Taking a gap year, or simply framed as “taking time off” in the United States, gives recent university grads a socially and employer-approved chance to travel before entering the work force. The concept doesn’t only apply to early twenty-somethings without a career history; I’ve met plenty of people that were at a cross roads between careers and needed time to reflect and plan another life stage—myself included at one time. Whatever someone’s situation might be when considering taking a gap year or extended time off to travel, a number of benefits exist that might sway anyone on the fence with concerns over potential pitfalls or repercussions.
Ditch the happy hour, iPhone, and pinstripes. Travelers often fall around either end of a spectrum; freewheeling soul searchers who take a year off to travel or established entrepreneurs with bank accounts and flexible schedules. While the former makes for a great way to swap war stories, the latter may very well offer you a job—or at the very least a business card. Traveling has a unique way of placing people on an even playing field. Share life stories over a drink at the hotel or local watering hole and you may just add a few important Facebook friends.
Recharge the Batteries
Life is too short to waste away trudging through daily routines—especially after hitting the proverbial wall. Too many 50-hour work weeks and late nights at the office aren’t doing you any good. A year abroad may not provide fame and glory, but many employers love well-traveled types. Traveling the world sounds much more acceptable—and not to mention exotic—than sitting around at home or frequenting a local watering hole. An added bonus? A more worldly and intelligent version of virtually anyone interviews much better than the older model. Trust me.
From personal experience, long-term volunteering should not be seen as a chance to get some rest and relaxation. The antithesis of recharging the batteries, most volunteer programs involve rustic accommodations and long hours. The time commitment is nevertheless an extremely rewarding experience and much like recharging the batteries, gives travelers an acceptable excuse for a year away from the work world. Really consider the duration and skill sets offered to a volunteer organization before making a commitment to make sure everyone involved comes away better for the experience.
Travel + Career
Don’t just assume that a year of traveling means high-tailing it out of a cubicle to leave a vapor trail and irate boss behind. Many careers can be taken on the road. Does the company have an office overseas? Weekend travel options just went from visiting relatives to camel safaris or midnight strolls through Paris. Maybe a master’s degree from an international institution can be co-funded by the company. What about an international internship? Pitch a long-term goal and come away rewarded for progressive thinking.
Perhaps a white-collar job and mortgage aren’t sure fire routes to the best laid plan. Traveling is a great way to look inward, as people inevitably learn about themselves during months on the road. Discover another life meaning. Or maybe a year of globetrotting simply amounts to a nice break. If lifestyle left behind still looks inviting, jump back into the workforce with a renewed vigor and stories that will last a lifetime.
A version of this article was originally published in Verge Magazine after winning a storyboard contest.