Why you should take a gap year
I took a gap year when I was 22 and only regret not doing it sooner. A gap year is a wonderful break from life. A chance to forget about your future career, or marriage and children and society’s-imposed timelines and a time to live in the moment.
I finished high school in 2010 and when to straight to University to complete a degree in Law and Philosophy. I enjoyed my time at University. In my final year, I went on a three-week trip to Europe with 2 close friends. I loved travelling Europe and couldn’t wait to go back for more.
I finished my degree at 21 and had the option to continue my legal studies and become a lawyer or live and work in London. I choose the latter. Living in Johannesburg my whole life I realised life could be a little dull and predictable. London promised new adventures and exciting people. I booked a one-way ticket to Heathrow and packed my bags.
After tearful goodbyes and a farewell I was on my way. I was excited and terrified. I was charting unexplored waters. My peers were continuing with their studies, and some of them had already been offered positions at prestigious law firms. I was the only one to take a gap year. I broke the timeline. But who sticks to a timeline in life and why should we? We should do what makes us happy. That for me is travel.
I remember sitting on the plane, thinking; am I doing the right thing? Is this all going to be a terrible mistake? Will I be home in 3 months?
It worked out because when you go outside your comfort zone magic starts to happen.
I landed in London on a wet cold day in January and was welcomed by my amazing aunt, who helped me through the year. I was lucky; for the first two months I had somewhere to stay rent free. I had a familiar face to show me the ropes of London life. I had more support than most when moving to a new city without a job and very little money. But anyone can do it without having the support of family overseas. I met loads of travelers who left home for a year for a different experience.
And it was a different experience. London is a crazy, wild, awesome city. You are never bored and will never run out of places to explore. London is just one city, the rest of Europe is only a train or bus ride away. I loved exploring both. I travelled somewhere new every month and all on the salary of waitress.
I travelled to Italy for 3 months where I looked after twins who could barely speak a word of English. I worked in a historic pub in London serving celebrities. I went to Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Florence, Venice, Bologna and Prague. I saw beautiful artwork, plays, theatre and breathtaking architecture. I lived a year full of wonder.
There were hard times. Times when I wanted to come home. When I missed my family and best friends. Home is comforting. It is safe and predictable. You know the people, the places and the environment. And comfort is nice but nothing grows from comfort and nothing changes.
I was forced to make new friends, which I would not have at home. I was forced to be brave and find work in a foreign city without knowing a soul. I was forced to do things on my own because I refused to miss out on amazing adventure just because I didn’t have someone to go with me. I was forced to change. On these adventures, I met people, made friends, ate delicious food, and conversed with people from all over the world.
I got to know myself better and I changed because you have to change when your surroundings change. When you live in the same place your whole life, you are unlikely to change. When you change your surroundings, you will change. You adapt. I become confident, braver.
The most valuable lesson I learnt from taking a gap year; fortune favours the brave.