As Americans, the concept of gap year was foreign to us until we took our first backpacking trip in Thailand and Laos. During that month-long trip, we met plenty of Brits and Aussies in the midst of their gap years – a year off in between high school and college or graduation and the working world. In the good ole’ US of A, we’re basically given three options upon finishing high school – go to college, get a job, or join the military. Gallivanting around Southeast Asia for a year is definitely not on the list.
In the lead-up to college graduation, we’re expected to focus all of our energy on the job search. Once again, taking time off to travel the world is simply not a priority. Once in a job, it’s time to work hard and move up in your career, get married, buy a house, and pop out a few kids – you know, grown up stuff. During this time, travel is limited to holidays at home and 1-2 weeks of annual leave – hardly enough time to properly explore the world. Finally, after 40-50 years of work, we can get out there and see the world. If you’re like us and think this seems like a raw deal, then maybe you should take a page out of the European/Australian book and take yourself a gap year.
Just like moving to China, deciding to take an entire year off to travel non-stop is not an easy decision. There’s a lot of planning involved – saving money, creating an itinerary, budgeting, getting visas, etc. With a successful gap year (actually it was 14 months) under our belts, we’re happy to share our experiences and help prospective travelers get out there and make their dreams a reality. Taking a gap year is not conventional or easy, but it can be the experience of a lifetime if you do it and do it well. Decide if you should take a gap year, read up on how we saved and planned for ours, and then get some travel inspiration by seeing what we managed to do with 14 months of travel in the US, Southeast Asia, and China.