I was prepared to go to college, prior to the pandemic. After I elected to take a gap year amid the program, I selected Pacific Discovery’s Hawaii/Western US the program for the Spring of 2021. In the words of one of my friends from the program, the trip was “what we never knew we needed.” Throughout the 70 days, we visited Hawaii, Arizona, Utah, & briefly Colorado. Trip highlights included surfing, cliff jumping, peaking Mauna Kea, mountain biking, hiking, paddle board & silk yoga, and rock climbing. Even more memorable than the activities were the service projects & cultural immersion. We learned so much about Hawaiian culture, sustainable agriculture & farming, and being aware of our personal environmental impacts. I particularly enjoyed how much control students have throughout the program. While everyday has structured activities & the instructors take the lead for most aspects of the trip, students have large roles in the decision-making processes. In particular, we meal-planned & cooked together nearly every night which was intimidating at first but soon became some of the most memorable aspects of the trip. In addition, there was a perfect amount of free time or “rest & relaxation” days to both provide days of rest for students, but also provide time for activities that weren’t on the itinerary (such as hiking, paddle boarding, zip-lining, skiing, biking, soaking in hot springs, etc). One of the best aspects of the trip was self-led week. We were given the ability to chose, for six days, what areas to visit, where to stay, what to do, meal planning & everything about the trip. For our self-led week, we were tasked with getting from Sedona, AZ to Moab, UT. For the six days we were able to visit Grand Canyon, Zion, & Durango, CO—some of the best memories of the trip. Pacific Discovery did an excellent job selecting wonderful instructors (shoutout Jon & Lucy), providing meaningful & thought-provoking weekly curriculum regarding life-applicable lessons such as environment, communication, values, humanitarianism, etc, and providing us with service projects & cultural immersion experiences that educated & inspired us (especially in Hawaii). Our group became extremely close with each other & our instructors, and the relationships I’ve created on program are some of the best aspects of this trip. If you’re reading this, and wondering whether or not to take a gap year (and if so take this trip), I would highly encourage you to. Coming from someone who wasn’t planning on taking a gap year, this was by far the highlight of my gap year, and to be honest, one of the highlights and best times of life. Jump in feet first, be prepared to get out of your comfort zone, enjoy life-changing experiences, and mature/grow immensely over the course of the trip.