Like many families, our family has just waved off a much-loved family member as he embarks on a gap year, in his case a two-year round the world adventure. And, like those others, our joy and excitement at this fabulous journey is tempered by many emotions; sadness at him not being around even though we'll no doubt keep in touch, hope that he'll have the very best time possible, apprehension that any sticky situations he may encounter will be dealt with well.
A gap year provides many wonderful opportunities, beyond those that may have initially anticipated. Yes, there is the freedom to travel wherever he wants, to literally be able to turn left or right as the mood takes, but a trip like this offers much more than that.
Here are some of the ways that are open for personal development on such a gap year adventure:
- Trust your instincts. There are times when you will need to make decisions based purely on your instinct or gut reaction. Tuning in to your own innate feelings about another person or situation is an important survival skill when you're in an unknown place, perhaps out on a limb. Becoming self-sufficient, trusting what feels right or wrong will support you in becoming more confidant, self-reliant and able to make calm, realistic decisions.
- Courage. Travelling on your own on a gap year means moving out of your comfort zone, going into places by yourself, eating alone, asking questions, maybe needing help sometimes. Taking advantage of opportunities in order to make the most of the trip means sometimes swallowing hard, saying 'yes' and going for it. Your instincts will often support those decisions, provide guidance as to the best way to proceed but courage provides the motivation to keep going when perhaps loneliness, homesickness, feeling a little lost occurs.
- Resourcefulness, for those times when you have to find the best way to handle situations with no apparent solutions, options or help available. These are the times when we discover our own inner metal, what we're made of and can be proud of ourselves. This is the stuff of legend, the stories that we tell our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews; the stories of slaying dragons, defeating bandits and marauding pirates that pass into family folklore.
- Learning about other people, their cultures, traditions, habits, idiosyncracies can happen on a gap year. When you're on the road, perhaps staying in hostels or wherever's available you're bound to encounter people you'd never normally meet. Learning about them, having discussions and debates, sometimes perhaps having to tolerate, accommodate or compromise over their ways is an important life lesson. It may even be a life-saving lesson if they have especially forceful or vociferous attitudes.
- Flexibility. The ability to judge a situation, to adapt, change track or give in and go along with things can oil the wheels of a tense situation but may well open new and unexpected doors to interesting and exciting opportunities and experiences. Negotiation skills may need to be flexible, honed to appreciate what's needed for a desirable outcome.
Many people use these gap year travels as an opportunity to 'find themselves' It may sound a little cliched but learning about yourself, discovering what you're capable of, what motivates you when you're free from the constraints of family and friends, the demands of normal everyday life can truly help you achieve a wealth of insight and understanding about who you really are. And don't forget to keep in touch, share your stories, let us know you're safe from time to time!