The gap year is a wonderful concept, but it’s not very common in the United States! The idea of a gap year is to take a year off from your studies or work to go travel the world. Students often do it after college, but it can be done before college or during college. You can even take off after you’ve been working to go travel for a year. Any way that it works for you, the point is that it gives you the chance to travel and therefore learn and grow and step outside your comfort zone. I haven’t taken a gap year in the traditional sense, but I have traveled extensively and for very long periods of time. And I’ve met a lot of folks in my travels that are on their gap year. It requires some serious dedication and planning, but you end up with a life experience you’ll always appreciate. So if you’re considering taking a gap year, or you’re an American student who hasn’t ever heard of this concept (don’t worry you’re not alone!), then read on for the 10 reasons that you should take a gap year!
Reasons to Take a Gap Year
1. Learn some responsibility
When you’re out traveling on your gap year, thousands of miles away from home, away from anyone to bail you out or take care of you, you’re forced to take responsibility for yourself. It’s a learning experience that you can’t get in any other way. A year is a long time to be out traveling, and by the end of it you’ll be so much more responsible and mature than when you left, that you will hardly recognize yourself!
2. Appreciate diversity
If you never leave your home country, you will never see what life can look like in other parts of the world. By traveling for a year, you expose yourself to so many other different ways of living, different types of people, different cultures and beliefs, and you’ll learn how important that diversity is!
3. Not all classrooms have four walls
There’s a big emphasis on the traditional education structure in the U.S., which is definitely a good thing (I’ve gone all the way through my Master’s degree, so trust me I’ve bought into that model). But there’s a whole lot to learn that you can’t get from a classroom. Give yourself the opportunity of a lifetime to learn by experiencing the world.
4. Learn to budget
This is a really great life lesson, which is to learn how to budget for a year of travel. You won’t be able to work while you’re out there traveling, so you have to plan ahead. You’ll spend a few years working and saving your money for this trip. And you will plan your trip and figure out how much money you’ll need for plane tickets, bus tickets, hostel accommodation, food, and activities. Learn to budget and you’ve got the toughest part of adulthood mastered!
5. Become a better job candidate
You’re going to be a better candidate for a job if you’ve got a gap year on your resume. You bring something very special to the job, a broadened sense of the world, a unique perspective, creative ideas, and the ability to work well with a diverse group of coworkers. Instead of seeing the gap year as delaying you from advancing in your career by taking you away from it for a year, think of it instead in terms of all the ways it positions you better to advance yourself!
6. Expand your horizons
The thing about your horizons is that you never realize how narrow they are until you expand them and then look back. There’s always more to experience and learn and understand about the world. And until you get on the plane and get far away from home, you won’t realize how much you have to learn!
7. Challenge yourself
Don’t get me wrong, travel isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It’s hard sometimes. Maybe you’re stuck in a bus terminal overnight, or you end up in a hostel that has bedbugs, or you lose your luggage, or you’re robbed, or you get lost in a country where you don’t speak the language. These setbacks and obstacles are actually the greatest learning opportunities in your travels. Expect them and embrace them, the reward is in overcoming the challenges.
8. Stand out from the crowd
As I said, taking a gap year isn’t as popular in the U.S. as it is in the rest of the world. We’ve still got some catching up to do, but in the meantime you have the chance to stand out from the crowd if you’re one of the interesting few who have done it. Go take a gap year, do something interesting with your life, I promise you wont regret it for a second!
9. Your mind is a sponge
When you’re young and impressionable, you should go see the world. Whatever it takes, go out there and see new places, meet people who are different from you, and form an impression of what the whole world is like, not just your home. You never know how travel will influence the path your life takes, but it will always open you up to opportunities you never had before.
10. Get inspired
Taking a gap year gives you the chance to fill your life with adventure and interesting people and new experiences and all sorts of novelty that gets your mind thinking in new ways. One of the many ways that travel has changed me is that it has given me so many ideas for things to do with my life and new ways to approach situations. Get out there and travel so you can get inspired!
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