Here’s Why I Took A Gap Year At 25 (And Why You Can Too)
Society has a way of setting out a timeline for our lives, and a gap year tends to slot in between finishing school and starting university. If you miss that boat, you probably miss your chance at a gap year, right?
I was greeted with incredulous looks when I decided to take a gap year at age 25, a few years into my career as a newspaper journalist. People thought I would be a wash-up when I returned, a period of unemployment doesn’t “look good” on your resume, they’d say.
But I was far more interested in living a life that felt right, rather than one that looked acceptable on paper.
My gap year also had a Rotary Exchange element to it, which would see me work for three months at a newspaper in the UK, so it wasn’t going to be a full 12 months of Contiki, cocktails and couch surfing.
So, why did I wait so long to embark on a year of travel? Let’s just say, when I was 18, I was a pretty big wuss. I was in a comfortable, long-term relationship, I lived at home, and I’d probably never even washed my own clothes before.
For me, university life was basically just an extension of school life and, once it was over, I slotted into a career as a cadet journalist at a local newspaper.
I adored my job, but after three years in the role, I was itching for something more. It was the Rotary Exchange offer that spurred me to travel for a year, but life circumstances had changed, too. I’d grown up a little, though looking back from age 29 I can safely say I still had a healthy amount of immaturity). I had lived out of home, I was single, and the thought of jumping on a plane and going on my biggest adventure to date didn’t scare me senseless, it invigorated me.
I started the year with a month-long tour of Europe. While there were heaps of “regular-aged” gappies on the bus, I wasn’t the oldest person there and I fit in comfortably with the group.
After this came the exchange element of my year abroad. I stayed with families from Rotary who generously opened their homes to me, and took a few shorter bus tours around other parts of Europe.
If you think you’re too old for a gap year, my advice is you’re not. In fact, I met a 35-year-old from Austria who had finally got around to taking his gap year.
It’s true that travel is the only thing you can buy that will make you richer. My gap year saw me paraglide over the French Alps and dive off the back of a yacht into the impossibly blue Adriatic Sea. I drank Guinness snuggled up in an atmospheric bar in Ireland, walked the Spanish Steps in Rome, and played in the snow at the highest point in Europe.
Itwasn’t all picture-perfectm of course, and when things went wrong – like the time I spent several days alone in a backpacker’s hostel with a chest infection or when my credit card stolen – I was glad I had a bit of life experience behind me.
Long-term travel doesn’t just provide awesome memories and stories, it gives you a new sense of self confidence, too. Since returning home, I’m more open to taking on challenges and to letting go of the need to live my life by anyone else’s timeline.
(Lead image: Tyler Nix / Unsplash)