Whether you are considering taking a break before you head off to college, need academic stress relief, want to strengthen your skill set with language courses, or are simply seeking an “Eat, Pray, Love” reflection after workplace burnout, gap years are a favorite among all ages. Despite its growth in popularity, there are still some looming myths about gap years (and the gappers that take them). Here are some essential facts that debunk stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions about what it means to take a gap year.
1. Gap Years Are Only for High School Graduates
Many think that a gap year is an adventurous scene of late teens vacationing for a year in countries that allow them to drink legally and party their responsibilities away.
However, this "young party goer" stereotype is simply untrue. Though the term "gap year" traditionally refers to young adults taking a break before or during college (18-24 years old), this doesn’t disqualify other gap year candidates from taking time off from their work, schooling, and daily routines.
Gappers can be students, professionals, or retired -- unlike popular belief, gap year “requirements” have no age limit. Secondly, while partying is a gap year perk, partying for a year straight is physically unfeasible and truly only a sliver of the overall experience, regardless of age.
2. Taking a Gap Year Will Make You Forget All You’ve Learned in School
Not only is this a myth, it is also often the complete opposite of what happens during a gap year. You may be surprised, but gap years actually help you learn more!
There’s no denying that visual and experiential memories are quite useful for information retention. Identifying sights and sounds from your travels helps make learning and studying more enjoyable, interesting, and effective.
People who travel later in life often report regretting not taking a gap year before deciding their college major. During my post-collegiate travels, in fact, I found myself visiting museums and historical sites, but only vaguely remembering their significance. I would moan, “Oh, I wish I’d seen these places before I went to college so I could’ve felt more excited when learning about them.” Taking a gap year placed me in school all over again -- except this time, I was listening.
3. Gap Years are a Resume Killer
Many adult gap year prospects often receive societal critiques on why they shouldn’t take time off. One of the scariest reasons is the prospect of career suicide. We’ve been taught that having a gap in our resume shows unprofessionalism and risk of flight. What they don’t tell you, however, is there are plenty of ways to show that your experience was more than just a yearlong vacation.
Depending on the type of gap year you commit to, you can be honest about your experiences in your cover letter and resume by exploring the skills you gained, volunteering and charity support, and training acquired.
For example, my resume niche is travel and marketing. When I travel, my favorite way to boost my resume is to describe my achievements as a consultant. I refer to my work as advising hotels and hostels abroad on best practices and SEO improvements, helping promote international programs through social media, and developing fun marketing campaigns and giveaways to an engaged audience.
Whatever your interest or specialty, there is undoubtedly a way to showcase how you’ve expanded those skills by taking a gap year. Employers that are the right fit for you will often find that knowledge invaluable.
4. Gappers Are Irresponsible Adventure Chasers
People who take a gap year often get a bad reputation about their level of maturity. Sure, some gappers might be taking time off just to relax and let go, but so do some college students and 9-5ers who are going on vacation for a week.
Why is it any different? Don’t let people pressure you into disregarding mental health, self-development, and potential doors of opportunity. Taking time off for personal, professional, and educational growth does not make people who take a gap year irresponsible. It makes them wise and less likely to experience burnout down the line.
5. People Who Take Gap Years Often Get Homesick
Going away for a year (especially when your family, significant other, and BFFs are staying behind) is really challenging -- and occasional homesickness is inevitable.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to alleviate those pains with today’s advanced communication technology. Not only will your homesickness help you become a pro at using the world’s best gadgets and software for keeping in touch with loved ones, it’ll also train you to become a boss communicator.
In fact, we have an entire article highlighting the best ways to keep in touch with family and friends while overseas. Definitely keep those notes in your back pocket.
6. You Need to Be Rich to Take a Gap Year
Not only do you not have to be rich to take a gap year, some workplaces and colleges even give you a stipend! Universities and organizations are hopping on the “personal growth” bandwagon and realizing the importance in taking “gaps” (whether for a semester, entire year, or short sabbatical).
If you're great at planning and take the initiative to present your trip as essential to workplace training, educational growth, or service, you might even be able to apply for a scholarship, local grant, or stipend -- a huge help for travelers worried about finances.
But what if your establishment’s budget isn’t down with subsidizing education and wellness? Do you have to be rich to take a gap year, then? Nope. There are plenty of destinations you can visit (like Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia) that offer affordable travel for budgets as low as $20 a day, depending on how much minimalism you can embrace.
Depending on your age, there are also countries that grant a yearlong working visa so you can explore a new place and make some extra money on the side -- Australia and New Zealand are some gapper favorites. Lastly, and my favorite thing to do: you can always barter your way around the world using sites like HelpX and WWOOF.
7. Gap Years Require International Travel
Gappers most often choose to take a gap year to develop, find their path, and prevent burnout. A common misconception is that one needs to leave their home country to do so.
While international travel surely has its benefits, there are some people who may have trouble leaving the country, acquiring a passport, or obtaining visas to certain destinations.
Whatever the reason, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a gap year within your own country. From volunteering in another state or finding a seasonal job in a gorgeous national park to even joining training and apprenticeship programs that can further your professional experience, you have the power to customize your gap year that best fits you.
8. Gap Years Have to Be One Year Long
Last but not least, the great thing about taking a gap year is it doesn’t have to be exactly 12 months long. Whether you want to take off three months, one year, or even more, you have the liberty to do so and absolutely deserve it!
The beauty of gap years is that they're meant to be completely flexible to any person at any stage of their life. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a yearlong backpacking trip through Europe, though it is absolutely an option. Whether you're fresh out of high school or have been retired for many years, we hope we've debunked the myths about gap years that make you think it's a waste of time. Gap years are full of endless options for people from every background and vocation -- you just have to find the opportunity that best fits you.