Taking a gap year before University was one of the most self-indulgent, unproductive and unoriginal things I've ever done.
After five years having the time of my life with all my mates at school, a further two skiving and spending my EMA on weed followed by a couple of weeks of manic revision before my exams, I had secured a deferred place at a top university... and was feeling really quite sorry for myself. A year out from the torture of privilege and economic dependence that is education was surely the only remedy.
I went to a Grammar school in Buckinghamshire. Most of the kids there had been through private schools and owned a second home in Salcombe. Middle class culture fosters a sense of entitlement to many things and by sixth form 'Gap yahs' were discussed with such certainty it was as if they were considered literally our birthright.
Friends and older siblings saturated social media with thousands of trophies photos collected of them drinking on beaches and slouched up against a tigers on drugs. I wanted in. So, I spent the next eight months of my life folding t-shirts before setting off for a two-month flash tour Southeast Asia, of course.
Students commonly spout two reasons to justify their gap year. They 'need a break' from their exceptionally hard lives of study, or they need to 'find themselves' and their independence.
If, like friends from other schools, I'd been laying bricks or putting up fences from the age of sixteen, then a year out and a trip abroad would probably serve these ends quite nicely. But, I was off to university, where I'd always dreamed of going.
If anything, working full time for minimum wage confirmed in my mind that going to University was a good idea for me. The experience on the whole, was one of restless boredom, trapped for another year in suburban, adolescent purgatory. I stuck it out, and somehow managed to save enough for the trip.
I hoped Asia would be a mystical foreign land where we'd get lost in alien cultures and experience everything anew. In reality, inexperienced as we were, we followed the crowds and it was more like an extended 'lads' tour of Malia.
They prop up the economy, but tourists have destroyed Thailand and the Thai people know it. Brits abroad don't indulge other cultures - they trample on them. Trust me, you won't 'find yourself' in a sordid bar in Koh Phangan - you'll find only Australians, cheap drinks and a nauseatingly in-your-face sex industry.
Had I the chance now, I tell my 17-year-old self to climb down off the bandwagon, get a grip, go to Uni and get on with my life. Because you know where a great place to 'find yourself' and grow up is? University.
University is awash with intellectual stimulation, fresh cultural experience and full of ambitious, bold, like-minded individuals. Seriously, how it became common wisdom that a year of debauchery in Thailand was necessary before young adults could possibly drag themselves through Uni is a mystery to me. I feel genuinely privileged to have spent the past three years flourishing in this place.
All I got in return for a year of my life was a crappy tattoo, some bad hangovers and some half decent drinking stories. But even if your only motivation for taking a year out is to drink and sit off, those, I assure you, are two activities found in abundance at University.
So here's my advice. Don't wait around; seventeen is the perfect age to go off the Uni. Find your independence there, work hard and start building your future. Then, when you've given something back maybe, kept your end of the social contract, go gallivanting wherever you want.
Having seen a further three years to grow up, garner some wisdom and get the drinking and debauchery out your system at Uni, you'll probably plan and execute a much better trip.
And don't even get me started on the self styled 'philanthropists' who genuinely think they're saving humanity by building mud brick walls in desolate places where manual labor is already exorbitantly cheap. Please, stay at home, you're serving no one but yourself.Suggest a correction