A Gap Year, a break, a full 365 days to do whatever ones 18 year old self desires – what could be better?
While traveling in Sri Lanka I was amazed at just how many
kids young adults my age I managed to stumble upon. Many of which were taking one of those mystical years off that doesn’t seem to happen here in America.
After hearing about scuba diving in Thailand, teaching kids how to serf in South Africa, backpacking through China – I must admit the thought of college was losing its appeal, and fast.
Thanks to all of my time spent trapped on Sri Lanka’s public transport system I had a lot (and I mean A LOT) of free time to spend contemplating life. Sometimes that meant trying to figure out the next time I could shove my face with another egg roti, but other times it meant thinking about is taking a year off from everything really worth it?
1. Gain Confidence
Traveling, especially at a young age, can help to skyrocket confidence levels – something feel so many young adults seem to lack these days. There is something about the “Wow, I did that” feeling one gets one they figure out how to navigate a foreign transportation system, or climb a giant mountain, or even just be away from home for a period of time. The challenges faced when on the road can push people to their limits, but once overcome the feeling of self pride that floods the body is like non other. Confidence is so essential in todays society to be successful and in my opinion there is no better way to get it then traveling.
2. See the World
Currently there are about 257 countries in the world. 257 regions to be explored, yet in reality how many will you see in your life time? Americans tend to live on a rat wheel constantly racing toward some non existent finish line, but in reality they are going no where. Flying through school, to get the degree, to get the job, to have the family, to raise the kids, to retire – leaving little room for adventure and free time.
The time between graduating high school and starting college is a rare window. A legal adult with no family of their own yet (hopefully), no real jobs or responsibilities, nothing to tie them down. Leaving them the perfect candidates to be able to just take off, see the world, and live their lives.
Many people argue that graduating college is also a good time to do this, but I argue the contrary. Most college graduates are swimming in debt and desperate to put their newly acquired degrees to good use with a new job. They also have to worry about phone bills, insurance, significant others, etc. All extra worries that most high school grads are still blissfully ignorant too.
Kids jobs are to be students. To go to school every day, soak up knowledge, and become educated citizens. That can be quite tiring though and at the end of senior year of high school many kids are worn out, beaten down, and ready to throw in the towel on the whole education thing. Not exactly a good mentality to have when heading into arguable the four hardest (and most expensive) years of schooling most people will ever go through.
Taking a year off to refresh, recharge, and rejuvenate may be exactly what these overlystressed, anxiety ridden kids need. Not only will this be beneficial mentally, but also could help to raise motivation and improve grades once they return to school.
This is the biggie. Traveling cost money, and a lot of it. Plane tickets, hotels, food, activities, souvenirs, the list can go on and on. Coming straight out of highschool let’s be honest almost no kid can afford to just globe trot the world on their own for an entire year. Not to mention the fact that the idea of a “Gap Year” entitles that it is just a break and at the end (theoretically speaking) you will return to finish your schooling. College is not cheap. In fact, it is quite the opposite as proven by the newest statistic from USA News that claims the average college student graduates with a whooping $30,000 in debt.
Money cannot repay for the experiences you will get traveling the world, but going into college with an empty bank account could set you up for a future filled with student loans, debt, headaches, and roman noodle meals.
Let’s be honest, not every parent is exactly thrilled by the idea of a gap year. Letting your 18 year old run off to do whatever it is they please while all their friends are hard at work in college getting a head start on their degrees does not strike everyone as a good idea.
3. Going back to the real world
The whole idea of a break encompasses the fact that it is temporary. Eventually the fairytale year would have to come to an end – and then what? Go back to the days of sitting in rock hard desks, spending hours cramming for tests, and making more flashcards than you know what to do with? No thank you.
In my opinion this the biggest con/fear that comes with a Gap Year, the danger of not going back. I know myself, and coming home has always been the absolute hardest part of my trips. I love traveling, I love the adventure and challenge of it all and after a whole year I fear as though I would not want to ever go back to the real world.
Personally, I feel as though not taking a Gap Year was a good decision for me. I still made time to travel this summer, but now I am ready to get working on my degree. Had I taken a year off I fear I never would have want to return! It also helps my wanderlust to know that with my degree I will be able to study abroad in the near future.
Gap Years can be extremely beneficial, giving confidence, experience, and mental clarity money could never buy. However; they can also backfire leaving you broke, unmotivated, and behind – it all just depends on the person. Just because a Gap Year was not for me, does not mean it may not be the perfect choice for you!