Gap Year: Should you do it?

A gap year is a break in the routine. A time to switch things up and explore. Should you do it? Should you take a gap year is the question of the article, and by the end you will get a better idea if it’s right for you. We will talk about the pros and cons of taking a gap year.

The pros of taking a gap year include rediscovery, gain valuable life experience, network opportunity, financial boost, and deprograming. The cons of taking a gap year include obstacles, waste of time, falling behind, fear of missing out (FoMo), and the financial drain.

Gap Year Pros

Taking a gap year can be beneficial in a multiple of ways. It is a chance for rediscovery, gain valuable life experience, an opportunity to grow your network, boost your finances, and deprogram childhood habits.

Rediscovery

Throughout my school career math was a breeze. Solving equations and getting the right answer was satisfying. I was placed in the advanced math classes because of my ability to solve. On the contrast, I was in the basic english classes. At one point the english teacher called home because I wasn’t reading All the Pretty Horses or participating in class. On a scale of 1-10 my interest for reading and writing was a 2.

This year alone, I have read 27 books already, with no end in sight. Also, as you are aware you are reading a blog, my blog. My interest for reading and writing has completely took a 180. What happened you ask? I started reading and writing what I wanted to read and write.

What sparked my interest into the language arts was studying interesting “successful” people outside of class. One commonality amongst them all, a reading and writing habit. It was difficult in the beginning because I was finding what I enjoyed. Also, learning the skills took some time, which is an ongoing process.

When I dropped out, I thought i’d never go back to school. After spending some time away and discovering what I enjoyed, the thought has crossed my mind to return, but with a different plan. Stay tuned.

Valuable Life Experiences

A gap year can be a great opportunity to travel. Whether you just graduated high school or finished up your degree at university, take the opportunity to explore. No more sitting in the classroom, this can be your time to learn by experience. Sign up to Workaway and WWOOFING to get volunteer experience on an organic farm, a hostel, teach english overseas.

When I dropped out of college I went and got two jobs. My plan was to buy a sprinter van and convert it. I saved up about $3,000 and decided to do some solo travel first and get some experience solo traveling. On June 27th, 2018 I booked six nights at the Ember Hostel, my first experience in a hostel. After 24 days on the road, in total, I booked 4 hostels, 4 flights, 1 bus, and hitchhiked to my cousins catching a ride with Ziv, she was on a road trip across America visiting from Israel. Two and a half months later, I was back at the Ember Hostel as a worktrade volunteer. My plan is to stay until the end of August 2019, and move on to the next hostel.

It’s funny to think back before my solo travel, how much I have changed and grown. I didn’t even know what a hostel was a year ago. One of the valuable life lessons I have learned: with a little creativity, there are an infinite amount of ways to make a living. What do you want to do, how do you want to live? There is probably someone living that way.

You have time, why rush getting into a career. Travel can be a resume builder. Showing your future employer you have travel experience can give you an edge from the others. A gap year is a great time to meet people and build your network.

Network

Along the way, you will meet new people. Doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you don’t waste your gap year in the basement of your parents house, you will meet new people.

Throughout my time working at The Ember Hostel I have met and made many friends. Most of the people I have met while hostel traveling are in their 20s to lower 30s, going through the same life discovery as myself. This is the time to find out what you enjoy, rediscovery. Many times I have found myself in deep conversation talking with others about what to do in life. Conversations that I feel only happen while traveling.

If you don’t plan on traveling and go straight to work, you will still meet new people. Coworkers and management are a great place to start. For the first 5 months after leaving college I didn’t get a job or do much. My days where spent working out and watching YouTube videos in my parents basement. I became a little depressed and didn’t know what to do, I called it a quarter life crisis, but really I was just being lazy. I finally convinced myself to get a job, The depression went away because I was working and meeting new people.

We are social creatures, to much isolation and we go crazy. Get up and go to work, make friends, and do what you want.

Financial Boost

Depending on what you do during your gap year, finance can be a pro or con. Obviously, if you are hanging out in your parents basement not working or doing anything, it becomes very easy to spend money. This was me, I was taking the law of attraction to the extreme thinking I could attract money without putting in the work. It wasn’t until I got off my metaphysical high horse and started working that my finances grew. A gap year is a great opportunity to grow those dollars and payoff some debts.

Deprogram

In the United States, our school system starts with preschool, then kindergarten, and then grades 1-12. For the first 18 years of your life there is a routine of go to school 5 days a week and have 2 days off. Enjoying 3 months of “freedom” and then back to 5 days on, 2 days off. You didn’t get the choice, as you were just a kid and that was how things happened. Your entire life has been this routine, it’s time to shake things up with a gap year.

The world is random, you can not predict what tomorrow brings, heck today may be your last day. I don’t want to go down the philosophical rabbit hole but.. “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” Time away has helped me realize that the world is your oyster. You are the only one who is in control of your life.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs

This quote has been on my bedroom wall since the beginning of college. Everyday we are told what to do and how to live, if you follow that advice and never question dogma, your living in a box. You may be working a shitty job at the moment, it’s your response to situations that determines the quality of your life. You ever had a coworker that dreaded coming to work? Everyday they are misserable and complaining about work. That person is not in control of their life. We could be doing the same job, and be having completely different experiences. How do you want to live?

Recently I completed Life is What you Make it by Peter Buffett, Warren Buffett’s son. I would highly recommend giving it a read.

Gap Year Cons

Taking a gap year does have some cons which we will cover. The cons of taking a gap year include obstacles, waste of time, falling behind, fear of missing out (FoMo), and the financial drain.

Obstacles

You have been teetering with the idea of taking a gap year, but there are obstacles in the way. More-so when you are young, one of the obstacles could be your parents. Your parents want what is best for you, sometimes what they think is best for you is not what you want. There is a conventional path of go to school get a degree, land an internship hoping it turns into a career, and live happily ever after. Challenging that dogma can be difficult, especially if it’s with you parents.

It wasn’t easy telling my parents I didn’t want to go to school anymore. There were a lot of times I questioned myself listening to all the outside noise from others, saying I was making a mistake. Taking a gap year is going to test you, but you will gain valuable skills, and gain more confidence as you continue clearing your own path.

Waste of Time

I have mentioned a couple times throughout the article the period of 5 months I spent not doing anything. I know what I am capable of, during that 5 months I knew I was wasting time. It is very easy to be lazy, what is difficult is wanting to work, especially after going to school for most of your life. School leaves a bad taste on the subject of work and study. You have to train yourself to enjoy the process. Again, do what you want and the process becomes more enjoyable.

Falling Behind

A gap year, will put you back some time. It can make you feel behind from all your peers. It is a different path to take, and no one path is the right path. So what if you are behind a year, the pros out way the con for falling behind. What if during the gap year you learn that you don’t like the path you were taking, whether it be academic or professional. It’s better to find out sooner than later.

Fear of Missing Out (FoMo)

Along with feelings of falling behind, is the fear of of missing out, also known as FoMo. It’s difficult to see your friends and peers having a good time without you, you want to be apart of the fun. I dropped out twice, I went back because I was having FoMo. I wanted to be with my friends, but I was at home. FoMo made me go back, even though I didn’t want to. While I was back I didn’t want to be there. It’s funny how that works.

To help reduce feelings of being left behind and FoMo, get off social media. Social media is a waste of time for most people and is more a net negative. They are designed to keep your attention as long as possible with psychological mind tricks. Get off it, with your new found free time find what you enjoy doing.

Financial Drain

It depends on what you do during your gap year that will determine the cost. Traveling can get pretty expensive, but there are ways to travel for cheap. Read my last article How to Travel with Only a Personal Item before taking a weekend trip. Or, for long term travel read Finding Travel Work where I write about how I got a worktrade opportunity at a hostel in another state. There are ways to travel in luxury and there are ways to travel on a budget.

Gap Year Summary

We have gone through the pros and cons of taking a gap year. Here is a quick bulleted summary of what was discussed.

  • A gap year can be a time to rediscover what you enjoy
  • It can give you valuable life experiences which can help you with future endeavors
  • Grow your network, make new friends
  • You could go straight to work and gain some financial knowledge
  • A gap year can break down dogma we have been born into
  • There will be obstacles to be aware of
  • If you don’t do anything the gap year could be a waste of time
  • Fear of falling behind and FoMo are heavy during times of a gap year
  • Depending on what you do in the time, it could get costly

Keep Moving Forward

Robbie Knecht

Leave a Reply