Taking a gap year to pursue one’s dreams to travel, during what may seem like a crucial period in one’s budding professional career, may seem well,… stupid.
Perhaps you may think I’m all the above.
I don’t agree.
Following your dreams and finding sustainable ways to bridge them to a future.
When I look at the smart side of the coin, I see that committing my life to a gap year of travel can be a solid investment. If I’m going to shoot my career in the foot, then it’s going to die for a worthy cause. This death is going to move my life …forward.
No offense to gap year enthusiasts, who want to cut loose and travel for the sake of enjoying travel. Everyone’s got to make the best choice for their life.
Me? Nearing 40, my travel freedom seeks a level of moderation.
- I want to travel with a sense of purpose and not throw off career or life responsibilities entirely.
- I don’t want to incur the wrath of an increasing debt, while I’m away.
- I acknowledge that I’ll inevitably have to return to the U.S. to deal with the skeletal remains of a slaughtered career (unless I marry abroad); and when I do so, I suspect it won’t be pleasant.
- I want to learn things, get certified, learn a language…
- I still want to build a nest egg for my future.
Perhaps this takes all the fun out of serendipity.
As I see it, I’m not escaping my life. I’m replacing it by creating a new life and job for myself. One, with hefty travel perks!
Will this gap choice be temporary? We’ll see…
Traveling is moving forward.
Travel is learning and finding a program where I can live and work abroad is… can offer a large payback and ways more than monetary. It provides free schooling as you learn a new set of job skills, it develops your adaptive and social skills as you undergo a new work environment with different cultural limits and it gains you a larger perspective and bold confidence in meeting the world on your own two feet.
Here are some personal considerations I aimed for in choosing my country and work program:
• Develop my knowledge and interest in Asia
• Learn a new language
• Choose a country with strong business models in media or technology
• Choose a country with a wealthy television and film industry *my industry– just dreaming…
• Experience a culture which is between “developing” and “developed” * Not 10% ready to live in a developing country just yet.
• Good medical tourism *I’m tired of paying expensive monthly bills for health and dental care
• Affordable living * I can make money, travel, live well and still save money.
The advantages of living abroad are obvious:
1. Live and navigate in a new culture and work environment.
You can tell a lot about a culture by their daily lifestyles, tastes and work places. Building a life in a foreign country isn’t easy. With exciting changes there’s also struggle. This tests your metal.
2. Learn a foreign language and navigate cultural etiquette.
Learning a foreign language and how not to offend locals isn’t easy, but if you can learn some of it, it makes your living in that country much more comfortable and friendly.
3. Gain cheaper and easier travel access to neighboring countries.
Travel perks. Live in Europe and you can take the Eurorail and buses over borders. Live in Asia and all of Southeast Asia/Asia and cheap airfare will be your best friend.
4. Develop a hobby/ talent or take up new ones (photography, writing, martial arts,…).
5. Re-discover yourself.
Ever seen the movie, Sabrina, where Audrey Hepburn goes off to Paris and comes back a sophisticated and confident woman? Well, discovering a new country is discovering a new you. Expect to change. It will happen slowly but it will happen. With differences so extreme, you’ll feel yourself change slowly from the outside in: your perspective, your clothes and fashion sense, your cultural etiquette, your diet and taste buds…
6. Gain clarity about your needs/wants for a life by developing a broader perspective of the world.
7. Live the quality and pace of life you’ve always sought.
Being an American visiting Europe to experience siestas, long lunches, a less ambition driven life, can make you long for the life of a European. The simplicity and relaxed beauty of Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, can show you quality service, products, food, etc… can all still be had at cheap to affordable rates and without the rush.
Next: A Gap Year: Teaching English in Korea Part II >>
A Gap Year: The Advantages of Taking One Part I
A Gap Year: 10 Ways to Gain a Year (vs. Lose One!) Part III
A Gap Year: The 3 Steps to Moving your life abroad Part IV