Whether you’re graduating high school, college, or graduate school, you should consider taking a gap year to travel before pursuing the next traditional steps. There are many reasons why you’d want to take a gap year. According to a 2015 National Alumni Survey, the top reasons are to gain life experiences/grow personally, travel and experience other cultures, take a break from the academic track, explore study options, and volunteer.
Plenty of other studies have shown the benefits, too. The Wall Street Journal found that 90% of students who took a gap year after high school still went to college the following year. Other studies found that students who took gap years were more likely to be happier in their post-grad positions, and there were positive correlations between academic performance and gap years.
With the benefits of gap years in mind, it might be best for you. Create a savings strategy and talk to your parents about any financial help you might need. Put your belongs in a storage unit with a reliable company like Livible. Start researching different countries and mapping out where you want to go.
Here’s a few reasons you should go ahead and take the leap:
Improve Your Creativity
When you’re going through a major transition, it can be hard to get in tune with your creative self. And when speaking of creativity, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should become one with the easel. Creativity can refer to the way you handle everyday problems, too. For example, one example of creativity is how you plan to save up for your trip. Will you download savings apps to keep track of your efforts, sell some of your items, or work overtime? Problem solving and creativity go hand in hand.
Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky has authored numerous studies on the link between traveling, mental health, and creativity. He says, “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.”
To give you an added boost of creativity, and to better convey the link between traveling and creativity, maintain a journal during your gap year, or a blog.
It’s a Stress Reliever
As you move from one milestone to the next, it’s natural to feel stressed about the next major move in your life. Fortunately, numerous studies have also shown that travel is a true stress reliever. In fact, one study found that after just three days of traveling, people reported feeling less stressed overall, and in higher spirits—even weeks after they returned home. With lower stress levels, you’ll feel more confident about your future and better prepared to handle stress as it comes.
No matter where you’re at in your life, traveling can help boost your resume if you make it a productive trip. Volunteer while you’re away, and not only will you learn a lot about the country you’re volunteering it, but can improve the appeal of your CV.
There are plenty of paid volunteer programs you can look into, but there are also platforms like Workaway and WWOOF that connect you with hosts looking for volunteer work in exchange for free lodging and food. This can be a great way to travel long-term and get some volunteer work in, too. Volunteer to work on an organic farm in France, help a business with their photography in Argentina, or save animals on the Galapagos Island. No matter what you enjoy doing, you can find a volunteer program that helps your resume in nearly any country around the world.
Figure Out What You Want
Individuals who take gap years will feel reinvigorated by their experience, and traveling allows them to figure out what they want out of life .This is especially true if you’re at a crossroads and can’t figure out what major to take, or what field you want to go into now that you’ve got a degree. With so much new cultural knowledge and worldly experiences, you’ll feel more in tune with what you want when you go back home. After all, your at-home life can feel so fast-paced, you rarely have time for reflection. This isn’t so with gap year travel. You’ll have plenty of time to reflect on your path and your goals, and to let your new experiences shape them.
Chances are, up until this point, you’ve relied plenty on your parents. A gap year gives you a much greater sense of independence. While they may be helping you achieve the trip financially, there’s no one there to hold your hand every step of the way.
Every decision that you make will be solely your own. You go where you want, when you want, and each decision shapes the outcome of your journey. After a few weeks, you’ll quickly learn that no one is accountable for your life (or your trip) but you. This sense of individualism and independence can be invigorating and fulfilling, changing the way you make choices for the better.