Planning an Adult Gap Year? Remember These Five Important Things
Inside: 5 Must have Tips for planning a gap year.
My friends insisted on asking me the same question about my adult gap year over and over, ignoring the fact that my gaze dropped, my voice trailed off, and my heart did backflips out of my chest and kept rolling down the sidewalk. Sheepishly, I always had the same answer, “I don’t know.”
I didn’t know where I was going to go on my newly announced adult gap year, because I didn’t know how to start planning it.
When I first started planning my adult gap year, I was a bit of a mess.
See, while other people might go to our good friend Google, and look for advice on the topic, I'm more of a "charge ahead, I'll figure it out" kinda gal.
And don't get me wrong, I figured it out, but I can easily name 17 mistakes that a little research would have helped me avoid.
But I bet you wouldn’t have guessed that there was an upside to me being completely unprepared, and low on information…
My adult gap year was utterly original.
I didn't do what anyone else was doing, because I had no idea what anyone else was doing. My gap year was a product of my experiences, my desires, and my mistakes along the way (and boy were there some mistakes).
One of the most exciting things about talking to people about their own gap years is seeing their planning process, and looking at all the ways they approach the process.
While "adult gap year" is an all-encompassing phrase, the most essential part of planning your gap year is to know that there is no wrong way to plan your gap year, as long as you are planning your gap year.
With that in mind here are five tips for ensuring your gap year planning process suits you.
Your gap year doesn't have to be a year long. It can be as long or as short as you want. I have a friend who set out to take a year off of work, but after about 8 months she got tired of the constant traveling and decided to go home. She doesn't regret the gap year at all, and it put her in a much better mindset as she returned to her former job than when she left. Meanwhile, I'm entering year two of my gap year, with no end in sight.
Planning a gap year doesn't mean saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. I'm a big fan of Stephanie Perry, so I love shouting from the mountain tops that she spent about $14,000 for her entire year-long travels. And what makes her story even more impressive was that she didn't have all of that money saved before she left, so Stephanie found ways to make money along the way so she could continue her journey as long as she wanted.
You can go anywhere you want on your gap year. Quitting your job to live by Lake Minnetonka and write for a year? That's a gap year. Traveling to 1 or 2 countries for 7 months before you head back home to your old job (or a new, better one)? That's a gap year. There's no wrong way to do this. A gap year doesn't have to mean that you traipse through a new country each week, or you spend 6 month periods in service in new parts of the world (but if that's your thing, do that).
It doesn't have to look like anyone else's gap year. Travel is an intensely personal experience, but with all of the information being thrown at us daily (Hello Instagram and FB), sometimes it's easy to forget that one of the most compelling reasons to take a gap year is to do what you want to do and explore your own desires. Planning a gap year is all about tapping into those experiences you've been thinking about, but you’ve buried deep behind your day to day living, and seeing how to make those experiences come alive.
A gap in your resume won't stop you from getting a job when you get back. Throwing it back to Stephanie Perry again, she went on a gap year, got a job when she came back, then went traveling again, and will get another job when she is ready. Employers are open to resume breaks as long as you have a compelling story of why you took that break. And a gap year is a helluva compelling story.
More Gap Year Guidance: 3 Must Haves For Your Mid-Career Gap Year
As an adult, you have the pleasure (and the pain) of making and being responsible for all your own decisions. And planning a gap year is no different. Since you're gonna be accountable for the choices you make while planning your gap year, make sure you're reflecting the choices that you want to make, not the ones that your community or family does, or the ones that look good to outsiders.
No one else gets to, or has to, live your life, so don't forget to live it for you. Going on a gap year and holding on to other people's expectations, or being swayed by someone else's visions or input defeats the whole purpose of the gap year. You might as well stay at home if you're not doing this for yourself.