What Motivated Me to Take A Gap Year

Gap years are always a good idea. But don't take it from us – we asked our Nomads to share what motivated them to take their trip, and why they’ve never looked back.


Photo © Pixabay/sadasdasd

Whether your motivations to travel are stress at work, completing 5+ years of university, the urge to explore the world straight out of school, or a complex break up you’re desperate to escape – we’ve all been there.

Here are some of our nomads stories to hopefully inspire you to take that leap of faith.

1. Corporate Life Isn't the Right Fit

“I decided to take a gap year after 3 years in the LA workforce weren't doing it for me. I wanted to see the world from a different perspective. Having always wanted to go to Australia, it was lucky for me that two things made the decision even easier. One: Australia's work/holiday visa allows twenty-somethings to live and work in Australia for a year. Second: probably the most important factor, was having a college friend there to help the transition!” – Kevin Ellis, Lazy Rhino

2. When You Start to Lose Focus

“I took a “get out of the rat race” gap year. As a final-year medical resident, I got to a point where I’d spend more time daydreaming about traveling than focusing on the lab results. It became worrisome. I then had a patient who was supposed to go on a world tour and came to the hospital for some pre-trip check-up. He died that day. That was it for me.

I took 7 months off, began in India, did all of Southeast Asia, stayed the year in Australia, flew to South Africa, then to Argentina, Brazil, moved over to Colombia, Mexico, and then USA, ending the trip in Portugal surrounded by friends.

My gap year was motivated by learning experiences. I wanted to learn as much as possible in each country. I ended up becoming a copywriter, a barista, and a ceramist – all while traveling.

Remorse is a pain in the ass. Having a general goal in mind will help you stick to the plan in times of indecision. Once you know what you want out of your gap year, you won’t feel guilty to skip the Kilimanjaro and stay behind taking pictures of a tribe instead.” – Raquel Correia, via Facebook

3. When Inspiration from Travelers Becomes too Real

“I didn’t do my big trip until I was 31, but I'd done a little bit of travelling prior to that, so I knew I was comfortable going solo. The only motivation you need to take a big trip is itchy feet. Everything else is just saving, saving, saving!" – Mark Seldon

"I was quite late in the game, taking a gap year at 25. The motivation was that I looked at a friend’s pictures of her travels, and it looked incredible. At the time I was at work doing general admin when I came across her pictures, and I suddenly realised that it’s what I wanted. So, I took a four-month career break/gap year.” – Jess Grey, World Nomads

4. Seeking Work Overseas

"I took a year off after I finished art school to travel and work in London (doesn’t every Australian?!). I was motivated by a mad passion to explore the world, create photographic artwork, get work experience, and meet new people.

I wanted to go to Europe first, so I did a guided tour with a girlfriend to help find our feet. But before that, we stayed with my friend’s family friend – the couple we stayed with just outside of London were amazing, and became our European base camp for the entire year.

They were epic global travellers themselves, so they had loads of tips and tricks for us, and we could leave our luggage with them (we took way too much and packed all the wrong things)." – Emily Willis, World Nomads

“I chose to visit an English-speaking country for my gap year. I would have loved to have gone somewhere exotic, but the practicalities of funding my year abroad got the better of me. Going to an English-speaking country meant I could get a proper job, and keep myself afloat.” – Claire Taylor, World Nomads

5. When You Don’t Know What to do Next, Travel

"I took nine months off after I finished university because I really had no idea what I wanted to do, and was not thrilled with the jobs that my fellow business school mates were getting at the time.

In fact, the prospects terrified me. I needed a bit of time and space away from school to experience more of the world, and work out what I was really passionate about.

I knew that I needed a bit of structure and meaning to my trip, so I planned my time around a stint teaching English in Thailand, and doing some volunteer work in Cambodia. I traveled around Southeast Asia during my breaks." – Alicia Crosariol, World Nomads

6. Traveling as Part of Education

"I took a gap year as part of my uni degree. My course required seniors to do a two-week, unpaid internship somewhere, and because I worried that it was going to be the last chance for me to have a big adventure, I asked the faculty if I could do it overseas. I found a position in London and ended up staying for two years while finishing my degree. Two birds, one stone. Thankfully, that wasn’t my last adventure!” – Martin Hong, World Nomads

"Right after graduating from Leeds Uni, I strapped on my backpack, stuffed my wallet with a few hundred dollars, and took a one-way flight to South Korea. There, I took on some freelancing photography and reporting on the Olympics, partnering with a fellow Chinese Studies journo mate of mine.

There were also many English editing and teaching jobs through the English language newspaper, the Korea Herald, so I figured I’d land something somewhere.

Why did I choose South Korea? I studied Chinese and Japanese, but wanted a new experience in the region – I couldn’t speak a word of Korean!

An exciting major world event that spanned across many weeks, and even months if you included all the organizational lead up to it, meant that there would be many European/US businesses setting up their operations from broadcasters, papers, other media outlets, and sponsors.

I knew with all those English speaking staff teams, I could hustle up a job as a runner or assistant with one of them." – Christina Tunnah, World Nomads

7. Explore Your Own Backyard Before the World

"My childhood goal was to get to know my own backyard before I travel the world. Plus, it’s cheaper!

So, after six long years working at a company in Sydney, I went back home to Thailand for a year and a half, road-tripping and freelancing my way around in my Mitsubishi Mirage. On the road-trip, I was working online and freelancing, which meant I got the best of both worlds." – Veronica Mercado, World Nomads

Planning Your Gap Year

So you’ve decided now’s the right time for you to escape, but where do you start?

"Plan loosely, but have some anchor points to give your itinerary some shape. We booked some stays ahead of time in popular places (like Yellowstone National Park, and Munich for Oktoberfest), but allowed ourselves some spontaneity on the journeys in between.

We also booked a 10-day stint at a vulture rescue center in Cres, Croatia, which gave us a starting point for our Europe trip.

Feeding vultures isn’t for everyone, but the volunteer experience was a great way to get to know the area, and we made some lovely friends." – Ellen Hall, World Nomads

Why did you go on your gap year? What's holding you back? Share your stories in the comments below!

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  • Valery Collins said

    MIne was a very late onset Gap Year. After years of struggling with an academic job I qualified as a solicitor which was tough going as I was still doing a full-time job while studying. i took a year off and worked as a tour leader on a freelance basis. That was 21 years ago and I am still leading groups on holidays all over the world. I have taken up photography and started writing about my experiences a few year ago. Now I have my own travel blog - http://experiencedtraveller.co.uk - and I am loving what I am doing. So step into the unknown and see where it takes you.

  • Ani said

    Well mine is a rather late gap year; I'm old enough to be the parents of many of those featured here! Better late than never I suppose! I was motivated to do it by several factors, among them quitting a job I really hated that took up all of my time and energy. I also had seen several friends die who were younger than I am now. My own father never got to "retire" and died in his 60's.

    I needed to get out there and explore and figure out where I wanted to live in the future(I also sold my home!) and what I wanted to do next for work and play. I needed to spend some of this time helping my young adult son who was on a relocation quest but mostly I would have time for me.

    I've been spending this time exploring a few places in the US so far as well as camping which I never had time to do while working. It's not exotic but it works for me. I'm also playing music again and have gone to a few music festivals.

    I'll be going overseas for the last 5 months of my "gap year", mostly pet sitting and volunteering(WWOOF etc) in a few countries.

    I'm having a really good time and am so much more relaxed and happier than when I was working a job that had taken over my life and living in a condo. I don't know what I'll be doing next when my "year" comes to an end next May but I'm hoping this break and exploration will have given me a better idea. I really hope that others in my demographic(late middle-age) decide to give it a try. Waiting til you can retire is the accepted plan by our society but I think it's foolhardy as you never know what shape you will be in by then nor how long you will live!

    I'm keeping my costs down by mostly ending up with free housing when I pet sit or volunteer or by camping. I'm staying occasionally in an AirBnB or motel when it makes sense to do so but those costs are well under what my living expenses were as a homeowner.

    I'm keeping a journal this year of my experiences and thoughts and will likely turn it into a book. If my journey motivates my peers to do this I will be pleased to have had a positive impact on others lives. And for those who are still young; get out there and explore the world. It gets so much harder to do this once you have kids, mortgages and all the rest.

  • Deb said

    I am taking a gap year in my 50's as the result of a corporate restructuring. Like younger gappers, I am using this time and travel to discern my next act. I kicked things off with a trip to Southern Africa, and have plans to volunteer in Morocco and then meet up with my husband to travel Southern Spain and Portugal. I have traveled whenever possible for most of my life, but this is the first time since beginning my professional career that I have taken an extended amount of time off to explore a completely new path.

  • Bev said

    Interesting that the stories are all from what appears to be, 20-somethings. Just like some of the other comments, I'm in my soon-to-be late 50s, have been working as a lawyer for on and off 30 years, and I am looking to take my Gap year now. I have thought about traveling across the United States trying to visit every state at least on the continental US, and just seeing what's out there. I have no idea how I will earn any money, probably won't, but I also will likely create a blog, or write just in a journal, and like one of the other commenters had said, maybe publish it into a book. I have two daughters that are amazing, I have a family that's wonderful, but there has always been something missing. So maybe now is the time to take the shot.

  • Don said

    I wanted to get away from my everyday life. I drove across country, took a ship from New York to Amsterdam, spent 13 months in Europe, flew back to New York, drove home to California via Canada.
    Total of 15 months. Travel is very educational.

  • Nicholas Kontis said

    When I was 24, I took a backpack on what was to be a two month trip to the Greek Islands. On the island of Ios, I met a Swedish couple who convinced me to forfeit my return ticket and fly on Biman Bangladesh with them to Dhaka and overland to India. Thirteen months later I returned to my native San Francisco with not a job prospect in site. Since, I was pretty months unemployable in corporate America and not seeing myself as a city worker or school teacher, I created a job for myself. I started the first successful travel agency in the U.S. specializing in discount around the airfares. I was fortunate to change my life, but many lives for the better.

  • Janelle said

    My husband and had done some traveling (China, Italy, New York, New Orleans, US national parks), but always within the constraints of two week vacations from a working life. We had been retired for about 2 years when our old dogs died and we paid off our house almost the same month. We decided to take a 4 month Gap Year- 3 months with no visa necessary in the European Shengen, then exit to the UK for the 4th month. We got a housesitter for the cat and to occupy our home to take care of essential things.
    We started in Vienna then Budapest, Krakow, and Prague. We are currently in France with about a month and a half to go. We started with some basic things we'd always wanted to see or do and then let the itinerary flow from those. For instance we wanted to see Croatia, but when the time came we changed our minds, knowing we loved Italy we just headed south. We finally saw Pompeii, Naples and the southern Italian coast. Then southern France to visit my brother and then on to Spain to experience some of my heritage. Then up north again to Bilbao, Spain and into northern France for Normandy beaches and Paris and a visit with other friends. We plan on London, and to see what is interesting in England. We leave for the US from Scotland. We have had some fantastic adventures along the way. A journal might have been a good idea but photos will have to do. Weve loved most of the trip. We think it renews a marriage to have to truly depend on each other and have an "us against the world" bond. We made a lot of friends and found people are generally so helpful. We are looking forward to the next trip to do the things we missed.

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