‘Potion Diaries’ author, Amy Alward, is saying GO ON A GAP YEAR – and here’s why

The books we read are full of adventures – great treks across the world, daring escapes from barren lands, underwater explorations, meetings with all kinds of locals. It’s a wonder that us bookish types tend to stay at home when we have so much love for the exciting and brave.

Well, maybe it’s high time we went on our own adventures, as author Amy Alward urges readers to.

Her own book ‘The Potion Diaries’ sees Samantha Kemi, talented alchemist on a mission to save the princess from a love potion, travelling to all different dangerous terrains in order to locate the ingredients for the cure.


It’s no doubt Amy got some of that inspiration from her own gap year experience – and she wants to tell you why you should grab the chance to take one too:

Why everyone should take a gap year – mine turned me into an author

Gap years are getting a bad rep at the moment, with a top City lawyer saying she’d rather hire someone who worked a Saturday job than someone who took a gap year. But my gap year changed my life for the better – and, if you have the opportunity, I would tell you to go for it every time.

I took my year out after university. I had been working a part-time job while studying to pay for a potential Masters degree, thinking that continuing in academia was better than knowing what I was going to do for a real job. 

Instead, I got a call from my best friend, who had just booked a trip from Kenya to South Africa overland and was then flying to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and South-East Asia.

By morning the next day, I had booked to go with her.

But backpacking for me was not only getting lost in foreign countries and parties on far-flung beaches. Here are the top four ways taking a gap year changed my life:

1) Travelling gave me more perspective

After spending all my life trapped in “school mode”, it was amazing not to be constantly graded or assessed. Since no one was around to give me an “A” in life, I felt free to follow my passions and free to fail – a necessary step towards seeing the world more clearly.

Climbing a Dune 45 in the Namib desert.

2) Travelling helped me narrow down my passion

Even with four years of university behind me, I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. A university professor? A journalist? A politician? But while I was away, I wrote every day, and it cemented in my mind that my passion was books and writing. When I returned from my gap year, I had more focus, and I could concentrate all my efforts on finishing my book and getting a job in publishing.

Getting into the spirit at a restaurant in Zimbabwe.

3) Travelling helped me learn how to make a plan (and what to do when those plans go wrong)

In travelling, as in life, the best laid plans often go wrong! Even when I was in a serious car accident in Australia, almost got arrested in Zimbabwe, and had a near miss with a snakebite in Cambodia, I learned how to pick myself up and keep going.

Taking the plunge in a skydive!

4) Travelling gave me inspiration for future books

Little did I know when I was travelling just how much of my experience would make it into my books! The Potion Diaries is the product of so many different adventures, and it wouldn’t be the same book without them. In fact, I just might need to go again, just to get some more inspiration!

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Written by Laura Fulton

Book Channel Editor at MaxPop! Have a thing for the sea and pretty paperbacks. Saved by amazing grace.

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Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson have always been the perf pair, these harmonies in ‘Use Somebody’ tho…

Nat Wolff is here looking scrummy talking about Paper Towns *dribbles*