Have you come to the end of your undergraduate degree, exhausted from endless hours of study, assignments and procrastination, and feel like you need a break? If this is you, here are some excellent reasons why now is the ideal time to take a gap year and travel.
You don’t know what else to do!
I don’t know about you, but I felt oh-so-secure midway through undergrad: my life had purpose, I was learning interesting things, and I had two more years to go in this wonderfully insular environment. But all too soon, the end of undergrad came and gave me the exact opposite feeling: I was adrift and had a myriad of ‘next step’ options but no idea what I actually wanted to do.
So go travel! Give yourself a graduation present and visit Paris, London or New York like you always wanted. Ignore the niggling voice in the back of your head telling you to think about your career and do further study – now is the time, the rest will follow later.
You now have more ideas of where to go and why.
Hopefully, your years in undergrad have expanded your view of the world. Where you would once have rushed off with hardly a second’s thought as to where you were headed, studying politics or history or geography or literature at uni has given you some perspective.
So sure, go to the famous cities, but how about branching out a bit too? After spending a few months doing the ‘classic’ Europe trip, my girlfriend and I took a punt and saw some of Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. From getting asked for bribes by Serbian border guards to motoring upriver in a small canoe through early morning mist in Laos, the time spent in those more far-flung places was just as memorable as ticking things off our bucket list.
You missed out after school.
Maybe you’re just plain jealous that you never went abroad like your other friends when you were eighteen. Now that you’re burnt out to boot, it’s about time to rectify the situation.
And if you did already take a gap year, maybe now you want to go again – somewhere else!
You want to take a break from Australia.
Why are Australians such avid travellers? I don’t have the answer to this recurring question, but I think it could have something to do with wanting to take a break from the homeland. After years of growing up and studying in Australia, and knowing that your career will probably take place here too, you’re itching to find out what’s out there in the great beyond. Take this opportunity broaden your understanding of other cultures and places and how people there live their lives. And given Australia is so remote, you might as well take a whole year off to see as many places as possible in one go.
You want to spend some time getting to know Australia.
Or maybe the exact opposite’s true. So far, I’ve implied – quite unfairly – that travelling always means flying overseas, when of course there’s an entire continent to explore right beneath our feet. If you dare share the highway with the abundant German backpackers and Aussie retirees, then go for your life.
You have long-lost family members overseas.
You’ve heard endless stories about Opa Jan and Oma Tineke from your parents, but have never met these mythical characters. If you do have rellies overseas, this is the perfect opportunity to look them up. And not only for sentimental, finding-out-about-your-roots kind of reasons: some free accommodation beckons.
You want to explore the world together with your friends or partner.
When you choose to travel with friends or your partner, you know that you’re opening up a can of worms of potential tensions and disagreements. So why do we do it? Choosing a person to face the world with can either make or break a relationship. When it fails, it can fail hard. But when it works, your experiences will be worth all the trouble and more. There’s nothing wrong with having a wingman during your adventure, even if it’s just for the certainty of a comfy headrest on the flight home.
You want to test your independence.
If you want to see just how independent you have become by the end of undergrad, travelling solo is a great way of finding out. You might get lonely at times, sure, but more often than not you will be making new friends at the hostel and get to interact more with locals than you would if you were in a group (or on that infamous tour). This will also be an experience granting you new perspectives on the world you live in and your place in it – and surely that’s what travel is all about.
The bottom line is… Just travel! There are many (sometimes contradictory) reasons to take a gap year and travel. The end of undergrad is one of those rare, neatly defined points in your life where you can pause and take stock of how things are going, so why not use this convenient time to go out and explore.