“I’m so jealous. I wish I could do what you are doing.” “I’d love to travel.” “You must have some secret.” These are just some of the responses I’ve had from people when I tell them that I’ve spent years traveling – as though there’s some big secret to taking time off and doing what you want. The big secret is that there is no secret. I, and others like me, simply made a decision to do something we wanted. You should do it too.
Society has our life planned out for us: school, work, home, children, retirement. That is the path we are supposed to follow. But that doesn’t lead to a lot of exploration – internal or external. As the world becomes more globalized, companies are looking for employees who speak foreign languages, understand other cultures, know how to use new online media, and are comfortable living outside their comfort zone.
You can learn some of these skills at school but there is no better way to learn them than by taking a break, getting some life experience, and traveling around the world. Taking a gap year will help teach you skills you can use in life or in a future job. However, if that isn’t enough of a reason to travel, here’s some more reasons to take a Gap Year:
It’s not expensive.
There is a false assumption that travel is expensive. But there are a million ways to save money while you’re traveling. There are plenty of ways to find cheap flights and cheap accommodation without sacrificing comfort. Stay at hostels, couch surf, eat locally, take trains, find local deals, and get discount cards. Travel is really cheap.
There’s a recession out there.
With the world economy in a tailspin and companies slashing jobs, there is a lot of economic uncertainty in the world. Avoid it all. Go travel. If you quit your job, sell your stuff and travel, you won’t have to worry about it. In fact, prices are dropping as the tourist industry tries harder to get people to go overseas. Come back when the economy is better. Let others worry while you have fun.
You meet a lot of people.
Not a day goes by where you don’t meet people from all over the world who are doing the same thing you are. You’ll meet locals who will take you around and open their homes and city to you. What more can you ask for in life than meeting wonderful people and creating a network of friends that encompasses the globe?
You learn about yourself.
Travel helps you figure out what makes you you and what you really like and dislike. Forced to fend for yourself, it is do or die. You have to adapt to your surroundings, meet other people, make your own decisions, and plan your life. These skills help you grow and will make you a much better, more confident person (and worker) when you go back into the “real world”.
You only live once.
Why are we here? I have no idea! But I do know that spending fifty years of your life inside an office might not be part of the plan. Taking a break from work, or a gap between school and work, allows you to explore the world and yourself, and have a bit of fun. It can recharge your batteries, put life in perspective, and help you sort out what you want; even if that is to sit in a cubicle for fifty years.
No one ever comes back from a gap year sorry they went. Some people never come back, others come back realizing what they wanted was at home all along. But importantly, everyone comes back different. Minds get opened. New things get tried. New perspectives are formed.
Moreover, employers are increasingly looking for people who have a global perspective and are comfortable dealing with other cultures and places. Think of your time away as another year in school or as an internship. Except that you make the curriculum, and it’s a lot more fun.