When you hear the term gap year, does it seem like something others would do but certainly not you? Maybe you think you’re not adventurous enough, can’t afford it, or you have too many responsibilities. We often hear people trying to make excuses about why it’s not a good time to go traveling. Unfortunately, with this attitude you will always have a reason not to go abroad. The truth is, you can’t afford not to do a gap year – even if you think that window of opportunity in your life has already passed.
When we say “gap year” we don’t literally mean you have to commit to going abroad for an entire year. Your gap year can mean whatever you want it to mean – whether it’s three months or two years. The experience of living in a different country will be impactful and memorable no matter the amount of time. Here are our reasons for why everyone – even adults – should take a gap year.
When you live in one place your entire life it is hard to define who you truly are. You have not had enough experiences that challenge your beliefs and values, and make you reflect on your own culture. You are shaped by your community and, as a result, have similar motivations and interests as those around you. When you travel, you are exposed to people from different backgrounds with different customs, traditions, and ways of thinking. These new relationships and experiences open up your mind, allowing you to discover a greater sense of self-awareness as you reflect on your own upbringing.
If you grow up in Canada, the opportunities for certain activities, like snorkelling and surfing are limited. The great news is, if you do a gap year in Australia you can literally do those activities every weekend! Traveling opens doors to new experiences and hobbies that you wouldn’t be able to try at home. Maybe you can learn Thai kickboxing, salsa dancing or get your scuba license.
When you think of a gap year you may think of 18 year olds drinking alcohol from buckets on the beach in Thailand. However, your gap year experience is yours to create in whichever way you want. You don’t have to burn a hole in your bank account backpacking around and partying. Instead, you can do a working holiday in a different country so that you can have an authentic experience living like a local while earning an income. That’s right, you can travel AND make money.
The soft skills that you develop by embarking on a gap year or working holiday are insurmountable compared to what you would gain sticking to your 9-5 job at home. Traveling helps you develop skills that are transferable to any industry. Such skills include problem solving, effective communication, decisiveness, empathy, adaptability, resourcefulness, and leadership. Your real world travel experiences will strengthen your character and skill set, making you a more desirable employee and qualified leader
Have you always wanted to learn Spanish but never had the time to practice? Move to Chile! When you immerse yourself in a non-English speaking country you have real motivation to learn the language and constantly practice. The only real way to pick up a new language is to speak it every day! Did you fall asleep during history class? When you visit cities like Barcelona and Kyoto, history surrounds you in the architecture and cultural traditions. Traveling will fuel your curiosity and desire to learn in a way that you never had sitting in a classroom.
No matter how old you are, the idea of traveling to a new country can be an unnerving thought. You don’t know what to expect, you don’t know anyone there, and you may not even speak the language. However, putting yourself in unpredictable situations is the only way you are going to become more independent and confident. Words can’t describe the sense of accomplishment you feel when you order a dish in a different language or see a world wonder up in person. Knowing that you made it happen for yourself is a major confidence boost. When we say you will come back a changed person, we aren’t kidding.
So many people are concerned that traveling will stifle their career development. However, if you speak to a professional who has taken a gap year, they will never say that they regret it. In fact, traveling can improve your resume. Travel develops your soft skills, increases your independence and gives you interesting life experiences to put on your resume and talk about during interviews. Give this article a read to find out how travel makes you more employable. If you are really concerned about having a gap on your resume (which you shouldn’t be!) you can do a working holiday or internship to gain international work experience and make your resume really shine.
This may be shocking to hear, but the world doesn’t revolve around you. If you leave the country, there will still be university programs and job openings when you get back; so don’t be afraid of taking a semester off or quitting your job. As mentioned earlier, you will develop into a more interesting person with an enhanced resume and, as a result, become more employable. You will return home more sure of what career path you want to take.
It is easy to get caught up in the ‘game of life’ pattern of getting a degree, starting your career, and starting a family. During this well structured plan, when do you expect to travel, discover yourself and really experience life? We’re not talking about two-week vacations to Hawaii or Mexico. We mean exploring strange lands, tasting authentic and exotic food, going where nobody knows your name, and losing track of what day of the week it is. It is great to have life and career goals, but do yourself a favour and squeeze a gap year into it. We promise, you won’t egret it.
Are you tired of meeting people and the conversation automatically going to what you do for a living? When you return from a gap year you will have an endless supply of interesting travel stories. You will be instantly more interesting to talk to you. Bonus if the person you meet has also gone travelling because then you’ve just found a common ground and mutual topic of interest.
Even if you live in a multicultural country, you never fully understand the cultures that you are surrounded by until you visit where they originate from. Did you know when eating out in South Korea one person will always pay for the the entire bill, or in Egypt it’s an insult to the cook if you put salt on your food, and in Norway they eat everything with a knife and fork – even sandwiches and hamburgers! A country’s culture obviously goes a lot deeper than their table manners, but it is only possible to gain an in depth cultural understanding by visiting or living in that country. With the rise of globalization, cultural awareness is increasingly becoming a desired character attribute by employers.
We all have those days when our alarm clocks don’t go off, we spill our coffee on our shirt and then we miss the bus for work. We spend the rest of the day telling everyone how we are having a bad day. However, once you spend an extensive amount of time abroad, you will be brutality confronted with the realities of poverty and realize that your “bad day” looks pretty good in comparison. While traveling, you can’t just click off your TV to stop seeing some people’s harsh realities; they will be on the street corners reaching out to you or in the straw huts that you drive by. After seeing children who can’t even afford a pencil for school, you will never again complain about spilling the coffee you have the luxury to enjoy in the first place.
We have never met a single person who took a gap year and regretted it, even if it didn’t go as planned. We dare you to go and find ten adults and tell them that you are going to live in the UK for a year and see what they say. I can guarantee you that if they have done a gap year, they will say, “do it! It was the best thing I ever did!” and if they never went on a gap year they will say “Good for you. I wish I had done that. “Don’t become that adult that regrets not going abroad traveling and taking advantage of their life – take a gap year!
If none of the above reasons resonate with you then this cold, hard fact will – your time will never return. You can spend money and earn it back but you can’t spend time and earn it back. Once time is gone, it’s gone forever. You have one shot at life, so what do you want to make of it? If you keep putting traveling off because things keep coming up – stop! Things will always come up and you can always create some excuse not to go. Trust us, we’ve heard them all and we don’t buy ’em! Are you trying to convince us that in your 80 something years on this planet you can’t spare 3 months to travel? Hit refresh and start making excuses to travel because you will never regret taking a gap year – no matter how old you are.
If you are interested in the next steps to starting your gap year feel free to browse our programs to see if any destinations appeal to you or contact us for more information!
Tessa is the Program Development Manager at Stepabroad and a travel lover at heart. Her passion for travel started during a summer in university when she moved to New Zealand on a Working Holiday. She was immediately hooked and since then has lived in Europe and Asia and backpacked through more than 40 countries.