Welcome to the Journey Count Gap Year Series!
They get a lot of stick, gap years. Many think of them as escapism from real responsibility, where young people will spend frivolously and party too hard. Many mock the idea of people trying to ‘find themselves’ whilst taking a year out and others feel that young gappers are giving older, more experienced travellers a bad rep.
Oli and I both took a gap year between college and university in 2010 and it was the best thing we’ve have ever done. Yes, we spent a lot. Yes, we drank too much. And yes, we feel like we did feel like we found ourselves, if that’s how you want to describe it. We also did meet a lot of idiots who were giving the gap year and travel a bad name, but that’s a topic for a different post.
We both believe that taking a gap year is an incredible and invaluable opportunity that everyone should consider and that is why we are spending the month of January writing all about it! We’ll be giving out tips, advice and inspiration in an attempt to show just how important a gap year can be.
To start things off, let’s look at our 8 reasons to take a gap year.
1. To see the world.
This one is pretty obvious but often something people forget, some when they are demeaning gap years and others when they are actually travelling. I think it is so important for every one of us to experience travelling to another country. Be this on a weeks vacation an hour flight from home, or an 8 month adventure 10,000 miles from home, getting out and seeing how other people live, how other countries look and feel, and most importantly the similarities between places, is invaluable.
And it’s not just the lessons that are important in seeing the world, the importance is in the seeing. The world is an unbelievably beautiful and awesome place and I dare anyone not to enjoy understanding this for themselves whilst travelling.
2. To feel real, unadulterated freedom.
You have just spent the last 13 years in school and will either be spending the next 3 years at university or the next who-knows-how-long in a job. This is your chance to break away from the early mornings, the routine, and the deadlines.
There may still be early mornings, but it will be you who decided a 5am wake-up to trek the Inca trail was worth it, not your boss. There may still be routines, because a mango smoothie, followed by a snorkel, followed by a party on the beach is such a perfect recipe for a day on a Thai island. There may still be deadlines, because if you don’t catch that 2pm bus the only one after that takes twice as long. Although, sometimes the journey itself can be worth it.
Waking up each day and being able to do what you want, when you want is one of, if not the most, incredible thing about taking a gap year. You feel like learning to dive? Why not? You feel like switching it up and moving to a new city? No one is stopping you. You feel like simply staying in bed until 1pm reading your hand me down copy of Into the Wild? Go right ahead, the time is yours and, anyway, that city and those fish will still be there tomorrow.
3. To make life long friends
Something about spending 24/7 with strangers while travelling, sharing every meal, every experience and sometimes the inevitable sickness with, is a recipe for very strong bonds. These are the people you camped with in Australia, who you had a chilli eating competition with in Thailand, who got the same bruises as you from that bus in Bolivia, and no amount of distance and time can take those memories away.
Jade- The friends that I made travelling are some of the most amazing people I have ever met and it was on a beach in Vietnam that Oli and I had our first meeting! Granted, many of these friends live all over the world meaning we don’t get to see each other for after work drinks or a weekend night out all too often. But for me it has meant taking more awesome trips around the world, to China, America and even Geneva, just to meet up and hang out like we used to. And there is nothing better than travel reminiscing with the people that made your trip so great, over a nice cold beer.
4. To ‘find’ yourself
Having the freedom and choice to do whatever you want, eat whatever you want, and hang out with whoever you want, gives you quick lessons in what you do and don’t like. It forces to consider daily what makes you tick, what makes you happy and what makes you want to board a plane home to your parents!
You will learn so much about yourself while out in the wider world, away from home and often it’s hard to pinpoint how or what you found out. But you will feel a change in yourself, and you may well feel a deeper confidence and assurance in who you are.
Jade- I know that travelling helped push me out of the last layer of shyness I’d been holding onto since childhood, and showed me all the small things that make me happy in life, like banana smoothies, beautiful bus rides and travel.
5. To grow
Not only may you grow as a person, but taking a gap year can seriously make you grow up. The whole premise is that you are away from the comforts of home and those that usually take care of you, and you have to fend for yourself.
Whether you go on to University, or to leave home and get a job, when your gap year is over, the lessons you learned in taking care of yourself while travelling will be invaluable. Maybe you learnt to cook in a hostel in Australia, or maybe you learned how to navigate yourself through an entire continent and not spend all your money in the process, these experiences will definitely make you more confident about shedding your twenteens and becoming a bit more of grown up.
And with all the beach parties and hostel bars, you will undoubtedly find out how much you can drink… which will certainly be useful when you get to uni.
6. To understand the value of money
Managing your finances on the road, when fancy beach cocktails, diving trips, jungle expeditions and beautiful hotels are all veering for your hard earned cash, is the biggest lesson in growing up.
From working your butt off to save money for your trip, to making sure that money is spent on the most worthwhile experiences, you will learn a hell of a lot about the value of your cash.
Jade- The understanding I gained from my gap year and making £6000 stretch across 8 months and 11 countries, has allowed me to become an ambitious saver and made sure that when I was at uni I didn’t spend my whole loan on clothes and nights out.
This is definitely not true of everyone, as many of these reasons may not be, but taking a gap year has the awesome potential to make them true. Check in next week for Journey Count’s top tips for gap year saving and spending!
7. To open your mind
As well as opening your mind to the world’s beauty and awesomeness, a gap year will open your mind to its’ incredible people. Whether you are understanding the kindness of strangers in the locals and their offer of a free chai tea after a gruelling bus journey, or whether you are meeting the love of your life, or another traveller who simply has an incredible story to tell, you will meet people from all walks of life.
Furthermore, experiencing this, and understanding yourself a little better, can even shed light on your future self. The world and it’s many residents can show you different life paths and choices that you hadn’t previously considered and this could potentially change the course of your own life, hopefully for the better!
Oli- Many people talk about travel as being an education in itself and I absolutely believe that this is true, especially when you are a young and impressional 18/19/20 year old!
8. To experience
Unless you are lucky enough to live in say, New Zealand, activities like bungee jumping and white water rafting are not probably your typical weekend adventures. And even if you are a lucky kiwi, school and jobs probably prevent you from doing half the cool stuff there is to do in the adventure capital of the world.
Wherever you find yourself on your gap year, there will undoubtedly be something new to experience. Whether that is an adrenaline inducing sky dive, or seeing the underwater world for the first time armed with a snorkel or scuba gear, or even just trying new foods, you will go back home with a host of new experiences and memories, some that you may even carry on.
These are just 8 succinct and significant reasons that we personally believe in, and that were certainly true for us. There may be more for you, there may be less.
You won’t know the potential of how much a gap year will mean to you unless you make the decision to take one!