Michelle: Uh, I guess the first time I, kind of, went abroad really by myself was straight after 'A' Levels and I went to Paris, so that was the summer of ninety-one and I stayed two-and-a-half months in Paris and lived in a little studio with my friend and tried to get work.
Eliane: Why did you decide to go away?
Michelle: That was kind of random. I hadn't fixed anything up for that summer and this friend of mine had this studio apartment at very low rent and I thought, “Well, what the heck? Got a summer free; go and learn French; go and see what happens!" Very kind of head-up-in-the-air; just headed out there.
Eliane: And were your friends travelling at that time?
Michelle: Uhm, yeah, I think so. In fact a lot of friends actually were beginning to inter-rail that summer, straight after finishing school, so a lot of them actually came and stayed with us. So they came over with their duty-free, their bottles of gin and vodka and we got about ten people lined up like sardines on the floor of this little studio flat and, kind of, had a nice time. So yeah, I think people were travelling in Europe and then quite a few of my friends took a year off between school and university and went further afield, which I also did. So that October in nineteen-ninety-five I went to Nepal with an organisation called Gap which arranged for me to teach in a school for Tibetan kids.
Eliane: And why did you decide to go away in your Gap year?
Michelle: Uhm, I just thought it was this amazing opportunity: I had fifteen months between school and university, like, the world was my oyster; I didn't have any responsibilities; I literally could just fill these fifteen months with whatever would be fun, whatever I enjoyed - I just had to finance it. But, given that I didn't have especially expensive living habits or, kind of, needs. I mean, it was just an incredible opportunity. You've got something very secure to come back to: I had my place at Oxford. And it was this incredible luxury: just take fifteen months and see the world and do as many, kind of, wild and whacky things as you can.
Eliane: What was it like being away for that long?
Michelle: Uhm, I kind of broke it up, cause I went to Paris for two-and-a-half months first of all over the summer and then I went to Nepal and that was meant to just be October to December - three months - but I actually bought a single ticket, cause again I just, kind of, wandered into it and I didn't really know if I'd want to stay on or what would happen. And so I ended up going to India afterwards till about the end of March/beginning of April and then I came back to Nepal and flew home. And then I spent about four months in London, kind of, earning money and I just did two jobs at once: I worked in a telephone, kind of, cellular communications place in the day and I worked, like, eight till six and then I came home and worked in the pub at night and then again on the weekend. And I just basically worked and worked and worked to try and go away again. And then that summer I went to Mexico, Guatemala and Belize before starting university.
Eliane: And what is the attraction of travelling for you? What's the wanderlust about?
Michelle: I think there's several components to why I love travelling so much: one is the, the, sort of, the freedom; there's just this total freedom, you just wake up in the morning and you say, “What do I want to do today, which is going to make me happy? What do I feel like doing?" And it starts with, “When do I want to wake up, when do I want to get out of bed, do I want to eat, do I want not to eat, do I want to sight-see, do I want to travel to somewhere else, do I like these people I've just met, shall I be with them, shall I spend the day with them?" And you, you really can let your whims rule. But on the other hand I've also quite often travelled with one or two other people and then you actually, it's very interesting, you get quite close to them, you form quite close relationships and you actually start anticipating each other's moods quite a lot and forming quite a strong bond. So in a way you are, kind of, compromising what you really want to do, but you, kind of, get into tune with each other's rhythms. So that's the first thing and the second thing is, uhm, the first time I travelled and left Europe, which was when I went to Nepal I was just amazed; I was just completely blown away; I'd, like, never imagined that people lived in such a different way from us; that, kind of, religions could be so different, colours, smells, landscapes, buildings; everything was just another universe and it was just amazing; it was this hu eye j, this huge eye-opener. And at the time I was just, kind of, drinking it all up; I was just transfixed by it. And I only think I began to assimilate it when I got back to the UK and started challenging things that I was so used to seeing. Uhm, and why else do I like travelling so much? I guess the third reason is just it's easy, it's just easy to do, I mean, people kind of make out that, oh, they're conquering the world or whatever - it's a really easy lifestyle: you just get on a plane and you go to places where, essentially, the cost of living is quite low and you can have a fun time; you have very few constraints on you and, I don't know, it's, it can't really go wrong, I mean, unless you, kind of, get sick or something really bad happens to you, but essentially you're, it's hassle-free fun.
Eliane: Do you think there's such a thing as a global village?
Michelle: I don't even know what that expression means.
Eliane: Do you think
Michelle: You'll have to, what do you think it is?
Eliane: Do you think the world is smaller for you than, than it was for your parents?
Michelle: I wouldn't say the world is smaller; the world is certainly more accessible for me than my parents. I think also I have more curiosity. I mean, first of all, there's the, sort of, straightforward economic thing that flights - international flights - are very cheap nowadays, I mean, you can get a discounted flight, let's say to India, for three hundred quid and that just didn't exist in my parents' day. Also I think attitudes have changed, like, my parents just wouldn't have got on a plane to India or Nepal aged eighteen; they just wouldn't have done it. Uhm, so, in a sense, yes, there are quite a lot of people, I think, like me who have seen a lot of places and who have, sort of, travelled in developing countries as well as developed countries. But I don't think that means it's a global village; I just, I just think that perhaps almost culture's become more intermingled.
 An inter-rail pass is a train ticket that allows unlimited 2nd class travel across most of Europe and parts of North Africa. The ticket first became available in 1972 and remains a popular choice among young school-leavers.
 GAP refers to a charitable organisation specialising in organising voluntary work placements overseas for young people prior to going on to further education, training or employment. Taking a gap year might be interpreted as the modern equivalent of the Grand Tour.