Should you take a gap year? To help you make the best decision for you, here are some of the most common pros and cons of travelling the world.
Once you have decided to take that plunge and go all in on taking a gap year, the logistical decisions of where to go, what to do and how to get there are relatively easy. The big hurdle for many potential travellers is knowing if they should take a gap year or not in the first place! To help you make that decision and see if travelling the world is right for you, here are some of the biggest and most common pros and cons I have seen in over 20 years of travelling the world myself.
Pro: It will make you a better person.
Travelling will expand your mind, it will teach you things you can never learn in a classroom and will expose you to a myriad of cultures, faiths, beliefs, paradigms and more. It will give you experiences that are unique to you and show you just how self reliant, resilient and independent you can be! Do you think that tiny little problem back home will faze you once you have achieved amazing feats like trekking through volcanic mountain ranges or overcome getting lost in jungles or surviving the taxi mafia in Bangkok? Travel will make you a stronger, better and more bad ass version of yourself. In short, it will make you a superhero!
Con: It will be expensive.
There is just no getting around this fact, travelling can be an expensive business. It will cost you a lot of money and it will require some good budgeting, a lot of saving and even some sacrifice. Other considerations like wanting to get on the property ladder or the general cost of living in the UK make this consideration even harder, but there are ways to get around this if you really want and for the majority of people it is absolutely worth it. Of course this depends entirely on your own circumstances but what else are you going to spend the money on? Ridiculously expensive nights out? Takeaways? Gadgets you don’t need? The costs of living abroad can be significantly cheaper than at home and provided you save well, budget well and plan well, it is certainly affordable for most people, and even though you may put other things on hold, such as buying a house for example, there is nothing at all from stopping you from getting those things in the future when you get back.
Pro: It’s great for your mental health.
Life is hard, and whether you have just finished a long, gruelling part of your life in higher education or are getting through the daily grind of the rat race, it is so easy to get burned out. A gap year gives you the opportunity to escape all of that, even if it just for a short time. That escape, that intentional change of focus and the opportunity to get away and be selfish enough to care about yourself for a change can help stop that burnout and focus entirely on your own mental health and wellbeing. And it really can be a lifesaver.
Con: It Can Be Scary.
For many people their first gap year will be the first time they are away from home, or the first time they are forced to be so independent without the safety net of home just around the corner, and whilst that is exciting it can also be pretty daunting. The constant fearmongering in the media of whether travel is safe or not, practical concerns over how you will manage or cope, logistical concerns about how to sort out x, y or z. They are all very common and they are all very normal.
The good news is once you get out there and start doing those things, 99.9% of those worries and fears just fall away. You will figure out that public transport system in a strange city, you will solve the occassional problem and hiccup that comes up because travel has made you an independent bad ass, and you will wonder what you were so concerned about in the first place!
One thing a gap year can give you in a way that nothing else can is time, and believe me there really is nothing more precious than that. I have lost count of the people I have met reaching the end of their lives and wishing that they had taken the time to do something they never had, or those who focused very hard on their careers early on and never had the time to do the things that made them happy. That is no way to live a life.
You can take this gift of time, something that some people never take advantage of and add a few strings to your bow. Study a martial art or two as you travel through their place of birth, learn to be a scuba diver, take a course in Thai massage, I have done all of these things and more. No matter what it may be, if you have something you have always wanted to practice or do, now is the time to do it!
Whether you use that time to destress and detach yourself from the rat race for your mental health, you use it to indulge in your passions or even find a new hobby, or you use it to better yourself, gain new skills or find new things you are interested in, it doesn’t matter. You have the time to do it all! And you can do it while exploring the world and having some awesome adventures too!
Con: It will put you a ‘year behind’.
Now this is perhaps one of the most common concerns, second only to money and costs, that I hear all the time, especially from younger college or university aged travellers. As all your friends and peers go off to uni or start their careers, they will be a year or more ahead of you in the rat race when you return. But so what? By what standard are you measuring yourself here? Who really wants to measure themselves against the societal norm of graduate, get a job, pay bills and die? Those are the goalposts of lesser mortals.
Yes you will get your degree a year later than if you hadn’t travelled, yes you will postpone putting that deposit down on your mortgage and have a years less experience in that job you want to climb the ladder in, but what does it matter in the grand scheme of things? You will still do all the things you want to do eventually and will have gained experiences and done things those people probably never will. In 10, 15 or 20 years time you won’t give a damn whether you graduated in 2025 or 2026, you probably won’t even be in touch with the people you are comparing yourself to now and will have a whole new set of friends and loved ones. You can still buy your home at a later date. And as for a career? I’ve spent half my life travelling and in my former career as a nurse I rose through the ranks far quicker than many who had been qualified far longer than I had, despite the fact I was ‘missing’ for half of the year! I did this because I was ambitious enough to go for it. Travelling never held me back, it won’t hold you back either.
Pro: It Will Boost Your CV!
Contrary to popular belief, having that big gap on your CV is not the death knell to your career that many people will have you believe it is. I mean sure, future employers may ask why you have had multiple years off, but if you spin it right, then all the soft skills that employers look for such as communication skills, (you learned how to say hello and thank you in Thai, right?), problem solving abilities, dealing with stressful situations are imbedded into you, and you can use the time you spent volunteering somewhere or note the skills that you learned during that break on your CV too. All of these things will make your CV stand out and get you noticed.
Con: It Can Be Hard To Come Back Home.
This is something that most travellers will experience but is not often talked about. When you have finished your travels it can be difficult to readjust back into normal society back home. You will have changed but your friends at home probably haven’t, your paradigms and priorities will be different now. After living on island time and being your own boss it can be hard to adjust back into the 9 to 5 grind and that transition from education to career is more jarring once you have had a break from it. You may even experience a degree of what is known as reverse culture shock. Now this isn’t in and of itself anything to overly worry about, you will get through it, it is just important to recognise that it will happen and prepare for it.
Pro:You Will Learn Self Reliance, Independence And Life Skills!
One thing taking a gap year will force you to do, especially if you travel solo, is take a huge step out of your comfort zone. It will make you very quickly learn how to plan, how to budget, how to look after yourself and a ton of other basic life skills that are frankly becoming lost in modern society. A gap year will throw things at you that will force you to adapt and overcome, you will lose that passport, miss that flight, get lost in the jungle or scammed in Khao San Road, and you know what? You will learn that you can deal with it, because you have no other choice. You will learn just how independent and self reliant you can actually be, and when you learn that, when you become that big, bad ass version of yourself, there is nothing life can throw at you back home that you can’t handle!
There are a lot more specific pros and cons we can go through than a single article can handle, but what I want you all to take away from this is the fact that the pros outweigh the cons ten fold, and the cons themselves are nothing that can’t be overcome or spun into a positive once you are out there travelling.
Taking a gap year is a big decision, it is a major life event that will change you forever, but it is one that you will never regret taking!
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