Why I'm Taking a Gap Year to Travel
In our society, many praise the concept of “Gap Year” but very few embark on it. There is a taboo, especially within the US, that deters individuals from acknowledging the power of travel and taking a break from the world they are so familiar with. There is this notion that one only takes a gap year if they are not able to live up to society’s standards and are looking for a way out. Although there might be some truth behind it, for I can’t speak to every case, many who take this plunge gain more out of one year than they did every year of their life combined. It is a hard mold to break from because I used to have this mentality. I frequently looked down on those who were not rigidly climbing up the ladder or immediately striving to accelerate in their career.
How did it spark?
It wasn't until during my semester studying abroad that the possibility of missing out on what the world could offer if I kept going down the same path dawned on me. I caught the travel bug and fell in love with visiting new cities, meeting new people, and experiencing new experiences. I got this butterfly feeling in my stomach that I never felt before. Nothing compared to this new profound feeling of finding myself and learning to let go while gaining more than ever imaginable. At that moment, I knew I found something special, something that had been missing from my life. Now, when I see pictures of new places, I'm filled with desire, making mental notes for my next destination. But actually being able to physically experience that place - seeing, smelling, touching and hearing it - fills me with immense wonder, serenity, and unparalleled joy. The potential for discovery, learning, and growth is seemingly limitless. In the best possible way, you are forced out of your comfort zone, to broaden your perspective, and to reorient your priorities. I love how traveling is able to expand our capacity for wonder, joy and appreciation for all the wonderful diversity this world has to offer. Within four short months, my thirst for newness - new faces, new cultures, new experiences, new landscapes - was heightened, my independence and self-confidence was at an all time high, and my personal growth and understanding was unimaginable. If all this happened in only a few months, what can a full year do? I cannot wait to find out.
What am I doing?
With this new view on life, I made a decision earlier this year to do something a little unconventional. Instead of jump starting my career and entering the next phase of my life, I'm taking a pause from the real world, to experience, the Real World (not the show lol). It was a big decision for me, one, a year ago, I would have never imagined making. My life up until this point has been very linear - grade school to middle school to high school to college with tons of internships to prepare me for my full time job once I graduated. I was on the path often traveled, detouring never ever crossed my mind. I guess you could say that I was the very professionally motivated type - constantly working hard to excel in school and reaching for opportunities that would help me climb the ladder. After I signed my full time job offer in the fall of my senior year of college, the wheels in my head were already turning to plan what the next 3, 5, and 10 years of my life would look like, with the main intent of growing my career and trying to attain the respect and power that you read about on Forbes. Although I'm not one to back down from an adventure or taking risks, I was too narrow focused on a single path to realize what else was out there, beyond the comfort of my surroundings in California. So the decision to take a gap year and putting all that on hold came as a huge shock to most, myself included.
What was I thinking?
For weeks after making my decision, I still did not know whether I had made the right move. It wasn’t the thought that I was traveling alone that scared me but more so the thought that I might be behind in my career compared to my peers and was missing out on a huge year of my life. I only told those close to me of my decision and they were all extremely supportive and praised my bold move. On the outside I smiled brightly and put up a front to show my excitement but on the inside, I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Did I just make the dumbest decision of my life? Or was I doing what I was meant to do? However, as time went on and the idea was slowly sinking in, I grew to appreciate my bold decision. Right now a year seems like a long time but in the grand scheme of things, it’s extremely minor, especially at my age. I have so many more years of my life to work and I know I can still achieve my goal even if I start a year later. I have faith that with everything I will gain and develop this year, I can achieve them even quicker.
What will this year look like?
Transitioning to this new lifestyle will be tough, but all changes are. Saying goodbye to everything familiar will be tough, but every goodbye is coupled with hellos. Letting go of comfortability will be tough, but being uncomfortable is the first sign of growth. Not knowing what will happen next week or even next month will be tough, but uncertainty is the story of life. I promised myself that I will put myself out there and not let anything hold me back this year. I am forcing myself to commit fully to the experience and live in the moment, appreciating everything that life has offered me. I want to ensure that I don't come out of this year long experience with any regrets. I know I will make mistakes. I know I will be home sick. I know I will be put in uncomfortable situations. I know I will not know the language. But I promise to invest wholeheartedly to making the most of every situation, every experience. I hope to come back in a year with a newfound appreciation for life, new skills and knowledge, and a diary and gallery filled with unforgettable memories.
My exact travel plans are a bit uncertain as I want to let go of my type-A instincts and let life take its course. Having this flexibility will allow me to appreciate every place I travel to and move on when I feel it is right. I have lived my entire life by a set of guidelines, following a strict timeline, so I want this experience to be the complete opposite. Hopefully, this will help me find a happy medium, allowing me to offer more to my career, my friends and family, my relationships, and every other aspect of my life. With all of that being said, I hope my journey will inspire you to be brave and take the leap of faith. I will try to update my blog regularly. My first stop is Malaga, Spain for a few months then the next destination is still to be determined but I definitely want to hit Australia/NZ and South America, potentially Asia as well. Although I may not know where I'll be, if you are planning any international travels, let me know because life has a crazy way of working itself out.
Before I go...
Before I end this lengthy post, I want to thank everyone for making the effort to see me and for thinking of me before I left, especially my mom. Thank you for letting your only offspring take this leap of faith because this opportunity would not be possible without all your love and support. It means the world to me!