The gap year is becoming more and more popular in North America these days – taking a year off before or after university to explore the world (something that’s always been common in Europe and Australia).
Even though I travelled extensively in uni and throughout my twenties, I never would have felt comfortable taking a whole year off when I could have been working. This is probably mostly due to my Japanese/Serbian parents who were always very career path oriented with us. First everything we did was to get into a good university, then everything we did was to get a good job – you get the picture, it would just go on from there until we had grandkids basically, hah. I’m 29 now and I have to say, I’ve enjoyed this last year of travel SO, SO much. There are so many benefits to travelling when you’ve got some more experience (and money) under your belt. I have work experience, life experience and savings, but the most important thing I have to enjoy my travels? Perspective.
This is the year I’ve realized how important perspective is in life. I’d go so far as to say it’s the most important tool we can be given. If we learn how to use it, everything becomes so much clearer and, at least for me, life makes a lot more sense.
I’ve been able to look back at all the ups and downs of my twenties and see how each little puzzle piece fit together to get me to where I am today. Yes, there are some things I wish I had done differently (I don’t like to have regrets, but I think it’s important to identify when you could have made a different decision), but I lived the way I lived and everything led up to where I am now – even if I had no idea this was where it was going to take me. A lot of things didn’t make sense at the time, but now seeing the whole picture, they make this weird perfect sense and it definitely gives me the peace I need to not look back and move forward with light.
From working for years in an office, to having a serious boyfriend then husband (soon to be ex-husband), to getting those big raises that allowed me to finally BUY those expensive things I coveted (the ‘when I finally can afford ______, I’ll be happy’ syndrome – worthy of its own post!) – these plus a multitude of other things lead me to believe I was doing things ‘right’. Except…I was finally close to having the life I’d been taught was best and I couldn’t help but feel that the closer I got, the unhappier I was becoming; that dull, sinking feeling in my heart was now a 24h/7day a week thing.
It’s been a little over a year since I stepped off that path and I’m now able to look back and see those seven years after university for what they were: a time for me to build confidence in myself through my accomplishments with my career and realize the extent of my abilities, learn what it is to be loved and to have a partner, and most importantly – feel like I fully lived that traditional life N.A. (North American) life and know 100% that it’s not for me.
So to finish off – because this is a really long first post – taking my gap year at the end of my twenties was amazing because:
- I had savings. This was key to me being able to let any anxieties go and enjoy myself.
- I’ve had a ‘real’ job. I wasn’t so worried about what I was going to do after my travels were done. I have experience, references, and marketable skills. As my parents would say, I had something to fall back on. For someone with a history of anxiety, this really, really helped!
- I know what I like. From friends, to guys, to food, to my next travel destination, I have a better idea of what will and won’t be worth my precious time.
- I know my time is precious. I know how fast it can fly by (um, hello 29?!) and I don’t want to waste another minute of it. I say yes to more things, I don’t get upset over the little things, and I see each new experience as an opportunity I might never have again. I don’t put things off because something isn’t ‘right’ yet. This may sound depressing,but to me it’s enlightening: we only get older, have more responsibilities, less time, less opportunity; now is the time to wear that bikini, to take that trip, to pursue that passion. Not later, NOW. I can’t emphasize this enough! Let’s live in the moment : )
- I have perspective. I know what it’s like to work a 9-5 office job, have a closet full of designer clothes, a nice apartment, etc. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything and I know that I’m right where I should be. I can never erase all my doubts (oh anxiety), but this is the closest I’ll get. Whenever I’m in a situation and start to play the compare game, I think back to what I would be doing if I was back at home and that IMMEDIATELY makes me feel better every time. I’m right where I want to be.
So seriously, if you ever feel like you missed out on that gap year – follow my lead and go!
I promise you won’t regret it.