AFTER leaving school and college many students opt to take time out travel overseas.
But for one 21-year-old from St Leonards her six-month trip ended up being a three-year excursion around the Far East and Australia, only returning home last month.
Grace Miles, of Plover Court, Juniper Close, left 1066 Country in summer 2010 to volunteer on a conservation project on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand for two months.
But she enjoyed it so much, she stayed for an extra two months and decided to go to Australia, arriving in Sydney with little money looking for work.
She worked on a farm in Bundaberg in Queensland for three months, seven hours a day in scorching heat before heading south with friends she made at the hostel she stayed at.
Grace said: “We arrived in Brisbane for the New Year, just two days before the city had severe flooding.”
She then worked on a farm driving tractors in Moree for three weeks. The ex-Helenswood student undertook work on several farms around the country. At one point she lived in an old shack for two months.
A low point of the epic trip was being left on her own to run a stud farm for a weekend.
Grace said: “I had to feed all of the horses and clean the stables. It was also cold, being in winter.”
The highlight, she said, was working on the yachts in Airlie Beach for 10 months from November 2011, acting as hostess for passengers. She said: “It was amazing. I was able to take people snorkeling to the famous Whitehaven Beach.”
Grace’s sister Holly also joined her for a year travelling.
During the trip she travelled 2,000km along the west coast from Perth to Exmouth.
Grace later spent several weeks in Singapore and later toured Malaysia, visiting Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and the Cameron Highlands.
In the last eight months before returning to Hastings she lived on Koh Tao gaining diving qualifications, allowing her to teach the skill.
Grace said: “It was really hard coming back home after three years. I had my own house and motorbike so it was a huge culture shock returning to Hastings.
“After three years I got used to it but then thought it was time to come home. I now have two nieces who are nearly two years old. I didn’t meet them until three weeks ago. That was a joyous moment to come back to.”