Don’t Take a “Gap Year”

The more I think about the term “gap year” the more I don’t like it.

I get the concept. You take a year “off”, either between studies, or after graduating before you go into the workforce. It’s just not the best way to describe a year of travelling the world.

A gap is an empty space. It’s nothing. When you say you are going on a gap year, it gives the impression you are taking a year off improving your career prospects,  year off learning. When in reality it should be the opposite. For people who have not travelled, saying you are taking a gap year comes off as “year long holiday” which translates to “lazy”.

If attending University for 4 years, to learn and improve yourself with an aim to have better career prospects is seen as legitimate then why is travel seen as frivolous? Why would you perpetuate that notion by calling it a gap year?

The issue is, you are defining your long term travel in the narrow scope of formal education and work. If you don’t see your travel as a legitimate way to spend your time, then other people won’t either.

For those willing to learn, travel can teach skills for life. Independence, communication skills, perspective, patience. For many people, it’s the first time they have truly had to stand on their own two feet, without the familiar comforts of home around them. It’s character building.

Building some character in Rome, with gelato
Building some character in Rome, with gelato

I’m not going to come up with a pretentious alternative. I just think if you want people to take your travel seriously, you should opt for “spending a year travelling the world” or “living abroad” if it’s based mostly around one location.

People already have a negative view of long term travelling when it comes to careers. This is why many young people are nervous about going travelling for a year, because they fear that it will damage their career prospects. More than once have Kelly and I have been asked if we plan on getting “real careers” when we settle down. I don’t think it’s ever said with malice.

I must admit, I’ve been guilty of it. I once described my 20’s as a “gap decade” because I’ve been travelling for the majority of them. It just sounds awful though. It’s not a gap, I’m actually proud of what I’ve been able to do over these years and I’ve  grown into a semi-capable person with the means and ability to do what I want to do. I credit travel as a big reason for that.

So, do yourself a favor. Don’t call it a gap year. Use travel as an opportunity to grow and learn, let what you call your time travelling reflect that.

Lee Carter

Born and raised in Accrington, UK, Lee has ventured far beyond his hometown, traveling throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, North America and New Zealand. He is the co-founder of Global Goose and as well as writing the occasional rant he can be found tweaking the code and taking photos of amazing things around the world. Lee and Kelly have no plans to stop their "Gap Decade" anytime soon.

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  1. Well said, Lee! I totally agree that the “gap” has a negative connotation. It implies that something is missing, when in fact, much learning occurs. Taking a year to travel is life-enriching and very rewarding, so yeah, not a gap 🙂

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  3. In my opinion, families must realize that taking a gap year is a viable option for a student’s development and does not signify the kid is abandoning college completely. If you wish to have certain life experiences before starting your profession, you should take a gap year.

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