Busy weighing up the gap year pros and cons to decide whether you should take one?
After 10 years bouncing around the globe here are some of the most common pros and cons of taking a gap year that I’ve heard – so to help put your mind at ease and help you make the best decision for you lets run through them…
Gap Year Pros And Cons – Should You Take One?
Pro – Time To Indulge Your Passion
For me one of the biggest gap year pros is the fact you have a whole heap of time on your hands – and one of the best things you can do with your gap year is indulge your passions.
For some people that’s working with animals at a volunteer shelter, for others it’s hitting up heaps of music festivals or anything in between.
For me it was (and still is!) about chasing waves and pushing my surfing skills.
And that’s one thing you should really focus on during your gap year – your passion – not only because it’s what you love doing, but also because you don’t know where it’ll take you!
Con – It Puts You A Year Behind
One of the most common things I hear about taking a gap year is “but won’t it put you a year behind”.
I mean yes – in theory taking a year out to travel will put you back a year, but only in terms of the standard measurements.
Really if you’re thinking about taking a gap year you’re already in a mindset where the common life trap – school, college, university, job, marriage, kids, retire and die – is something you’re not really keen on signing up for.
And I don’t blame you.
What’s the real rush?
Are you really that intent on comparing your life against your classmates?
Are you really obsessing about some idealistic life markers and goals rather than chasing a new and exciting dream?
You’ll only be a year behind if you use other peoples goalposts – break the mould and run by your own rules!
Pro – Learn Life Skills
For me when people ask about gap year pros and cons one of the biggest things I’ve personally got out of travelling is the sheer amount of life skills you’re forced to quickly learn.
Things like scheduling, time keeping, budgeting, planning – they’re all key skills you learn and practice during your gap year travels.
It’s a simple formula – you either learn those skills quickly or you mess up your trip, burn through all your money after 3 weeks and come home.
So yeah, taking a gap year is going to teach you a whole host of much needed life skills that will help you on your adventures and back in everyday life too.
Con – It Can Be Expensive
Out of all the gap year pros and cons this is certainly the biggest barrier for most people weighing up whether they can take one of not.
And I’m not going to lie – taking a gap year can be pretty pricey.
But don’t let that put you off, make a plan, start saving regularly, cut back on some of those luxuries and you’ll get there.
Sure it might not be as quickly as you like, but better later than never right?
Also if you’re worried about the cost, head to some of the more budget friendly countries to travel – your cash will certainly go further in likes of Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and The Philippines than Australia or New Zealand!
If you’re looking for some more info on how much you’ll need to budget for a long term adventure check out my travel budgeting posts for some monthly breakdowns.
Pro – Broaden Your Mind
The saying goes “life is a book and those who don’t travel read only the first page” and it’s pretty damn true.
The world is a big, exciting place filled with incredible opportunities and people to meet.
If you stay in your home country there’s so much you won’t expose yourself too.
You’ll learn different perspectives, talk with people who have different view points, engage with new life experiences, immerse yourself in different religions and cultures.
There’s no doubt that travel will broaden your mind – whether it’s just learning a bit more about the world or having a full on life changing epiphany.
Con – Going Back To Studying/Working Can Be Hard
When it comes to gap year pros and cons this is the probably the most practical downside of taking a gap year.
Going from school to college to university is pretty smooth as you’re very much in an academic mindset and used to that level of concentration and study.
Breaking up the momentum can make returning to studying a bit more difficult and the same goes from the transition from studying to working.
After a long period of time bouncing around the globe and living on island time – making your way back into the 9-5 grind can be a big adjustment!
Pro – It Give You Time To Recharge
Most gap year pros and cons have an opposing argument and when it comes to arguing about the fact it could be hard to go back to work or study is the fact a gap year does also offer you the chance to recharge.
If you’ve just spent 10 years in the education system do you really want to dive straight into a 40 hour + work week?
A gap year gives you some time to chill, relax, recharge and regroup.
There’s a reason people take career breaks – they get burnt out – so give yourself some much needed you time to re-evaluate where you are and where you want to be.
Con – You’ll Leave Your Friends Behind
One of the first lessons you’ll learn when taking a gap year is that a lot of people love the idea of taking one – but not a lot of people have the follow through to make it happen!
And this might mean going solo and leaving your friends behind.
It happened to me – originally 2 of my uni buddies where keen to join me, but after 6 months of trying to organise everyone I gave up and booked flights for myself!
It’s tough leaving friends behind and worrying about if you’ll keep in touch and still be friends. Sure some people will quickly fall to the wayside, but your true friends will always be there.
Plus you’ll be meeting heaps of amazing people everyday – from all over the world.
Trust me, you’ll gain more friends than you’ll loose.
Pro – Use It To Gain New Skills
Now some people want to spend their gap year partying every night, and that’s fine, it’s your time and money so I’m not going to judge you on that.
But if you’re worried about your gap year being viewed as wasted, or you’ve got family hustling you to stop wasting your time, then there’s nothing stopping you from using your gap year to gain new skills.
Why not learn to scuba dive on Koh Tao, do a massage course in Northern Thailand, become a surf instructor in Bali or even complete your TEFL course and teach English in Cambodia?
There are plenty of opportunities to gain new skills on your travels and make a big impact on your CV and future job applications.
Pro & Con – It Could Completely Change Your Direction
So this is a point that sits on both sides of gap year pros and cons – taking one can completely change your direction.
Now for someone who already has a bit of a life plan this can be a massive shake up and be very much viewed as a con.
But if you’re open to new experiences and seeing where life takes you, it’s a huge positive of taking a gap year.
The biggest advice I can give you is embrace the opportunities that come your way. I know people who have learnt to scuba dive on a whim and now find themselves working all over the world as dive instructors.
I know people who were all set to go to law school, met the love of their life on their gap year and have immigrated to a new country!
Heck I took one and 10 years later I’m still travelling, having turned my gap year into an award winning travel blog!
Yes, it can completely change your direction – but I for one view that as more of a pro than a con!
So Should You Take A Gap Year?
If you’re asking for my personal take on things then YES, take a gap year if you can!
Honestly it’s the single best decisions I’ve made in my life – it opened up all kinds of doors, gave me a better perspective on life and gave me the time to pursue hobbies and alternative career opportunities.
And for most people I’ve met along the way it has been the right decision.
Sure – its never going to be the right decision for absolutely everyone, but deep down you’ll know if that’s not what you want to do, so listen to yourself.
But if you’re toying with the idea and most importantly can save the money to make it happen – then what do you really have to loose?
After all, you can always jump on a plane back home and pick up where you left off…
What other gap year pros and cons are you weighing up?
Let me know if you have any other questions