I should begin with the fact that this post is based strictly on my experiences and opinions, and the experiences I have heard about from friends also on this path.
My Gap Year was not the conventional one. It did not happen between high school and college, and it was not highly thought out. No, I just flat decided to take one.
My life had been one non stop train ride. I went to school for thirteen years, then kept on straight through college. Immediately after college, I found myself in a full-time 9-6 career. I never had the time to sit down and breathe. I never had time to explore and find myself. As I type those words I know how lame and cliché I sound, but it’s the truth.
I never had time for myself.
Before I knew it, I was on the verge of a major mental breakdown, or what BuzzFeed and ThoughtCatalogue have dubbed, A Quarter Life Crisis. Yep, that’s right y’all. I had a quarter life crisis.
What was the remedy for that situation? Move to Europe.
Within three months, I had gotten a Working Holiday Authorization, quit my job, broke up with my boy friend, and moved to Ireland on a one year visa.
Moving to Ireland was the best decision I have ever made.
The decision to take a year out of my life to travel and live abroad did not come easily. I was in a very rough point in life and saw this as my best chance to make a new start. I wanted to explore. I wanted to touch, feel, and learn. The Irish countryside was calling me and I had to go. So I went.
I am about to begin my ninth month abroad. 9 MONTHS! In my nine months abroad, I have learned that guys are just as sleazy here as they are at home. I found new food and drinks to shove into my face. I’ve traveled to ten countries. Made friendships that will last a lifetime, and couldn’t be happier.
My Gap Year from the real world hasn’t really been a massive vacation like some people may think it has. I’ve worked. I’ve worked hard. As a temp, I am the person who sits in last minute at crazy busy desks for companies that I’ve never heard of before. I have to answer the phone, send emails, and book taxis for people I will never see again. All at the drop of a hat. The work experience I have gained through being tossed into chaotic situations will follow me further into the business world that I could have ever imagined.
None of this would have happened if I had stayed in Georgia.
My experience is a positive one. I do know that sometimes, people take gap years and have horrible experiences. One girl I met ended up hating her host family and left home before the year was over. It’s upsetting that her entire experience in Ireland was ruined because the family she worked for were complete buttholes. But that’s the nature of the beast.
It’s a gamble, and she was dealt a bad hand.
I cannot express to you how thankful I am that I made this move. Ireland has been the best experience of my life. But you don’t just have to go to Ireland.
The Peace Corps have programs that can help give you credits for college. Working Holiday Visas (for Americans) are granted to New Zealand, Australia, UK and Ireland. Teach English in Asia. Be an au pair in France. Roadtrip the US working in different fast food joints for a year. I don’t know, but take that gap year!
Take time off to find yourself. Take time off to breathe.
It doesn’t have to be a full year. I understand that 12 months is a long time to pull yourself out of the work force to go find yourself, but it is so worth it. I’ve learned that I can move to another country all on my own without knowing a single person and make it. If I do it again, (which let’s be honest, I’m going to 😉 ) I won’t be as scared.
Taking the Gap Year was the best decision I have ever made.
When I re-enter the 9-5 workforce later, I will be a better employee. I will have a better appreciation for a consistent desk and routine. I’ll be able to look back on my travels with a smile and great the next adventure, whatever that may be.
I fully acknowledge that the decision to travel or move abroad is not for everyone. My sister has been in Ireland with me for two weeks. I recently asked her if she would consider doing this and she said no. A study abroad would be enough for her.
Everyone has different opinions on the Gap Year as it should be. But in my experience and personal opinion, taking this last year off to live and travel abroad was the best decision I have ever made for myself.