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  • Writer's pictureJamie Clark

Why you should take a gap year after high school

Updated: Jul 15, 2023


Taking a gap year is an education that no classroom can emulate.


When in life will there be a better opportunity to leave everything behind?


When you don’t yet have full time Uni or work, mortgages and bills that need paying, or the time-consuming task of parenting to think about.


We are all so preoccupied with shoring up our credentials, and following the traditional path towards entering the workforce that we become oblivious to the fact that this outdated route lacks depth and variation in what we experience during our early adulthood.


People are more qualified than ever, yet less employable. Why? It is the absence of fundamental interpersonal skills. Travelling pushes you so far out of the restraints of your comfortable environment that you will be tested socially, spirituality and mentally; A kick ass CV does not mean anything to employers unless it is reinforced with basic people skills. We live in a time where emotional intelligence can be deemed just as important as a high IQ.


As you fly into an unknown frontier, being thrown into a vortex of dislocating situations where all familiarity is stripped away, will lead you on a journey towards certain intangibles that are key elements into opening the doors of a powerful, rewarding and sincere life.


You will be humbled by seeing what a small part of the world you occupy. Being exposed to a myriad of different cultural values and beliefs will be the catalyst for you appreciating that each person that passes by you has a life just as vivid and complex as your own.


It can be daunting at first; navigating through strange lands where even the air will taste different. But transcending language and cultural barriers through body language, smiling, and learning a few key phrases will instil a real sense of achievement and independence.


You will forge friendships with honesty and courage. Laughing, exploring and dancing with a new group of strangers each day, ones you quickly can call your best friends.


Travelling in developing countries can be a revelatory experience, one in which you learn to put all daily tasks and challenges into perspective with those who tirelessly work for the most basic necessities to live. Their daily struggle will remind you to build on your own good fortune and to use your potential for the positive.


You will wake up early and see the sites before the swarm of tourists fly in. You will begin to smile when you get on the wrong train because you know the best way to get to know a place is to get lost in it.


You may find new found appreciation for inexpensive hobbies like hiking, swimming, reading and star gazing that have a universal quality.


You can wake up one morning and ask yourself “what do I feel like doing today?” and you don’t have to apologise for it. You are granted the freedom of bold spontaneity, the complete liberty of answering to nobody but yourself. You become comfortable with your own company, familiarising yourself with who you are, where you shine and areas which may need fine tuning.


You will unearth your own criteria for what constitutes ‘adventure’, finding beauty in seemingly mundane things like hiking to see a sunrise from a spot you learned about by chatting with locals, catching glimpses of the Eiffel tower in a distant suburb you cycled to one morning, playing a game of soccer with locals on the beaches of Costa Rica.


There is no need to succumb to the pressures of external expectations; you don’t have to climb mount Everest, hitchhike through Central America or jump off a 30m bridge in Bosnia to make you feel like you are a true adventurer. When you have pushed yourself outside your comfort zone, you will know it, you will feel it. Embrace the discomfort, go look for it, it will be these moments that make you feel truly alive.


In our day to day life, we are often so caught up in routine, that we never think about the things that matter to us, to ponder on the big questions of our existence and the universe. Taking a year off can be a much needed halt, that allows us to treat the soul, diminish our anxieties and even regain enthusiasm for tertiary education.


You can’t unsee or undo these experiences.

Whilst your year abroad may go unacknowledged on your resume and doesn’t physically make you one year closer to finishing your degree. The year you decided to go explore becomes the source of your maturity and growth, even when you don’t expect it to be.


It could be the new founded confidence in handling difficult conversations, opening up work opportunities because of recently gained knowledge of a foreign language.


Your experiences become your most valued commodity. You see the shallowness in materialistic values. Creating the memories of a life time.


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From December 2014 to November 2015 (11 months) I took the time to travel in South, Central and North America, Europe, and a bit of Asia. This was a significant period for me and I would highly encourage all recently graduated high schoolers to strongly consider taking a year off to travel. You won't regret it. I promise.



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