A gap year isn’t a one time only deal anymore, travel doesn’t just have to be a couple of weeks holiday a year. You can choose to travel whenever you like, wherever you like for however long you like. All you have to do is incorporate travel into your life instead of thinking of it as just something you do once in a while.
A holiday for the vast majority of people has always been a short period of leisure in a foreign country. A break from the norm, a break from their lives, a short two week jaunt in a foreign clime to recharge their batteries and rest somewhere hot and sunny for a couple of weeks or so.
Backpackers know better than that of course. We travel for longer periods, immerse ourselves more deeply into the culture, the way of life, we eschew the traditional travel industry to travel independently beyond the traditional week to fourteen days and we remove ourselves from mainstream society for a while and emerge better, more rounded people.
Well, not always. Even we get it wrong sometimes.
Eventually many backpackers emerge from their career break, snap year or gap year and negotiate the landmine of reintegration into society, deal with the mental and emotional trauma of reverse culture shock and then eventualy settle down. They get the job, pay the bills buy the house and begin the slow suicide of falling in line with the status quo of societal norms. They begin to think of their gap year adventure as a fond memory, as backpacking around the world as a once in a lifetime thing. They’ve done it. Time to grow up now.
I have met many people who have done this. For some it works, they had their fun and now they are happy settling in a career or with a family or whatever. That is great, they’ve found what makes them happy and I am happy for them for doing so. Others however aren’t quite so certain. You can see that glint in their eyes combust as they talk passionately about the gap year they had years ago, and then watch that light die again as they wistfully state they wish they could go back to that time and relive their adventures, you can see their soul retreat into itself as they remember what they gave up for the monotonous fabrication of settled bliss.
They have been bitten with the travel bug and cursed with wanderlust, that indefinable compulsion to travel. And being forced to stay in one place just to fit into the norm of paying the bills and trudging off to the nine to five is slowly killing their soul as surely as any illness would consume their body.
A Gap Year Is Not Enough Anymore.
Essentially – thanks in part to the commercialisation that the gap year industry has enforced on the term – the snap year and gap year has become nothing more than an extended two week break. An elongated holiday away from life for a little while before you have to return to normality. The chronological time is much greater of course, but the inevitable countdown to normality is still there regardless. The gap yearers and backpackers have got a taste of the free spirited independent passion that drove many of us a decade or more ago to travel the world on our own terms, but have fallen into the ‘you’ve had your fun, now settle down trap’ after that year long RTW ticket they had expired and they had to return home.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
There is no time limit on travel! Travel is much, much more than just a holiday. It is a way of life, a way of being. It can define who you are as a person and give meaning to your life much more than an accumulation of possessions and things can. It doesn’t have to be a one time only thing! It doesn’t have to be something you do just once and then return to ‘normal’ life.
Ignoring your passion is slow suicide. Never ignore what your heart pumps for. Mould your career around your lifestyle, not your lifestyle around your career.
You can of course – if you so choose – go to the extreme and become a full time nomad. Many people have done this, endlessly travelling the world, often sacrificing all the things that their contemporaries back home struggle with, the home, the career, the 2.4 kids and the little picket fence. Some even find a way to make a career out of this lifestyle as digital nomads or as location independent workers, a rare few are even successful at this.
Or you can take a more balanced approach and balance your travelling with your lifestyle and career. Fit your life and lifestyle around your passion for travel instead of doing it the other way round and trying to squeeze your passion for travel into your annual leave whilst putting up with a sub standard life you don’t really want. Have your career by all means, but nothing is stopping you taking regular sabbaticals, career breaks, extended leave, whatever you want to call it. Hell, you can even quit and take another gap year if you want to, then another, and another.
You don’t have to let life stop you from travelling the world. Many people find their loved ones, get married, have a family even and still manage to travel, so why can’t you? Have the family, spend some time at home with them, but why not take another gap year or backpacking trip with them? Of course there are logistical issues you will have to deal with, but these are not in any way a barrier to following your passion for travel.
My point is that there are no rules here, other than the ones you allow society to force onto you.
You can make your life fit around the travel you want to do, believe me. Just because you want a career or a family or whatever else it is that you want, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams of travel too. Make your career, your life, fit around the passion for travel that you clearly have. The sense of equilibrium and work life balance you gain from doing this is perhaps one of the secrets to a long healthy life.
Why have one or the other when you can have the best of both worlds? Regardless of your lifestyle, your circumstances or your excuses, get out there and live your dreams of world travel.
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5 Easy Steps For Making Your Gap Year Dreams A Reality.
Top 10 Gap Year Myths Debunked.
No Great Story Ever Starts With I Stayed At Home.
No One Wishes They Travelled Less When They Die.
Very insightful and well written. I wasn’t sure if this was a pro-digital nomad type of piece where a “real traveller” has to be backpacking constantly, forever and ever. I welcomed the fact that you didn’t alienate and you have set out to inspire. PS: “…begin the slow suicide of falling in line with the status quo of societal norm” I chuckled at this, everyone that is catching a train to work should just slit their wrists and be done with! xo
Thank you Rene, I’m glad it surprised you! I’ve certainly felt that way myself on a long commute, especially when it’s my sixth or seventh long day in a row and all I can think of is I could be on a tropical beach instead of being here! What the hell! Haha! Thanks for the comment. 🙂
I really like the quote above ignoring your passion being slow suicide. I’m glad to see when people treat travel as the part of their life that everything will revolve around, as opposed to a week every year just scratching the surface of the destination.
Thanks Dave, I love that quote too! And the best thing is if you shift your paradigm to fit your lifestyle/career etc around your passion for travel, it all suddenly becomes so possible.
I so get the slow suicide thing! When I returned from travelling at the end of 2012 I thought that surely I had the travel bug out of my system and that now I’d settle down and get a house, kids, etc. But after a few months I just wanted to die, and the idea of a yearly holiday somewhere exotic just wouldn’t have cut it for me. I actually envy people who really can get the travel bug out of their system just with one gap year, because I couldn’t.
I’m not sure anyone who gets the travel bug can never truly get it out of their system. If you can, it is an addiction I know I never want to be cured of! Haha! I think it is the one bug that just grows and escalates the more you travel, I know it does for me! ;D Thanks for commenting.
It’s definitely something I’ve struggled with often. When or if to give up a “normal” life for fear of the slow suicide thing which I feel leeching in. The trick is a balancing act, but I’m still not sure if it’s possible for me. We shall see!
That’s the Key Tracie, to get that balancing act. I’ve found my balance, and I’m living proof that it is possible to have the best of both worlds! You just have to see which balance works for you. 🙂 Good luck!
Brilliant article and well executed. I only discovered how much I love travelling a few years ago and it really hit me when we had a month off (a whole month which was difficult to have approved!!) and hopped around Vietnam at our leisure. This was the defining trip that changed my priority in life – travel. Before that, yep, finding the family home and having a good job was it. Then the lightbulb went off and I realised I didn’t want to be ‘stuck in the system’ of being expected to get married, have kids etc. I’ve fantasised about selling and ‘getting out’ but realise it’s short-sighted. Thankfully my partner Matt is on the same wavelength. We are now planning a three month break in 2017 and beyond that using the house to fund further trips. In between we will use our leave allowance plus some. Can’t wait!
Thank you so much Anna, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Congrats on finding the right balance for you! Too many people think you have to go to the extremes to incorporate your passion for travel into your life, and in some cases that works for some people, but for many there is always a middle way. Thanks for commenting. 🙂
That is exactly the way I feel. My “normal” life is a travel life, where I travel as much as possible. When I come back from a long trip and someone says “welcome back to reality”, I inwardly roll my eyes! Or sometimes I hear “did you have a good holiday?” after coming back from several months of backpacking in Latin America or Southeast Asia. They don’t get it at all.
I know exactly what you mean! I roll my eyes right along with you!
As you suggest correctly, there is no *one* way to find that balance. Part of the fun is searching for and discovering the way that’s right for you.
Completely agree Bob, the important part is that you ‘do’ find that balance. ;D Thanks for stopping by.
Very well written article Michael!
I have to say I wholly agree that there’s no need to stop doing what we love most just because some other things, people or priorities have made their way into our lives. That’s no excuse to give up our travel dreams. If we work hard at it and use a little bit of creativity we can have the best of both worlds.
Thank you! Definitely! I suppose it’s a little greedy wanting everything, but who cares? ;D Thanks for the comment. 🙂
I really like the quote: Mould your career around your lifestyle…. That’s what I did a month ago, I didn’t feel that a full time job suited my needs of travelling, so I started free-lance translation. I might be poorer financially, but so much richer in experience!!
Congrats on making the change! That first step can be scary but more than worth it!
Agree that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. But even a two week holiday can be “travel” if you make an attempt to embrace the local culture and language and to do a bit more than lounging around on the beach.
Exactly, that is the point. 🙂