of.

I suppose my gap year began in the June of 2016 as I left school. Exams were finished so straight away I disappeared to Lake Como in Italy with four good friends for ten days. While there, we explored the villages, took boat rides, ate a lot of pizza, and spent days in Milan and Rome. It was great, even worth the ten days without Wifi! I have two full length posts about our time in Italy too. Part one can be found here, and part two here.

Upon arrival back in the homeland, my family and I had to take the unfortunate journey to England for a funeral. As sad as it was, we made the most of it and took a trip to Warwick castle and met up with the rest of the family.

After arriving home again, I uploaded my first post here on Little Mishaps. Huzzah! And gradually things have grown to here…

In August of 2016, I went with everyone from work to Edinburgh to attend the Circus Works festival. We spent a week living and camping in a field, taking part in circus and theatre workshops, putting on shows, playing football on stilts, throwing people in the air, building campfires, and meeting the most incredible and creative people. The festival was brilliant and something I wish I could do every year. For more about this weird world of circus I often find myself in, I have a post here!

The next month involved one of the most important trips I’ve ever taken. I flew to Grenoble, France – my first time travelling alone – to take part in the grape harvest. All started well; I eventually found where I was supposed to be going and got to meet up with some friends I hadn’t seen in years. I was practicing my French and exploring the city. A few days later I arrived in Légny, marvelled at the old farmhouse building where I’d be staying, and started to meet my fellow harvesters. Then the real work began. I had no idea that picking grapes would be so gruelling. It didn’t help that I wasn’t used to being in such heat, but eight hours a day, scrounging around on your knees in the mud. Who knew?! Even so, I’m glad I did it. Even just to prove to myself that I could. Read a full post about it here.

Back in Scotland, I then went up in the world from volunteer to employee at work. It was great. I was being paid to do something I love which was mainly juggling and making short films. The next few months were spent there so little travelling was done. I did however have a friend from France come to stay for a week in February of 2017 which was good fun. March saw sadly another funeral but on the bright side, another opportunity to catch up with the fam. A while later a few friends and I went on a small adventure to the beach, which I wrote about here.

In June, I was back off to Italy, this time with work for the very first JéMBE festival in Monte Compatri, just outside of Rome. There we ran and took part in circus and theatre workshops with the local young people, culminating in a huge outdoor show that span almost the length of the village from the town square right to the top of the hill. We also put on a fire show, and a short comedy circus show about pirates called The Blootoon Picaroons. We made great friends with the people we met and became closer as a group – partly as a result of ten of us practically sleeping on top of each other in a teeny two bedroom flat. But it was all good fun. Eventually we had to head home, but spent the next few weeks missing the sun, the people, the workshops, and even in a way the hills we had to climb every day to get anywhere. I have a full post about the JéMBE festival here.

Just two weeks later, I was back on a plane. This time I was headed eight hours west to New Jersey, America. After sending literally hundreds of emails to organisations around the world, I had finally found a month-long internship with Trenton Circus Squad. The first two weeks was spent helping set up a pilot social circus programme in Camden and living with five of the loveliest girls I’ve ever met. They took me in and taught me the ways of Frootloops and 7-Elevens as if I’d lived there my whole life. The fourth of July was spent in Washington DC and we took trips to lakes and mountains and diners. Oh, and I survived a poisonous spider bite. Woo!

The next two weeks was spent working with the company in Trenton, putting on lots of shows, teaching in workshops, and over heating in the 40 degree air. I lived with two wonderful families, both of which have come to feel like my other family at the opposite side of the world. By the end of July we were trying to think of ways I could ‘accidentally’ miss my flight. I did not want to go home. And it was lovely knowing they didn’t want me to go either. I’ve written more about my month in America here.

Back in Scotland, I almost had time to unpack, wash my clothes, and have a new friend from Monte Compatri come to stay before I jetted off to Croatia with my travel buddy, Becca. Over the next two weeks we visited Zadar, Nin, Zagreb, Plitvice national park, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Lake Bled, Postojna Caves, and Venice in Italy. The trip was exhausting but we explored and saw so much, and certainly ticked off some destinations from the bucket list. I have full posts on Zadar here, Zagreb here, Ljubljana here, and Venice here.

Three weeks later, my gap year was technically over. But the next adventure feels too big to not include. I started at Glasgow university studying film, theatre, and French. The next few months involved making friends, going to the theatre, doing juggling shows, visiting Loch Lomond, and even going to a party or two. University has been quite the learning curve, especially considering the extent of my cooking was toast before starting in September. But I’m gradually getting there…

I’ve learned a lot over my gap year and a half. Mainly that Frootloops taste really bad. But also, that while travelling, new people, and new things might be terrifying at first, I never want to go home by the time it comes around. So, take on those opportunities, even if they don’t make sense at first. And jump in at the deep end (even though you know you can’t exactly swim). Because it will all work itself out eventually.

Total gap year miles travelled: 21,555.1


Lights, Camera, Action, and Me

I have been fascinated with the ‘silver screen’ ever since I was little. From the earliest age I would spend as much of my day as I could watching Disney films on VHS tapes instead of playing outside like other kids. I loved how films could transport you to a new world; I could be in the vast green jungle with Mowgli, or exploring under the deepest sea with Captain Nemo.

As I got older I was determined to become an actor. I was that annoyingly geeky kid who would always put abnormal amounts of effort into school plays, memorising everyone else’s lines as well as mine just so I could show off. But I really wanted to act in the blockbusters of Hollywood. Christmas nativity? Pah! My final goal (which seemed doable to an eight year old) was to play the next James Bond. I could see myself flying across the screen in the swanky cars, defeating the bad guys and saving the world…

I then reached high school and opted to take drama as a subject. That was when I realised something that put my dream into perspective: I was a terrible actor. Back to the drawing board!

Despite being a miniature action junkie, I still loved animated comedies. I remember being perched on the edge of the sofa watching ‘Creature Comforts’ with my parents when I was about six years old. Of course, as a six year old, I didn’t quite understand the rules of the Grand National, or really care about what people thought of the current financial situation, but I thought it was really cool how they could make the dogs and cats talk. Wallace and Gromit was another favourite. At nine years old, I got curious and wanted to know how the world worked:

“Dad, how do they make Wallace and Gromit? I mean I know they’re made from clay but how do they move them? You don’t see their hands?”

Naïve little kid that I was. That day, my dad explained to me the idea behind stop motion animation, handed me a camera and a bucket of clay, and like a fish to water, I was hooked. Poor fish.

I made my first short animated film that day and a little while later it was featured on a quiet corner of the CBBC website. My first glimpse of stardom! Or that’s what it felt like to a nine year old anyway. The year after I received a clunky, low-res video camera for Christmas, which at the time, I’m sure was the bee’s knees. It was my absolute favourite thing and went everywhere with me. By this point, I had changed my mind: never mind being an actor, I was going to be the next Steven Spielberg.

I continued making films throughout school and as a friendless nerd who had no one to do it for them, I learnt how to direct, edit, use a camera, edit audio, place lighting, and everything else you need to create a film. Despite this lone wolf approach I’ve had to filmmaking, one of the most fun projects I’ve been involved with was last year when a group of young folk from here, there, and everywhere, worked with a professional filmmaker and a professional dancer to create a short film about our relationship with the city we were in. After an intense week of learning, filming, and being rained on a lot, the team had created ‘OWN’…

One of the greatest things about being involved in making this film was that we were all invited to attend a fancy pants premiere in a proper cinema. It was incredible to see our project on a real cinema screen, and all of our names appear in the credits at the end. I had finally attended my first film premiere and it was amazing.

Now however many years since that first day behind a camera at nine years old, I still make films when I can. I’m slightly limited by time and resources – my main camera is my phone – but my head continues to swim with ideas.

And now I’m off to study Film and Television at university (more on that in a later post) and I can’t wait!

Okay, so in some ways that has felt like a slightly pointless post. The whole time I was writing it I kept thinking ‘and the really useful point I’m trying to get across here is…?’ Honestly, I’m not sure there is one. However, it has perhaps acted as an introduction to a series of potential future posts about making films. Who knows? If nothing else, now you know a little bit more about me. And I have learned to plan posts next time instead of just writing them…