The gap year is becoming an ever more popular way of breaking up that academic life. With thousands of would-be students deciding to defer that decision on college a whole 365 days to explore the world a little, build on their experiences and gain new life qualifications, you can rest assured that you're certainly not alone if you're mulling over a little hiatus from the lecture halls. It should hardly be a surprise that we're all for that sort of thing at LBW. And we really feel like the stats are with us.
Exams over? College applications bearing down? School done and dusted?
Where to next? Surely, it's a quick summer before hitting the books again, right? Surely, it's straight back to erudite sessions of Latin or math or history or whatever it is you've got your nose into? All that, or straight into the Rat Race to join the world of work and a 9-5?
Well, it doesn’t have to be. There is a third option. There's the gap year.
Before you gasp and gulp and dread what others will think when you announce you'll be hopping around Southeast Asia or touring the misty jungles of Central America for 12 months instead of going back to college, let's take some time to dispel the myths about the whole thing.
To gap year or to college? That is the question…
You're Not Alone
So, let's pretend for just a moment that you're totally fed up of leaking biros and smudging fountain pens. Let's pretend that you simply can't stand the idea of entering the high-school library again for 4 am finishes and long sessions of mind-twisting algebra. Let's pretend that there's simply no way you could countenance another teacher telling you what to do, or another alarm clock buzzing in your ear to tell you're late for that lesson…again.
Let's pretend all those things because there's a high chance they're actually true. We're not saying you hate school. We're just saying you might feel like it's had its fair share of your life for the time being. And there's only so much staring out the window at the sidewalks and streets you can do before the draw of the big wide world gets too strong to ignore, right?
Well, first off, if that is how you're feeling post exams, you're most definitely not alone. Okay, so we might not have official numbers for the amount of people opting to take a breather from academia since the gap year fad first became a fad in the 1970s, but the US-based Gap Year Association does report that interest in gap year fairs has increased to the tune of almost 300% in recent years.
That's mega. MEGA.
Hopefully it's also enough to convince you that you're not in some small minority of folk who've been considering skipping learning for a while. There are loads of students just like you, feeling just like you. (Oh, and if you still don't believe the stats, you only have to look at your average LBW tour group to see how many so-called gap yearers there are involved!).
The upshot here is that gap years are popular. Probably more popular than you know. If you're thinking about taking one, you can embrace them, enquire about them, read about them and get loads of info about them. Other people are considering it, so why can't you?
Shed That Gap Year Stigma
We've long felt at LBW that there's loads to be said for stopping and smelling the roses. In fact, it's our raison d'être, if you will; our whole philosophy. Life Before Work – the clue's really in the name.
We're not ashamed of that. We're not ashamed that we champion those uplifting moments when the goose bumps come out under the glowing sunset of a Thai island, or when the hairs raise on the back of your neck because you've just ridden your first rolling surf swell on the beaches of Costa Rica. We're not ashamed of it because we fully believe in it. We've felt that rush and know how important it is for a life lived to the full.
That's why we really don't like the stigma that surrounds gap years. Some people will say they're just a year off. A year that delays all that necessary work that you need to do before getting a career. A year that's pointless, a little fun and downright expensive. Don't believe a word of it. We don't.
And it's not just us saying that. The research agrees. First off, a whopping 98% of respondents said that their gap year helped them develop as a person. A mega 84% said gap years helped them develop skills that will aid them in a future career. And 97% of people said that their gap year increased their maturity more generally.
Now if that's not sounding the death knell for the stigma of the so-called "year off", we don't know what is…
And anyway, why should you feel guilty about thinking of hopping out of college to experience something different for a while? Why should you feel guilty or strange for wanting to stretch out your years of youth a little? Other people are doing it and loving, why can't you?
In the words of The Boss himself, "glory days well they'll pass you by." And they will, it's up to you to squeeze every last drop of life from them!
Gap Years Could Actually HELP You In College
Mhm, this is where news of gap years gets really good. Not only does the research show that taking a break between high-school and college will help you develop personally (see above). It also reveals that it can help you thrive in the college situation itself.
Those students that are umming and arring about taking the plunge and skipping a year will be happy to hear that as many as 73% of people who've done just that have reported that the experience increased their readiness for college.
That's a broad thing to say, granted. It could mean any number of things. It could mean clearing the head after the hard exams of high-school. It could mean cranking up the relaxation levels to find the Zen needed to get through another bout of tutorials and lectures. It could mean simply ridding yourself of the uncertainties of life before plunging back into its flow.
Whatever it is, the point is that gap years seem to actually aid preparation for the next step in any academic career.
And there's more. If you're not sure about what you want to study, then you can always look to a gap year to help. More than half of people asked by the Gap Year Association replied that their extra time they took made it easier for them to decide exactly what it is they want to focus on in college.
Come on, where better to balance the benefits of law school or medicine than on the sandy beaches of Vietnam? Where better to discover history epochs or cultures or languages that really interest you than along the rugged coast of Croatia or the salt-washed beaches of Brazil? You get the idea.
Gap Years Could Also Help You Enjoy Later Life
So, they help you with college, they help you develop in maturity, what other magic can gap years work? Well, consensus is also growing that a hiatus in academia for traveling the world can have huge knock-on effects on a person's happiness in later life.
Let's start with the career. It's one of the pillars of a happy life for many (even if we might prefer a hammock and a good sunset). It's one of the most important aspects of living a fulfilling and balanced life for loads (still thinking about that hammock…). Naysayers will claim that gap yearers are unnecessarily disrupting the flow of their learning life and damaging career prospects. Unfortunately, the research doesn’t agree.
A whopping 88% of people reported that taking a gap year had directly led to them being more employable in later life. And what's more, a majority of employers also reported that gap year veterans were, on the whole, more mature, outgoing and easy to integrate into a professional environment. Take that, naysayers.
Another study also revealed something even more startling: That gap years can even raise college results, arming you better for those job interviews when they finally come. Yep, one study found that those who'd opted not to go straight back into the education system were significantly better performers in exams than those who'd not taken a break. Perhaps it's all those books they dusted off while kicking back on the beaches of Bali, eh?
Let's Not Beat Around The Bush: GAP YEARS ARE FUN
Enough of stats. Here's the reason you've really been waiting for: Gap years are fun.
They really are. We've led people into life-changing moments of happiness as we've traveled the world with them on those breaks between high-school and college. We've seen people weep at awesome sunsets over the Adriatic Sea and watched as people unravel the mysteries of Thai Buddhism. We've watched people develop newfound loves for food and cultures. We've watched prejudices break down in the face of a Vietnamese smile or a Balinese hug. We've helped folk learn to surf, to speak, to express themselves.
Through it all, we could only really have ever come to one conclusion. Again: Gap years are fun!
Whether you opt to find yourself on the deserted islands of the Pacific Ocean, or wander the misty jungles of Panama, head to the cascading rice paddies of Southeast Asia or seek enlightenment between the gold-glimmering stupas of Thailand, you can rest assured you'll get the dopamine flowing while you do it.
If all that's still not enough to help you answer the question as to whether to gap year or college, then be sure to head over to our tours page. Photos, videos, testimonies and more might help you make up your mind about whether you'll be trading in lecture halls for blissful beaches in 2018. Also, we're always around to help with deciding on destinations and tour packages, just be sure to get in touch.
"Rich is a traveler, writer and filmmaker who's always after somewhere new to go. He's been hopping around the globe since 2011, from Poland to Paris, Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh. He runs several travel sites of his own, from Ski Eastern to Live Krakow to Crabs Move Sideways. When he's not planning his next trip, he's usually listening to 50s jazz, surfing in Wales, skiing in the Alps, or just swigging (too much) great craft beer."
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