Top 10 Gap Year Myths Debunked!

Anyone who is everyone thinks they know what it is really like to take a gap year, and the stereotypes pushed by the media and the expectations that so many people put on going backpacking around the world sometimes couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are the top 10 myths of taking a gap year that just aren’t (always at least) true!

Quit your job and travel the world, take a Gap Yah and fund it with mummy and daddy’s credit card, escape your crappy office booth and become an unwashed hippy!

We’ve all heard them time and time again, the myths and stereotypes of the type of people backpackers are, the type of travel backpacking is and the magical, existensial benefits taking a gap year is supposed to have.

Well don’t worry, let’s sort the fiction from the fact and get some truth up in here!

Travel Is Easy.

Look at any travel blog and you would be fooled into thinking taking a gap year is as easy as staying at home and having a nap on the couch, and that all backpackers – in the words of Indiana Jones – have friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, speak a dozen languages, know every local custom and can blend in and disappear.

The Truth.

Well yes, to an extent. This isn’t exactly untrue, but what the myth is not telling you is that it takes years of experience, endless stupid mistakes and a ton of cultural faux pas to get to the point where you can consider yourself an experienced traveller and make navigating all the pitfalls of travel look easy. There is nothing wrong with that of course, making mistakes and learning is all part of the journey, but don’t set off thinking everything will be perfect because it won’t be. Just learn to go with the flow and make it easier on yourself. That is how travel becomes easy.

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Travel Is A Cure All For All Your Problems.

Have problems at home? An illness perhaps? Just sick and tired of your life, your job or whatever rut you are stranded in? Feeling depressed? Need an escape? Just quit everything and travel, it will fix all of that!

The Truth.

You here platitudes like this all the time but it simply isn’t true. At least not in the way many people think. Travelling the world is a great experience that has countless benefits from making you a more confident, better person to giving you an insight into yourself and what path you want to follow in life among other things, but it isn’t a magic wand, it won’t give you all the answers or fix all your problems. If you are running from something, it will follow you, if you are escaping something, it will be there when you get back. What travel will do is give you some perspective and a few tools so you can manage your problems on your own terms.

Read more:

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Travel Is Dangerous.

Listen to the worlds media, or your fretting mum, and you would think taking a gap year is akin to walking into a live war zone with a huge target on your back, with all the murderers, kidnappers, rapists and thieves just out there waiting for you. Travelling the world is far too dangerous for anyone to just take a gap year, right?

The Truth.

No, it isn’t. Of course there are risks out there but these can be managed, minimised and avoided with the right knowledge and preparation. Statistically speaking world travel is actually quite safe, with the absolute vast majority of backpackers travelling around the world completely safely and not coming to any harm at all.

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Gap Years AAre More Dangerous For Women.

Women travellers of course shouldn’t travel because their gender alone makes it far too dangerous for them. Women always have it much harder, they have more things to face, more things to deal with. The weaker sex of course can’t defend themselves as well as their male counterparts and of course they are far more likely to become a victim when travelling based solely on the fact that they are women.

The Truth.

It isn’t more dangerous for women, at all. Women do have specific risk factors and specific gender related practicalities that make the experience of travel different to their male counterparts when travelling yes, but this does not make it MORE dangerous for women to travel, period. According to data from both the British Crime Survey, repeatedly accurate for the last twenty years, and also the consular statistics for travellers abroad every single year for the same period, women are for example statistically more likely to become the victim of sexual assault or rape, but men are statistically more likely to become the victims of all other types of violent crime, are much more likely to be killed as a result, and more likely to become the victims of crime in general. So technically it is MEN who are in more danger from travel. Either way the statistics still hold that everyone, regardless of gender have a much, much higher chance of travelling safely and soundly than anything bad happening to them. So yes, there are risk factors for women and there are specific safety tips for women, but let’s not pretend that it is MORE dangerous for them based just on gender alone, all that does is perpetuate the ridiculous myth that women shouldn’t travel because it is too dangerous.

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Travel Is Always Glamorous.

You’ve seen those Insta shots, read the blogs, the world is a perfect picture postcard version of itself just waiting for you to insert yourself into it with your wide brimmed hat, flowing dress or perfect bikini and heaving cleavage. Cue all the social media likes. Remember, every second of travel is worth documenting on social media because of how gorgeous it is, who needs photoshop when around every corner is a picture postcard view? Who needs comfortable clothes on a plane when you can arrive off a 12 hour flight looking like you are walking down a runway? Who needs heavy gear and speciaalist equipment when you can definitely climb that mountain or do that jungle trek in your flowy summer dress? Travel is all perfect, all the time, you’ll arrive in your destination wide eyed and eager, get straight to your accommodation, which of course has that perfect infinity pool overlooking the city or that perfect hammock on that deserted beach.

The Truth.

God damn Instagram! The world is a beautiful place and you will see some amazing things, but the stereotype seems to gloss over the times when you arrive in a new destination looking – and smelling – like a sweaty hobo with a four day beard because you haven’t been bothered to shave, it ignores all those ice cold hostel showers, the grotty dorms that you leave instantly to go and find somewhere better, the ignorant travellers you have to share hostel dorms with and the days where you are just tired, sick or fed up with telling touts to go away. Travel CAN be glamorous, just not all of the time!

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Taking A Gap Year Will Ruin Your Career Chances.

Taking a year out to travel will inevitably ruin your career. You’ll be left behind all those people who will take your place and are willing to put the hours in, the fact that you may have skills, qualifications or experience will count for nothing when any potential employer sees your CV and assumes you have just been skiving off for a year. Gap years are career suicide.

The Truth.

The truth is the exact opposite is true. You won’t get left behind at all if you have the drive to go for the same positions as your peers and demand what you want. The only thing holding you back is you. You just have to know how to spin a gap year to your advantage on your CV. Once you start talking about all those soft skills employers love with concrete examples, such as developing communication skills by learning a new language, immersing yourself in new cultures and religions to make yourself more culturally diverse and aware, or developing your logistical and problem solving skills by organising your flights, accommodation and trip logistics, not to mention that month or two you spent volunteering, then suddenly your gap year makes you stand out from the crowd.

And if you want proof of that just look at me. Despite having the handicap of multiple gap years and almost constant travel over the last twenty years I have achieved two degrees and multiple advanced degrees and qualifications, and although now I have left clinical nursing to run my own successful business I built a solid career as a nurse, working in the specialisms I wanted and gaining ranks of charge nurse and advanced nurse practitioner, and that is with taking six months off every year to travel. I have even used my qualifications to work on many expeditions and projects abroad. So how did I do that if travelling ruins your career?

Read more:

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Gap Years Are For The Young.

The traditional stereotype of the gap year backpacker is usually college aged, having deferred a year before going to university or at most has just graduated and is taking some time out to travel before getting a job back in ‘the real world’.

The Truth.

Well maybe this use to be the largest demographic of backpackers and is certainly what most people imagine when they think of who backpackers are, but now nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, there are tons of backpackers who are young and university age, but there are just as many professionals in their 30’s or 40’s taking a career break and middle aged travellers following their dreams now that the kids have flown the nest, many travellers even taking their entire families and young children with them or even pensioners blowing their life savings before their time is up, and more power to them! The truth is there is no typical age to take a gap year anymore. I’ve been travelling for over twenty years now, and I may have started out in that traditional backpacker demographic, but I’m definitely not in it anymore!

Read more:

A Gap Year Is For Life, Not Just For When You Graduate!

Backpackers Are All Unwashed Hippies.

Given the scarcity of running water in those ultra cheap 50 bedded dorms and the lack of facilities on those 48 hour long bus journeys that save a few quid over the 20 minute flight, backpackers don’t wash all that much, and are far too attached to their Beer Chang singlets to ever want to make an effort with their appearance.

The Truth. 

Well yeah, fair enough. But not all of us get dreadlocks on Khao San Road and think a shower is optional though! A few of us do get a shave from time to time too!

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Backpackers Are All Trust Fund Idiots With A Colonial Mentality.

Backpackers who have taken a gap year are all gap yah hooray Henry’s relying on mummy and daddy’s credit card and a trust fund. They’ve never had to work for what they have and can’t possibly know what living in ‘the real world’ is like. Right? The Gap Year industry itself perpetuates this stereotype with endless images of beaming teenagers ‘volunteering’ with poor African children or engaging in forced fun on the packaged tours they offer.

The Truth.

Backpackers are made up of every facet and strata of society and the vast majority save up or work as they go to fund their travels. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a small minded, bigoted moron.

A Gap Year Will Change Your Life For The Better.

This is perhaps the single most pervasive myth about taking a gap year, that having one will automatically change your life. Travelling the world will instantly transform you into a bastion of well travelled awesomeness, it will give you the tools and experience you need to face any situation the world throws at you through osmosis and all of those problems you had before you left will dissipate as you realise they just don’t matter!

The Truth.

Well, to be fair this one is actually partly true. Taking a gap year does do all of that, if you take advantage of the opportunities world travel gives you, but it isn’t an instant cure all. Don’t just stick to backpacker ghettoes and party with other travellers, spend some time with locals too, don’t just visit the main touristy spots, explore some of the local area as well. Really open yourself up to the full experience of travel. Travel will change your life, it will help you grow, it will open your mind, but you have to put some of the effort in yourself. Taking a gap year just gives you the opportunity to do that.

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Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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4 comments on “Top 10 Gap Year Myths Debunked!
  1. Kim says:

    Yes! Love this, especially the travel is more dangerous for women myth, I wish women especially would stop pushing these. It isn’t true and it really frustrates me.

  2. Emily says:

    So true! I am saving so hard for my gap year (it has taken me two years so far and I am still saving!) I hate everyone saying I am priveliged or think my mum is paying for it all.

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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