After graduating college, I was a bit unsure about what I wanted to do as a career. I knew that I wanted to travel the world and see and learn new things that I hadn’t before. I signed up to teach English abroad in Italy, where I soon found that I was not cut out for the TEFL classroom and that I was doing better overall as a freelance writer.
I like to consider that time my “gap year,” since the United States doesn’t really have that infrastructure for its new high school and college graduates. Along the way, I met a large amount of young people who were doing very much the same thing—taking some time to explore the world and find out more about their place in it.
What I soon found out was that after their gap year was over, they stopped traveling altogether. Even the young, unemployed people from the United States or the UK planned on going back to work and forgoing travel for several years. I was disheartened by the fact that my experiences abroad while I was in my early twenties might be the only ones I had for the rest of my life.
It’s only now as I am solidly in my late twenties that I realize that the gap year can be a wonderful thing, or it can keep you from visiting new places. I don’t know how many times I have been encouraged to travel “while I’m young” and I don’t have any responsibilities. It’s as though once I actually “grow up,” I’m not going to want to travel anymore.
You don’t have to give up wandering once you get a little older. As much as I think it is great that having a gap year promotes some exploration and encouraging recent grads to check out new places, it does tend to put a restriction on what you should do with your life. For me, after a year of traveling after college, I was far from done. I continued to work remotely and chose not to settle down right away in order to see more. Travel became a part of my career, and in between the times when I had to work, I would spend my time in a place I hadn’t been before.
So what are some ways you can keep from having the gap year as your one experience abroad? Here are some tips I’ve found helpful.
Take your work with you
Whether that means teaching English, volunteering for a few months, working as a digital nomad, or finding a job that allows you to travel, one of the biggest travel killers tends to be a job. We can’t all take our work on the road (or want to), but it can help a lot if you have a gig that is portable. Your work doesn’t have to be based in travel, either. I met entrepreneurs, financial traders, and marketing experts all traveling and making a living.
Be a little homeless
My fiancé and I are looking to settle down now in the New York area, but for almost two years we didn’t have a dedicated place we called home. We would stay with our parents, rent an apartment in a place we wanted to visit for a month or two, or visit friends in other locations. While at times we wished we had our own space, it also allowed for flexibility to travel and to enjoy a new part of the world.
Spend money on experiences—not things
There will always be bills to pay and expenses that you have even while traveling. However, the money you have for fun is yours to choose how you want to spend. It might be tempting to get a new wardrobe of clothing or to purchase something expensive, but that money that you spend on stuff can weigh you down and keep you from traveling. The more cash you put away for later instead of buying the newest video game console, the more you’ll have to spend on travel.
Not everyone can take time off or afford to travel, but if you would like to make steps toward spending more time on the road and less worrying about whether you’ll ever go abroad again, there are options to go beyond the gap year and enjoy a life seeing new places.
What are your thoughts on going beyond the gap year?