Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Gap Year

Taking a Gap Year is very popular here in the UK. Prince William even took one before he started University. It is quite common to take some time off after you graduate and go volunteer around the world. Travel. Experience life. Then come back and hunker down at school. It makes sense to me! I think this should be more common place in the United States. But hey, enough about that. How do you fit in a gap year anyway?

My husband took a Gap Year when he was 29 yrs old. He actually quit his job, grabbed his savings, and went to a language school in America. He was living his dream. He wanted to learn English and he was done putting it off. This decision has shaped nearly every major decision he's made since. His life would not be the same if he didn't throw caution to the wind and leave for America. Now he's been speaking English for 11 years and he's fluent. A shop attendant actually asked him last week if he was American! Many doors have opened for him since learning English.

There is much to consider when taking a year, or whatever time you deem appropriate, off of your professional life. Is it something you can fit in? I personally believe that if you want to do it, then you will.

I took some time out of school to work onboard cruise ships. I really loved this experience. I need to write more about it because I learned so much about myself and about the world while cruising the Caribbean. Not to mention it was some of the most fun I've ever had in my life. I also took 18 months to serve a mission for my church in California. It was an experience that shaped me to the core. I paid my own way and worked hard. These are experiences I'd never trade for millions of dollars. If you take a gap year you too can have experiences you'd never trade.

Let's see what Christy {The Departure Diaries} has to say about taking a gap year out of her professional life to move to Rome in 2013.
One major consideration that stops many people from an extended travel break is work. Jobs are important. Let's face it, if you're a working professional you've probably spent ages in school, and a lifetime at work in order to get to where you are on the proverbial job ladder. Perhaps you're like me: I've finally reached a good place in my work life - I feel valued, I have my own office and, even though I work too much and sometimes my job stresses me out, I like my job. I'm building a retirement fund. My student loans repayments are well under way, I've got some savings and my car is paid off. (Yes, the savings and the car will be used to pay for my trip.) I'm at a good point in life in general.
So maybe you think it seems foolish to take a sabbatical and jeopardize it all at this point. I mean, what happens if things change while I'm gone? What happens if I lose my job while away, because I'm away? 
Well. I happen to agree, on paper, it does seem like a dumb idea to take an extended trip at this point in my career. But the point I'm at in life is the same point that most people come to: Now is the time when many people take on some sort of larger risk - marriage, children, a mortgage, a business venture, etc.  
This trip is essentially the same thing. A gamble, a gamut, a business venture. That's how I'm looking at my gap year (gap six months) - as an investment in my future. Sure, it's a costly investment, but most are, and when push comes to shove, it's only money. Experiences and expertise are the true salt of life. In fact, it's what really matters. Experience is what makes us specialists, artists, cultivators, teachers; human. And this particular experience, for me, will help to grow me, my perspective and give me more to offer to my life and my employer in the future.
Perhaps you don't have an employer that will let you take a sabbatical. If so, do you really want to work for a company that doesn't value your well-being and support your dreams? Sure, jobs are hard to come by these days, but truly if taking a break is important to you, then you'll figure out the job situation when you get home.
Perhaps you're worried about how said gap will look on your resume. I say, a gap travel year is a year as an entrepreneur of life.
So what are you priorities? Decide. Decide what is important to you.
Are any of you planning on taking a Gap Year?


  1. No, I'm just going to live through other peoples lives by finding blogs of people who did what I wish I could do...I'm pathetic. My oldest leaves on a mission in 3 months. I only have two kids at home after that. I have a savings account labeled "Scotland" (That's where my husband served his mission) that has exactly .44 cents in it. I doubt we'll ever make it. But I am so glad to be able to read about people who did!

    1. Add another $0.44 and you'll double your savings! That's how it starts. Look outside the box for other ways to earn money or make your dream a reality.

      "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." ~Thoreau

      How can I show you more of what life is like here? What interests you most about Scotland?

      Thanks for reading Heather!

    2. Reading your blog has really put a fire under me to stop daydreaming and start doing. I don't know if it's because I'm turning 40 in a few months (all those feelings of not being where I thought I'd be) but there's something in me that just wants to experience other cultures and people. You're doing a great job showing not just the "fun stuff" of living elsewhere, but the nitty gritty too. I really appreciate your candor. First thing Monday, I'm emptying our change jar, checking the couch cushions and putting it in our "Scotland" account. You're right, I need to start looking outside the box! Have a great've brightened mine!


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