Top 10 Gap Year Myths Debunked!

Michael Huxley Masada Sunrise Tour clifftop view over the Dead Sea Israel

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 things taking a gap year is supposed to give you.

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.

Read more:

Epic Backpacker Fails And Why They Don’t Matter.

Solo Travel Makes You A Superhero!

Travel is a cure all for all your problems.

Have problems at home? An illness perhaps? Just sick and tire of your life, your job or whatever rut you are stranded in? 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  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 the future among other things, but it isn’t a magic wand, it won’t give you all the answers or fix all your problems. What it will do is give you some perspective and a few tools so you can do that yourself.

Read more:

10 Realities Of Quitting Your Job To Travel The World.

It’s 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.

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.

Read more:

Is Backpacking Around The World Safe?

The Reality Of Fear And The Truth About Travel Safety.

Travel Safety Advice. The Good, The Bad And The Downright Crazy.

Gap Years are more dangerous for women.

Women travellers of course shouldn’t travel because their gender alone makes it far too dangerous for them, 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 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 for the last twenty years and also the consular statistics for travellers abroad, 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.

Read more:

Top 10 Solo Female Backpacker Safety Tips.

Solo Female Backpacker Safety Tips.

Solo MALE Backpacker Safety Tips.

It’s all glamour, all the time.

Michael Huxley Adventure Travel Aruba

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. 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 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!

Read more:

5 Horrible Truths About Your Gap Year That Backpackers Won’t Tell You.

The Downsides To Solo Travel That No One Will Tell You About.

Taking a gap year ruins your career.

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 opposite is true, 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. I have achieved two degrees and built a solid career as a senior nurse despite travelling for the last fifteen years!

Read more:

How Backpacking And Volunteering Can Help Your Career.

Study, Work, Career And Gap Years, The Middle Way.

Gap years are just 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, but now nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, there are tons of backpackers who are young, but there are just as many professionals in their 30’s or 40’s taking a career break, middle aged travellers follwing their dreams now that the kids have flown the nest 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.

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 attache 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!

Read more:

What Type Of Backpacker Are You?

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.

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. All 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. 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.

Read more:

Getting Lost In Travel Will Help You Find Your Way.

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 published author, qualified nurse and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent 15 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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