With careful planning, a gap year can be an intentional time away from formal schooling dedicated to self-discovery and development, but with so many possibilities for where to go, it can be tough to decide what’s right for you. There are a number of considerations that can help you hone in your search such as if you want to learn a specific language or are drawn to a particular country.
How to Decide Where to Go During Your Gap Year
The first step in planning a gap year is finding a destination that can provide you with a meaningful experience. To find it, you’ll want to consider things like your proficiency with a language or desire to learn one, and the activities or adventures you’d like to take part in. Ask yourself what side of the world you want to explore, is there a certain geographic area that you’ve always wanted to go to? Are you drawn to The Himalayas? The Andes? The Mekong River? Are you looking to trek across high peaks or explore the depths of rainforests?
After you’ve chosen a general region, think about what type of experience you’re longing for. Different programs have different focuses, adventures, and opportunities, even those within the same region. Do you want a trip with more homestays or are you more interested in trekking? Are you hoping to earn college credit? Does the program offer classes that interest you? Is there a language or culture you’ve always wanted to study? Gap years are the perfect time to have new and unexpected adventures, so think about all of the things you want to learn and experience, take a look at what parts of the globe can offer that and narrow your search from those exploratory questions.
You’ll also want to consider some logistics, like what types of travel are you comfortable with? How rugged do you want it to be? What type of environment do you want to be in? Are you more of a warm or cold weather person? Are you prepared to sweat through your clothes for weeks on end? Do you have dietary or medical considerations? Do you want a more structured trip or are you looking for freedom to explore? Traveling far from home can be daunting as you stray from your comfort zone, but also leads to life-changing experiences.
The Journey is the Destination, What to Expect During a Gap Year
When you step outside of your comfort zone, you learn to become comfortable with the unknown and confident in yourself to navigate uncharted waters. Traveling to a foreign country alone takes courage, and it can be challenging to make friends and navigate a new place and culture, especially if there’s a language barrier. Your program will likely place you with a host family, especially if there’s a language-learning component, so you’ll have a support system to help you along the way.
The location and logistics are important, however there’s one more consideration, the journey. Your trip will challenge and change you regardless of where you go. It’s a time to learn more about the world, but also the time to learn more about yourself. Who do you want to be after? What are you trying to gain or change? Do you want to challenge yourself physically or to deepen your spiritual side by spending time at a monastery? Is there a fear that you’re trying to overcome, or a passion that you’re thrilled to explore?
You’ll have a chance to craft your own identity during this experience, and discover new interests and skills while learning about different cultures and traditions. Deciding where to go on your gap year is a bit of a leap of faith, but the destination is only a part of your journey. It’s the people that you’ll meet, the friends you make, and the memories you’ll have that will make any gap year destination the perfect one for you.
Where There Be Dragons curates trips in the United States and all over the world! We’d love to answer questions and get you on your way to an incredible summer or gap year adventure. Call 800.982.9203 or contact us today!