5 Ways an Adult Gap-Year Changed My Life For the Better
A gap year is the time you generally take before or after university to travel, live and work abroad, party, volunteer and discover more about yourself. An adult gap year, on the other hand, can be quite the transcendental experience. Or so it was for me.
So what’s the difference between a regular gap year, and the adult version? Well firstly, an adult gap year more often than not requires you to quit your job – in itself quite a major decision, especially depending on what stage your career is currently at. Many people will tell you this is a dangerous decision; that you’ll miss out on career progression, or that others will leapfrog over you in their quest for success. A word of advice – these people aren’t always right.
The second major difference is age. Between the ages of 18 – 22, around the time you tend to take a gap year, you’re still figuring out who you are and what you want out of life. I embarked on my adult gap year at the grand old age of 30. Do I have everything figured out? Hell no. But I can say for certain that I know myself, I know what I want out of life, and I know what makes me happy. And to be honest, I have my year of travel to thank for that.
The age-old irony is that travel helps you discover yourself. You and I both know this line is cheesy AF, but there is undoubtedly some truth in it. For me, my adult gap year changed the way I think about the world, but more importantly, it also changed the way I think about myself. Here’s how…
Do you believe in yourself? It’s a hard question to answer, but the only way to really discover the truth is to do something that scares you. That could be travelling solo for the first time, making friends with strangers, or in my case, quitting a job I loved to go travelling. In situations like this, you have two choices – sink or swim. The inner doubt in your mind will remind you of all the things that could go wrong, but what if you succeed? Imagine how good you will feel, knowing you felt the fear and did it anyway.
I did quit my job, and you know what I did instead? I took the plunge and began working as a freelancer instead. It was something I’d always wanted to do but needed the push to do it. It was scary for sure, but a year and a half later I can say for certain it was the right thing to do. And that’s because I now believe in myself. I know that I, and any of you reading this, can do all that you set your mind to. You just have to believe it.
Need to up your chat game? Get yourself out there and into the world. Travelling forces you to strike up conversation with anyone and everyone, and makes you altogether more adaptable and comfortable in social situations. I’ve never been socially awkward, but like most people have a habit of getting in my own head from time to time. You know that feeling when you’re in a conversation, but you also feel like a bystander watching from the sidelines, wondering if you’re actually interesting? Well, that was me, but when you travel you chat to everyone. Sure the conversation gets a little tedious from time to time (‘where have you been, where are you going’), but once you get over the social niceties, the real fun begins and you realise that actually, maybe you’re not so boring and socially inept as you thought!
Fitter and healthier
Let me tell you – sitting in an office for 8 hours a day ain’t doing you no good. Before going travelling I thought I was pretty fit, but once you trade 3 gym sessions per week for 10 hours a day of city exploring, hiking, swimming, diving, dancing, mountain biking or whatever else you fill your days with, you realise how little you’re actually using your body.
And my god, does it feel good to move! Sure you’ll ache for the first few weeks of standing on your feet all day, but once you get over this and you will start to feel GOOD. You’ll feel strong, capable, fit, and like your body can do anything you want it to.
Want to test your relationship with your significant other? Go travelling with them. It won’t always be pretty, but if you can make it out the other side your relationship will thank you for it. I embarked on my year-long adventure with my new husband, as part of a (very) extended honeymoon. Did we argue? Yep. Did he drive me crazy? Yep. Did we almost call it quits? You know it. But we also went through an experience together that was completely unique. We slept on deserted beaches. We swam with sharks. We endured 18-hour bus journeys, bouts of food poisoning, dices with danger. All the good and the bad – we went through it together. It was hard, but it also meant that if our relationship could survive this, it can probably survive anything.
Understand the value of things
How much do ‘things’ really matter to you? Well if you’ve been travelling, they probably won’t mean all that much. Once you’ve lived from just the belongings you can carry on your back, the material world isn’t quite so shiny and exciting. Pre year away, I’d say I was moderately materialistic. I liked buying new clothes and having new ‘stuff’. However, since coming home, shopping has just lost the appeal. It’s weird – I just don’t feel like I need to buy ‘stuff’ anymore. I’d rather spend my money on experiences that bring value to my life, such as language lessons or investing in my personal business. Maybe this is called growing up? Who knows, but it certainly feels…different.
Have you experienced an adult gap year, or would you be tempted to take a career break to travel and discover more about yourself? Share your stories with our social team for the chance to be featured, and help inspire others through your own personal experiences.