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Gap Year to Travel

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Should I take a gap year to travel?

Hello Michael,

It is my impression that going to university before you are ready is a good way to waste a lot of time and money. I have known many people who rushed into a post-secondary education, graduated at 22 years of age, and then realized that they have no interest in doing anything related to what they studied — or, even worse perhaps, they find that they chose a topic of study for which there are very few jobs.

These people fill up the employee registry of coffee houses, bars, and restaurants the world over.

There will come a point in your life in which your parents should play a vastly more limited role in your life. It is amazing to me how many people live the life their parent’s want for them when young and then they are cut loose at 25 years old, with nothing to build on. These are my observations.

I took another route with going to university. I first I dabbled in it, I went to this school for a semester, that school for a semester, took a couple of gap years off to travel, and then I found a school that I liked and a subject that I wanted to study. I did not graduate from university until I was 27 years old, and I have no regrets — I took time off to figure myself out and to shed down my options until I had an area of study that I could do something with.

Now I can find work whenever I want to in archaeology, teaching English abroad, or with a magazine or newspaper. If I kept with my original course of study — marine biology — I would probably either be miserable doing endless data entry or not doing anything related to my field of expertise.

In point, I have found it an excellent option to take a gap year or two off between high school and university to try a few different things, dabble in other areas of study, and figure out what you like to do and if there is a life that can be made from it. There is nothing wrong with going down one path just to stop short, turn around, and try another. It is my impression that this is how people choose the paths in life that are best for them.

Gap years are essentially just space to be flicked, non-committal, and exploratory.

It seems as if parents wish to urge their children into going to university right after high school because when they are finished with their studies it is is signal for them to cut the reins — it is a signal that they have finished their job raising you and that you are prepared to go out in the world on your own tether.

For me, traveling has been a great modus operandi for me to have the space to figure things out for myself and to try new things, work different types of jobs, study in many different places, and to put myself on the path that I am still on.

Maybe traveling will work for you too, maybe not. Try new things, go on new adventures, live other lifestyles — most people end up returning from their travels vastly more prepared to solidify themselves on a course of study and work that leaves them fulfilled.

Or at least they know that the option is always there to try something new.

Walk Slow,

Wade

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Original question about taking a gap year off to travel

Hey Wade,

My name is Michael and I’m 17 years old, currently living in Belgium. Just so that you get an idea of my environment, which influences my overall attitude to life quite strongly. I’m finishing school this year after 12 (mostly) unpleasent years of it. My parents want me to go to university immediately, while I am really resisting that idea. It’s been my wish for almost two years now to take a break between school and uni – a year, or two. Who knows?

I just found your site after typing “perpetual travel” into Google, and immediately afterwards had a row with my mother(no connection between the two, I think). It degenerated into her telling me to save myself before trying to save the world(as I had mentioned that I wanted to volunteer during the break year/s), etc. I just don’t want to go from a cramped country – Belgium – to an even more cramped country where I’m thinking of studying(the Netherlands).

What do you think about this? My idea is to spend a few weeks next summer at Rainbow Gatherings across Europe, and then become a bit more static – volunteering on WWOOF farms, probably in Spain, to ride out the winter. I did some maths, and I think I could live for that year for the same amount of money that my parents spend on feeding and clothing me, and giving me pocket money, etc. Especially if I stay on WWOOF farms, working for food and board and not spending money on city shit and whatever else is needed to keep up social status.

This isn’t an idea to discard any possibility of a university education, but that’s the thing, isn’t it – university isn’t the only place where you get an education, is it? My thoughts seem to be very disjointed… If you got the gist of my little rant, could you give me a bit of feedback?

Thanks,

Michael

PS – I admire you very much for doing what you’re doing. Perpetually traveling, not alone but with a family? That’s great, it really is. And just out of curiosity, what are your hubs?

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Filed under: Education, Start Traveling, Study Abroad, Travel Help

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap