Being from America, the idea of a “gap year” was rarely discussed or encouraged. I didn’t even realize I was on a gap year until someone pointed it out.
I discovered gap years are much more common amongst people from Europe and Australia and I was excited to have created this opportunity for myself. With the recent announcement of Malia Obama’s plan to have a gap year before attending Harvard, discussions have exploded with benefits and reasons to take a gap year.
Based on my own experience, I want to share with you the reasons I think you should, not only take a gap year, but travel during your gap year.
1. Make yourself more hirable.
Deciding to take a year off before or after your studies shows your ability to take risks and your willingness to get out of your comfort zone. You also develop skills in planning and coordinating logistics (i.e. flights, transportation, accommodation, etc). Inevitably, you’ll also have to deal with things going wrong and learning from your mistakes.
Most companies (the ones worth working for) value experience abroad, so it can only benefit your resume. Plus, if a company you want to work for is international, they might need someone who is willing to move abroad at some point.
2. Learn to spend money on experiences, not things.
One thing I have noticed about myself abroad has been the decrease in spending money on material items. Back home I always “needed” a new pair of shoes or the latest gadgets. Now that I am abroad, it’s easier to prioritize where my money goes.
My main priority is to travel and have fun experiences. Buying clothes or room decor is not going to help me continue traveling. Who knows, you might spend time backpacking through Asia and only have room in your pack for necessities.
3. Become more independent.
Traveling during your gap year will make you grow and become more mature. If you’ve just graduated high school, this might be the first time you are away from your normal support system of family and friends. You will be responsible for your travels, health, safety and overall well-being. There will be times when you need to make quick decisions and move on if the result isn’t what you hoped. It’s a time of pure growth and self-discovery.
4. Expand your mind.
Spending a year around individuals who have different viewpoints will show you new ways of thinking. I’ve spent time around people who think differently than me about relationships, politics, business, ethics, religion, culture, education and health. It has challenged my own views and opened my mind to so many new possibilities.
It’s refreshing to be around people who can respectfully have different opinions than you. I mean, there are six billion people in this world, we’re bound to think differently.
5. Immerse yourself in new cultures.
Taking a gap year is a great way to learn about the world and other cultures. A lot of times we get accustomed to the bubble of our own society and it’s important to learn about other ways of living. During my gap year I spent time in New Zealand and Australia, and even though they are overall fairly similar to America, it was fascinating to learn about their unique culture or the different vocabulary and phrases.
Now that I’m in Bali, it’s an entirely new culture to me and I’ve had a great experience learning the language and cultural norms.
6. Figure out what you do and don’t like.
One of the most popular reasons for taking a gap year is needing a break from school. Maybe you feel burnt out from years of forced schooling or have no idea what you want to study. Having a gap year can help you figure out what your interests are and different ways of living life. Some people have even found a break reignited their passion for learning.
I took my gap year after I graduated University and it helped me discover an entirely new career path. I was destined for the corporate ladder until I experienced entrepreneurship in Bali. Traveling presents opportunities to try new things and discover new things about yourself.
If you’re feeling burnt out, lost or just want something new in your life – take a gap year. It’s important to explore other options and give yourself a mental break.