Why Gap Years Are The Best Years

Why Gap Years Are The Best Years

The struggles and reward behind taking a year off from school.
67
views

While thinking of how to write about my gap year and the idea of taking a year off from the expected path, I decided I needed to think outside of my own experience and call on those that had not gone straight into school or a job after high school.

When I asked a group of friends I accumulated over the past year how they were doing in college, not one of them gave me the basic, “I’m great” answer. They all really dove into how their gap year prepared them well in certain aspects and how they are still struggling much like they were in high school.

Responses such as, "my gap year was the greatest thing I’ve ever done" and "I would not be where I am today without the struggles of the past year," really probed me to write about the power gap years have on individuals.

When I asked this select group of people if all high school seniors should take a gap year, their answers were almost all the same:

Yes, but…

“Only to those who are adventurous enough.” The idea of breaking up the monotony of life and taking a break after twelve years of learning is one of the major benefits of taking a gap year, but as one my friends said, “college might be a better choice for some people.” Gap years can be tough, and as an 18-year-old, it is extremely hard to plan an entire unstructured year. Although there are challenges one has to face by taking off a year to work or explore, the benefits are, in my opinion, beyond worth it.

My best friend, whom I met traveling through Asia stated it this way: “If a senior in high school has the ability and support to take a gap year than I would highly suggest one. It’s not that I figured out what I want to major in or a career that I want to follow, but I just know so much more about how I function and what I need to be happy outside of my family home, something I never thought of in high school.”

Each person has their own struggles and rewards surrounding gap years, but most of us can agree on these benefits of a gap year:

1. Passion

The chance to fill your time with what truly interests you is priceless. Part of my year was forcing myself to wake up, research, and act. I ended up finding a deep passion for the spiritual aspects of life and diving into urban farming in my hometown. By discovering these passions outside of school, I now have a whole new desire to learn about them through textbooks and professors.

2. Perspective.

I’ve seen a glimpse of the world after college, and boy I don’t want to go back there until I absolutely have to. As tough as school can get, I am grateful for the safe haven that it is in my life. So many college freshmen miss this and waste a huge portion of their first years in college. Not only do you get to see those living fuller lives with fewer material objects, you get the chance to see what produces joy compared to the empty objectives so many people chase after in our world.

3. Knowledge of Self

As my friend, Sam stated, “I have come away with a better understanding of myself, and that translates into a better understanding of people.” The world is huge and lifestyles are different. By seeing what makes people come alive, you get the chance to adopt certain habits in your own life or leave them where you found them, constantly discovering what brings you joy and makes you come alive.

4. Time

I’ve realized that in life I could always be doing more or being more productive. Having a year that required me to be nowhere and do nothing actually made me more productive and more willing to devote my time to those around me. Having the time to ask someone how their day was and truly wanting to listen has changed my relationships and the way I manage my time.

5. Confidence

There is something about getting lost in a foreign country and not knowing how to find your way home that makes it much easier to join a lunch table with a bunch of strangers.

6. Value of education

My friends who took a gap year all experience a sense of exhilaration being back in a classroom. The cycle of repetitive learning is broken and the monotonous routine of school has been replaced with a sense of freshness. One of my friends put it this way, “I have seen children starving for the opportunity to learn and it has helped me view education as a gift that I have the privilege to pursue and succeed in, but if I came straight out of high school I would have taken it all for granted.”

7. Acceptance

The present moment rocks. If I never travel again I would be perfectly content. By acting on my desires to travel and see the world, I realized that I was made not only to race around the world and have a fabulous time, but also to do it with people I love. I accept where I am in life and would never wish it away, but I would have never been able to say that if I had never left.

A friend of mine who was on my Missions team in Africa explained to me that, “in reality, this was not a year off. I had to be independent and struggle in ways so many of my other friends had never experienced, and maybe never will. But man am I grateful.”

Regardless of whether you stay home to work or travel as far away from home as you can get, taking a year to step onto the less beaten path pays off. I am thankful and blessed to be so supported and loved through that crazy, wonderful year. I hope that you can take this opportunity to explore something you never thought possible and continue to think outside of the box!

If you have any questions or concerns regarding taking a gap year or just want to share your sick stories from your year off, comment below or send me a message (I will forever be obsessed with gap year stories)!

Some of my favorite gap year organizations:

Holly Bull’s Center for Interim Programs- Holly works with you to plan your year, provides you with suitable programs, connects you with past alumni, and is there to help and support you through all of your future travels. I highly recommend having a consultation with her!

Other GREAT travel programs:

Youth International

Carpe Diem

Rustic Pathways

Where There Be Dragons

NOLS

Some of my cool gap year friends who helped me write this article!

Griffin teaching in a rural school in Northern India.

"Nothing exists other than the present, and thus you do nothing now you are unlikely to do anything later.”



Sam doing his thing in the Southern Islands of Thailand!

“Being able to travel is the best thing out there.”

Ari fighting to save the work through her activism work in Paris!

“It’s going to be hard and scary, but that’s the point, and it is so so worth it.”


Rachel spending time in Swaziland, Africa!

“Go travel the world, gain people skills, mature, and live life to the fullest (with a goal set in mind, that is)”.

Katherine getting comfortable in her home stay in Nepal.

“If you yearn for the thing, and the thing is positive, make it happen—don’t get hung up on the road blocks.”



Anna exploring the streets of Costa Rica.

"I guess this year really made me realize how freaking cool I am."

Thanks for reading!

All photo credits go to the talented Sam Von Mettenheim.

Popular Right Now

If You Give A Girl A Little Brother

You've given her the world.
23282
views

I remember back to my childhood, standing at the top of the steps yelling down to my parents "Why did you decide to have another child?" I remember riding in the backseat yelling "Mom, was I not good enough for you?" as my brother threw snow at me .

I remember crying when my mom made us share our first cell phone. I remember playing in a pool at a waterpark, and my dad couldn't play with me because my brother couldn't swim and needed my dad to be with him. I played by myself, thinking "They must have not wanted a girl when they only pay attention to him."

But now, at almost 22, I realized that the best gift God has ever given me was my little brother.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a pain in her ass.

Oh, he'll be annoying. He'll get in the shower just because you said you were going to. He'll start talking every time you do. He'll pull stupid pranks, he'll make you listen to bogus music, he'll make you watch stupid tv shows, he'll smell up the bathroom (and probably smell himself.) and boy, I promise there will be day's you will resent him. But he's just training for living with your husband one day.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a role.

As a big sister, I had somebody copying all my moves. If I did something, so did he. If I didn't eat something, neither did he. If I didn't like somebody neither did he. He was like a little shadow that did everything I did, so I was always motivated to make good choices and make him proud of me.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a rough side.

I wouldn't have done half the things I did if it wasn't for him. Play basketball in the drive way, spend hours on our bikes, spend the summer days in the pool, or down at the park. I wouldn't have learned that it's okay to get in the dirt and have some fun. I wouldn't have played half the made up, imaginary games we played every day. I wouldn't have played with Hot Wheels, or Lincoln Logs, or Leggo's. I would have played with Barbies by myself all day long, and what's the fun in that?

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her the best friend she'll ever have.

In the end, when our parent's both pass away, I won't be alone, because I will have my little brother. When the world gets tough, and everyone turns away from me, he will always be there. No matter where he end's up in life, I know he will drop everything and come running when I'm in need.

For Christmas this year, I bought my brother his first tattoo. We got matching tattoo's on our sides. Our lives our different now, because we're grown up and live on opposite sides of the state. But no matter where we go in life, if we look up, we will be looking at the same sun and moon. We are made up of the same matter, 'made' by the same people, and love each other more than I think we'd like to admit.

Alex is my true other-half.

Give a girl a little brother, and you made her whole.

Cover Image Credit: Abby Engel

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Solo Travel As An Extrovert Is Not Easy

Traveling alone, I can choose to view it as a difficult separation from other people or a journey of learning more about myself.

311
views

Life has a funny way of revealing itself and after my mom ditched me on our mother-daughter trip to Taiwan, I found myself on a plane headed to a country I had never visited where I didn't know a soul. (Disclaimer: I have relatives in Taiwan but had never met them prior to the trip.) I was excited for the adventure that awaited, fear not setting in of how difficult it would be not to just travel in a foreign country where I didn't speak or read any Mandarin beyond the very, very basics (Literally my vocabulary consisted of 10 simple words/phrases, one of which was the word for "apple" which isn't that helpful for getting around. I have since picked up a few more phrases.), but also be alone with just myself for company.

So much of who we are is influenced by the people around us. A large part of our identity comes the communities we choose to be part of and how we interact with others. But who are we when no one's looking? Who am I without the pressure of other people around me?

I am an extrovert. I get my energy from being around other people. It's not that I can't spend time by myself; I just prefer to be in the company of others even if we aren't always interacting the entire time. My best friend and I will even do independent activities together. (Once when we were hanging out, she was knitting and I was doing a puzzle. I swear we don't act like grandmas all the time.)

Although an extrovert, I'm still a pretty independent person who doesn't like to rely on others for help. But traveling alone in Taiwan, I don't have much of a choice. I'm forced to learn to navigate public transport myself and somehow survive with the basic English that Taiwanese locals know.

Learning to travel alone has been an emotional and difficult journey as this is the first time I've been on my own for this long. Although lonely at times, I've realized that loneliness is a mental state of mind. There is the Sanskrit saying, "Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha moksayoh" which translates to "As the mind, so the person; bondage or liberation are in your own mind." My mind determines my emotional state of being and perspective! Traveling alone, I can choose to view it as a difficult separation from other people or a journey of learning more about myself.

Through solo travel, I am slowly learning to be comfortable with my own company which has been the biggest challenge. I was never an only child, I've always had a roommate in college, and even when I study, I go to public spaces like coffee shops so I can be surrounded by people. I don't know what to do when it's just me and my thoughts all the time. (Especially during meals. Should I appear busy on my phone like all the other single people around me?)


Because when you're traveling alone, you're in charge. You have control. You can change the itinerary from moment to moment without anyone's approval. No one's holding you accountable. Spontaneity? Let's go. You can build barriers but you can also tear them down. It's fun, it's exhilarating. But it's also scary. And unpredictable.


Would I go on another solo expedition in the future? Preferably not as traveling is way more enjoyable when you have someone to share the experience with. It's the people, not the place who make all the difference on a vacation. Yet I do believe solo travel is an experience that everyone should embark on at some point in their life (to grow and learn more about yourself).


This trip has taught me to find spontaneity in the fear and excitement and I've learned to embrace discomfort and unpredictability. To travel with not just my mind and logic but my heart. There are so many unique experiences, if you overthink too much, you'll lose your chance.

I've found that when I am alone, I become more vulnerable and open to meeting new people and having more offbeat experiences. I say yes with zero hesitation. Certainly, there are friends I made, hikes I climbed, streets I meandered, and epiphanies I had that wouldn't have transpired had I been with my mom or a group of people.


Traveling alone, I am now more confident in myself and am ready for the next wave that life throws me. Because I've learned that once you overcome the fear of being by yourself, getting lost (which you will), or accidentally eating meat as a vegan because you didn't understand the signage (I'm sorry!), the world in all its vast infinity can be pretty great. And there are some things that you can only learn on solo travel.

Related Content

Facebook Comments