Wondering if a gap year is the right choice for you? UK travel experts Netflights have surveyed over 2,000 people to find out the motivations for leaving the real world behind. The Editor meanwhile has some wise words of his own…
I was 24 and sick of work already by the time I decided enough was enough, that it was time to go and see the world. The truth is I’d entered university without a career gameplan… and I’d left university without one too. I figured with my wit, charm and good looks (ahem) I’d fall on my feet somehow, but the big bad corporate world of London was pretty unforgiving to a directionless undermotivated job seeker with an unimpressive 2:2 in Greek and Roman Civilisation. I sent off CVs, I filled in application forms that took longer to complete than academic essays, and very occasionally I got called up for an interview, which I’d always horrendously screw up. Nothing.
I ended up signing on.
Eventually a friend of my father’s offered me an admin. job at a sports-based charity paying barely above the minimum wage. I didn’t adjust well. From six hours of lectures a week to eight hours of office grind a day was an unkind leap. After a year and half though I’d just about done enough to earn a 1 year contract as a Project Administrator. Things got better, although I’m embarrassed to think now how poor an employee I must have been – it’s hard to excel in something you’re not truly driven to do, and you’re sleep deprived from getting up seven hours earlier than you’re accustomed (university had given me a vampire’s schedule).
It was around that time that two friends of mine from University had started talking about taking a gap year, and going on an epic journey over land and sea from London to the World Cup 2002 in Japan and South Korea. I’d always dreamed of South America, Fuji and Australia, but my friends were talking about East Europe, Russia, Mongolia and China… countries that still existed in some kind of post-Communistic gloom in my mind at the time.
Still my contract was coming to an end, I had managed to save most of my salary each month (thanks to the fact I had been living at my parents’ house in Beckenham since finishing Uni), and my life was far from being on the right track. Despite several fears and misgivings, I realised I had to go.
Did I find myself? Discover a truer purpose, or an answer to all of life’s burning questions? No, no and no. Did I accidentally gatecrash a Vilnius-hipsters house party and have the history of Lithuanian dance music explained to me over a spliff the size of my arm? Did I bribe Kalashnikov-toting security guards with a six pack of beer for a closer look at Moscow’s TV Tower? Did I interview former NBA star Acie Earl, and Craig David lookalike, for Russian radio in Kazan whilst telling him “he was born to do it“? Did I rock up to the 2002 World Cup with a golden-tipped David Beckham haircut I’d got from a back street salon in Beijing? Did I date a go go girl I’d met in a strip club in Bangkok (without ever being fleeced or waking up in an ice bath without a kidney)? Did I suffer grade two burns to the arms in Australia after leaning on a lit BBQ whilst on a boat with barely any water or medical supplies, that subsequently got infected, but made me look kind of awesome and ninja like when they were finally treated with bandages? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.
In short I had a great, and epic, time, and that alone made my gap year more than worth it.
Then of course there’s the immeasurables. If you take a look at the survey below you’ll see that an increased level of confidence, maturity, independence, knowledge and motivation were some of the main benefits that Brits listed when surveyed about their gap years and sabbaticals. I’m sure I gained some of all of those things (well maybe not maturity), but most of all I got the sense that anything is possible. That the world was much bigger than my upbringing in Beckenham, and that the only restraints I had towards accomplishing an adventurous and fulfilling life were my courage, energy and imagination.
Over to you my friends…