A punchy title to kick start the blogging of this super duper new site, but having just finished a marathon season of gap year talks and fairs all over the country – I feel a little punchy. So what better time to lie out the steps involved to ‘manning up’ (or ‘womaning up’) and taking a gap year. So with my auditorium head still on, lets get straight to the heart of the matter. The 4 W’s: why, when, what and where should you be taking a gap year?
Why Grabbing Life By the Horns Makes Sense.
Quite simply, why would you not take a gap year? It’s a proven fact that Universities, employers and even parents actually give ‘the gap’ their seal of approval. Providing you are going to do something constructive and not sit on the sofa for 12 months, which I think you’d agree – would be a total waste.
If you’re still in education, everyone knows that you are examined to within an inch of your life. There’s very little downtime or playtime – just work time. The media are constantly writing about teenage anxiety and depression, so does this not shout “Hold on a minute… get me off this fast train?” Because before you know it, you’ll be at University and aiming for a 9–5 job with 4 weeks holiday a year. Put the breaks on I say, wave the flag and take a look at what’s around you… learn something else other than the inside of a text book. Learn what your inner core is about, your own level or resilience and your own fighting spirit.
Maybe you weren’t able to put the breaks on after education and you’re currently in a dead-end job, sat there thinking “there must be more to life than this?” Well yes, there is. Whether you’re 20 or 50, anyone can take a gap year. This is your time. Close your eyes and ask yourself: what do I want to achieve in my “off the train time”? What type of adventure do you dream of? Don’t allow money to curb the breath of the opportunities out there, as you have the time to earn whatever it takes to fulfil your dream – if you set your mind to it.
Remember – the adventures you’ll have will be what sets you apart. You may have a selection of A* grades, or an ‘Employee of the month’ certificate sat proudly above your desk, but how many of you can say you’ve taken a selfie with one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Or spent time immersed in another culture? Your gap year experiences are what highlight your personality and make you stand out from the crowd. Trust me, this is what will add fairy dust to your CV and what you’ll end up talking about in an interview.
Is There Ever a Good Time?
The new trend is “anyone, of any age can take a gap year.” As established, a gap year is just a “hop off the train moment” which I believe to be true and brilliant. So when should you be embracing this brilliant moment?
Well, if you’re about to leave school and you’re sitting on the fence thinking, “I’ll take a gap year after Uni” then I have one piece of advice for you: hold fire for just a minute or two. Yes of course that’s possible, but have you thought of the extra obstacles you’ll have to deal with? Uni debt and the post Uni pressure of getting a ‘proper job’ – to name a few. All of a sudden working in Costa or delivering the village newspaper doesn’t have the same ring to it when all your friends are knuckling down, slipping into their new suits and heading off to grad interviews in the big PLCS. In a nutshell, taking a gap year after Uni is not impossible, it’s just not as easy. Consider taking it before Uni. All your new and awesome gap year experiences will set you up nicely for further education and will impress not only the admissions team, but also your new buddies in fresher’s week too!
If you’re thinking of hopping off the train a little later in life, you’re likely to land back at the following answer more than once: there’s never a good time. But that’s ok. There’s never a ‘good time’ to just quit your job and leave your house behind, so try timing it in with what’s happening in your life. Perhaps you were thinking of changing jobs or moving house anyway? In which case, a gap year at this time is the perfect excuse.
What to Do and Where to Go?
Now this is the fun bit. This is the moment you close your eyes and dream the big dream – what is it that floats your boat? Is it working your way up and down the gold coast in Australia, teaching English to indigenous tribes, or climbing to Everest base camp?
Another way to look at it, is to ask yourself what type of challenge are you after?
- Physical: (Climbing Everest or Machu Picchu)
- Emotional: (Teaching orphans in Africa or wildlife conservation in Thailand)
- Risk taking: (Venturing off solo, arriving in a foreign place and finding accommodation and a job all in the first week)
If you’re looking for inspiration, STA Travel have some great around the world flights and they are prepared to piece together weird and wonderful itineraries.
So basically, what would you like to know about yourself? The aim is to push yourself out of your comfort zone by doing something “extraordinary” but at the same time, having the time of your life and belly laughing around a campfire.
Are You ‘Man’ Enough?
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to get off the beaten track and be as adventurous as possible. Grab a globe and think big. These opportunities don’t come around too often, so you need to make the most of your moment, man up and get packing!