In my opinion, taking a gap year at any point in your life is worthwhile for many reasons. You may have just finished your A Levels and are wondering whether you should go to University or go straight into the job market; you may have finished university and want to take a break to think about your career options before you jump into the first 9 – 5 job that comes along; or you may have been in the job market for a number of years and have become disillusioned due to lack of work / life balance.
Whilst I have never taken a gap ‘year’ as such, I have taken 6 months out from my career to allow me to indulge in my obsession with travel, and to also give me some thinking time to make decisions about my life/career.
When I was younger I always longed to travel, and during the summer holidays in my second year at University I got to travel to China and SE Asia with two of my friends for 2 months, then after I had finished university I took a month long G Adventures tour to Central America. Most recently, I decided to take 6 months out after I had finished my chartered accounting exams to see some more of the world.
Gap years can be frowned upon by some people as they see them as running away from your problems, however I think they can provide you with a great deal of perspective on life, build your confidence and allow you to learn new skills.
In order to get the most out of your gap year you need to think about what you want to get out of it and make a list of what you want to achieve so that you can refer back to the list regularly. Your list may look something like this:
- Travel to South America, learn conversational Spanish and hike the Inca Trail.
- Travel to India and work for a charity for 2 months.
- Travel to New Zealand – hire a campervan, skydive, woofing.
You can make your list more detailed as you go along, adding information on how you are actually going to achieve the above things.
Out of a well-planned gap year you can hope to get out of it many things including:
- A new sense of perspective on life and what is important – seeing immense poverty in India, making new friends and being submersed in different cultures certainly gave me a new viewpoint on my own problems.
- Gives you the thinking time needed to consider future career options – hitting the pause button for a few months on my career gave me the time and space to think about where I wanted to be in 5 – 10 years, rather than trying to think whilst still in the corporate culture.
- Gives you a better understanding of other cultures – travelling to many different countries has allowed me to relate better to others, and has generally made me a better person.
- Provides you with the opportunity to be independent and builds your confidence – travelling independently rather than on an organised tour, or packaged holiday certainly built my confidence to deal with problems head on.
- Allows you the opportunity to learn new skills and languages – Whilst on my 6 month career break, I did my PADI diver refreshers course (after not diving for 5 years!), completed a rock climbing course, did a Indian cooking class, and learnt some conversation Spanish – ‘Ola!