Gap years are becoming more and more popular as times change and the world becomes more connected. A gap year is when a student takes an extended period of time between his or her studies to go and travel the world, educating him or herself in different cultures, different lifestyles, different climates, different languages and so much more. Gap years can often be more educational than studying theory in the classroom. The practice of traveling the world and exploring the many different peoples and places that exist out there can truly be one of the most educational and life-altering experiences of your life. Personally, I cannot speak highly enough about gap years. You will learn things that never even were within your awareness. You will step outside of your comfort zone and grow in ways that you could never have even imagined. There are endless reasons why you should take a gap year, but here are just 15 of the most straightforward and significant reasons that you should:
15 You Will Explore Different Cultures
Many people grow up in fairly homogenous cultures. With the exception of few major international cities throughout the world, the majority of cultures grow up within one singular culture. This lifestyle often makes us believe that our own customs and traditions and life view and way of life is “normal” and that the way that others live their lives is “abnormal.” Traveling the world on a gap year will completely change your point of view on this subject. As you explore different cultures, you will start to enjoy certain things that they do. Sometimes, you will dislike the things that they do (but you will also have a broadened view of life so you can dislike without passing harsh judgment and, instead, just understanding that different people do things differently). You will try new foods, participate in different traditions, celebrate different holidays and so much more. All of these cultural experiences will greatly broaden your worldview.
14 You Will Broaden Your Worldview
As you open your eyes and your mind to the many different places, cultures, languages and beyond of the world, you will slowly but surely begin to broaden your world view. Life will no longer only exist in the little bubble that you grew up in. You will see that the world expands far beyond the street that you grew up on or the small high school class that you grew up, studied, played and graduated with. Exploring different places and different lifestyles and different perspectives on life will inevitably cause you to see bigger and bigger and wider and wider views of life. You will understand how to see things from another’s perspective. You will begin to see that every story has two sides. You will understand the complications that exist in the world. It will become clear to you that conflicts such as those in Israel have no one right or wrong answer. The Israelis and the Palestinians each have a legitimate viewpoint and it will make things more ambiguous but also more worldly. You will lose any narrow-minded views that you may hold in exchange for a much wider and broader worldview.
13 You Will Unknowingly Study Anthropology, Foreign Language, History and Art
Without ever even realizing it, as you travel the world you will become more and more and more educated about so many different things. You will study anthropology as you explore the way different cultures live, communicate, work, socialize and eat. You will study a foreign language as you listen to and slowly learn the languages (even just simple phrases) from different countries. As you explore the Acropolis or the Pyramids of Giza or the Temples of Angkor, you will, of course, study and very actively learn history. As you browse through the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you will most certainly study art and art history. Without ever even realizing it and without sitting through any boring lectures, you will educate yourself in so many different ways. Traveling can be one of life’s greatest teachers if you allow yourself to grow and learn as you move from place to place.
12 You Will Learn About World Politics
Another way that you will become educated deeply is about world politics. Without knowing, just conversing with people from different countries and different cultures, you will slowly begin to understand how governments and politics work in different places. You will learn about the past histories of these countries and you will understand where the majority of its citizens hope to expand the future or where the divide in the society exists. You will understand why when one political leader makes one decision in one country how that inevitably alters the course of the rest of the world as well. You will begin to understand how interconnected we all are and how no country or culture can be separated from the whole. You will start to see how wars can take generations to recover from and how corruption can devastate an entire continent. You will undoubtedly learn so much about the way the world works and how different things run different countries. Traveling is an unbelievable lesson in the politics of the world.
11 You Will Step Beyond Your Comfort Zone
Many people tend to live their whole lives in one place. They find a comfort zone and never leave that place. And while comfort zones are exactly that, comfortable, nothing ever really grows there. Stepping outside of your comfort zone will open your eyes to so many new places, people, and things. You will explore and, eventually, embrace the unknown. You will try things you never dreamed of and befriend people who are totally unlike you. Everything about your routine will change and you will sometimes find yourself in uncomfortable situations. But all of these actions will teach you to grow and grow and grow. The moment you step out of your comfort zone, you will stretch and expand exponentially in all directions. Your mind, spirit, and soul will grow in ways you couldn’t even imagine from your original place of comfort. If you take a gap year, you will return a completely changed and maturely grown, new person.
10 You Will Explore The Beauty of This World
This vast world that we live in is teeming with beauty around each and every bend. Mother Nature has one trick after another up her sleeve and she never fails to impress. See the turquoise waters of the seas or the snow-capped tips of the mountains and your breath will undoubtedly be taken away. From the sloths of Costa Rica's jungles to the elephants of Kenya, there is abundant beauty surrounding us everywhere. Whether you're visiting the Grand Canyon or climbing to the top of Mount Everest, there is beauty wherever you visit. Taking a gap year, you will be utterly amazed by the amount of sheer gorgeousness that exists around the globe. There is hardly a place possible to visit that isn't overflowing with beauty if you truly open your eyes to see it. Diving deep into the ocean or flying high in the sky reveals to you even more of this beautiful world’s hidden gems. There is so much beauty to see and explore in this world and there is no better time to do it than when you're young and free.
9 You Will Lose Your Biases and Prejudices
We all have them. No matter how open-minded you may be or how much education you have received, everyone has biases and prejudices that they either struggle to repress or openly proclaim. It isn't something that most of us are proud of, but it is something that inherently exists within our societies. The globalization of the world is slowly changing this, but there really is no better way to open your mind and broaden your worldview than to step out into the wild unknown. Go visit a place that you are afraid of and I promise you will be forever changed. Go visit and speak to the people that the media tells you are “evil” or “terrorists” and see if you can understand a different point of view. We tend to judge and label very quickly in our lives, which can easily lead to prejudice and biased views and seeing the world will drastically change this. Visiting different cultures and societies, understanding different religions and lifestyles, all of this will be your greatest educator as well as your greatest defense against bigotry, hate, and narrow-mindedness.
8 You Will Learn That Everyone Is Inherently The Same
Along the same lines, we tend to believe that our way of doing this is “right” and anyone else's is “wrong” or just “weird.” We often believe that the unknown is the enemy and other people are inherently different from us. This is one of the things that I love the most about travel: it teaches us that we are all truly the same inside. Of course, people differ in small ways. Lifestyles and cultures can even differ in great ways. However, on the inside, we are all so similar. We all want to give and receive love. We all want to feel connection and happiness. We all want to get on with our lives in peace and serenity. We all want our children to grow up in a better and safer world. We all want acceptance and approval. We all want to find inner peace in some way. We are all so connected, so inherently human, regardless of how different our lives may seem.
7 You Will Feel Free And Alive
There really is nothing more invigorating and exciting than packing a bag and going off on a journey of exploration and inward reflection. Taking a gap year means you will have plenty of time to slowly meander through the world as you make up your itinerary as you go based on recommendations from your new friends and sites that have always been on your bucket list. This open-ended journey will make you feel so wildly alive and free. You won't have any deadlines or people to answer to. You'll have only your own wants and needs to fulfill. You will try daring new adventures that never even crossed your mind in the past but seem like they absolutely must be done in the moment. You'll wake up each morning with a blank slate before you and fill it with memory after memory as the days progress. Your life will become open-ended with endless possibilities to make you feel even more free and alive.
6 You Will Become Independent And Self-Reliant
I don't believe there is anything in the world that is quite as empowering as travel. Travel teaches you to trust your intuition and rely on yourself. It teaches you how to make decisions independently and how to think fast and efficiently. Taking a full year to go off and explore the world educating yourself as you go is such an empowering and life changing experience. You will learn who you can trust and who you cannot. You will learn to trust yourself much more. You will have to take care of yourself in every way possible and you will learn how to do that with grace and style. You will learn so much about how your own mind works and what frightens you or makes you tick. You will learn how to follow your own feelings and how to bail your own self out when you need. And these are all invaluable lessons that will transfer over into every aspect of your life, either on the road or back home.
5 You Will See How The Other Half Lives
As you explore this great and vast world, you will undoubtedly meet people who come from very different social and financial classes than you. You may encounter those who live in extreme poverty. You may encounter those who live in extravagant wealth. You will start to clearly recognize the extreme discrepancies between these classes throughout the world. Learning how the other half lives will undoubtedly put your life into very clear perspective. You will start to become grateful for all that you have. You will likely long for more equality across the globe and for any chance to make a positive change. Seeing the quality of life of others but also the level of happiness that they may possess can be truly eye-opening and life-changing. Seeing these extreme differences in the way that people live will also very likely cause you to introspect about your own life and your own extreme privilege.
4 You Will Understand Your Own Privilege
The very fact that you are reading this article places you in a class far above the rest of the world. You have the life-altering skill of being able to read. Not only that, but you speak and understand English, the language of the world. These two factors alone already place you far above the majority of the world’s citizens. The fact that you’re even considering going off and traveling the world puts you in the tiny, tiny minority of the world’s population that allows you to travel for pleasure. This is a huge luxury. The fact that you have enough money to even consider this endeavor is yet another huge factor that places you into the minority of privileged people. You come from such extreme privilege and you are one of the luckiest people in the world to be born into and/or raised in this privilege. Seeing how others live will help you to understand this and to stop taking it for granted. Seeing how others live will make you eternally grateful for the privileged life that you already have.
3 You Will Return Unbelievably Grateful
A gap year is such a pure privilege. Those who are lucky enough to travel and explore the world undoubtedly return home a completely changed person. Having seen so much, met so many interesting people, explored so many rich cultures and learned so much, you will return back home overflowing and overwhelmed with gratitude for all that you have, all that you have learned and all that you have experienced. As a truly life-altering decision to take the time to go get lost in order to find yourself, you will learn so much about yourself and your place in the world and how truly lucky you are. You will find gratitude for the sheer fact that you are able to study and receive education and also for the fact that you have the funds to go off traveling for an extended period of time. A gap year will show you all that you have and open your eyes to a world of gratitude and that will make all the difference.
2 You Will Grow Up
There are few other experiences in this world that really teach you so much about life in the way that traveling does. Traveling teaches you gratitude, respect, and tolerance. Traveling teaches you modesty, intuition, and independence. It truly sends you on a journey toward growing up and growing into yourself. Traveling takes courage, discipline, and open-mindedness. It takes you outside of your comfort zone which is the place where you will truly learn the most about yourself and life in general. There is no other experience quite like it. It shakes you to the core and draws you in and out of altering stages of euphoria and complete discomfort, but in the end, you truly feel grateful for them both. Because these experiences make you grow and grow and grow. They alter the way in which you view the world and all of the people in it. They make you rethink your own life view and reconsider all you “knew” to be true. And before you know it…
1 You Will Be Changed
Taking a gap year between your studies while you're young and free with nothing tying you down will literally change your life. It will change everything about you. You will see the world differently. You will feel empathy where you once felt fear. You will hold dear memories where you once felt emptiness. You will feel love where you once felt disdain. You will learn how to take care of yourself and you will truly understand how privileged your life is. You will see things that you wish you could forget and create memories that you never will. You will meet new friends from across the globe and you will experience cultures completely different to your own. Everything about you will change because your entire life view will change. The world will slowly become more familiar right before your eyes and you will suddenly understand every human that you encounter. Traveling the globe will truly alter your life and change you in so many ways for the better.