This is not, and never will be, a gap year. Gap years aren’t a real thing.
The term “gap year” suggests that doing anything other than following the conventional path doesn’t count as a part of your life, or at least as a part of your “real” life. I once said that you don’t need a permanent home, a job, a routine, and responsibilities to justify the realness of your experiences.
All of these different types of years, “gap” or otherwise, are just different ways to live REAL life.
I have traveled a lot in the past two years. I’ve lived abroad, I’ve lived at home, I’ve backpacked, I’ve volunteered, I’ve worked, I’ve interned…I’ve bathed an elephant, I’ve done quantitative research, I’ve taken shots, I’ve taken risks, I’ve put a note in the Western Wall, I’ve gotten a tattoo in Thailand (And I’m definitely not alone on this one), I’ve been inside some castles, buddhist temples, and gothic cathedrals, I’ve watched the stars in the desert and the sunrise over the ruins at Angkor Wat…
This isn’t a phase or an isolated period – it’s all my life.
This is not a gap year and it’s not something I’ve chosen by accident or by default, although I will say there were moments when I have felt more sure of my decisions than others.
But I realized something important recently, and it’s crazy that it’s taken me two years to come to this but: I love to travel!
I don’t just love it because I like working abroad, exploring other cultures, meeting people, etc., although those are all a part of the experience. I love to travel just because I love to travel. And that’s okay, I don’t need another plan, I don’t need an elevator speech, I don’t need to subscribe to any system or society if I don’t want to.
I resisted it for so long, I was so sure that travel was coincidentally a part of my journey and that while it wasn’t the purpose or meaning in my life, it was a means to find or enact a purpose. I really hated when people labeled me as a “world traveler” because I thought it put me in a box and made me seem like a forever-wanderer, as if that were the purpose of my traveling, to wander. And as if wandering were a bad thing (presumably because it’s not supposed to be the purpose of life. Life is supposed to be about having a career, a spouse, and a house, and I gotta tell you, I have a very serious problem with the 9-to-5 situation, but we’ll save that for another post)
The most important thing that I’m trying to convey is that just because I don’t follow the rules and expectations sometimes about what life should be like, doesn’t mean my life isn’t real, and same goes for my compatriots traversing the backpacker trail or otherwise living alternative lifestyles.
This was not a gap year. It’s all my life and will continue to be, no matter what happens next.
Right on, Michelle. I’ve never read this idea articulated so perfectly. Very cool.
Wow, thank you Craig. It’s one of those things I think about a lot…And especially every time someone refers to my travels as my “gap year”!
I hear you. Especially when the “gap year” extends beyond one year. What’s it a gap between, anyway? I don’t especially care to be labeled a “world traveler,” either. We’re just living our lives the way we choose to live them.
Totally agree with Craig! Love it!
Awesome post Michelle!
Hey!!! So good to hear from you! How are you? And thank you!
We would love to post the second picture an an excerpt of your text at toemail if you do not mind? Where was it taken? http://toemail.wordpress.com
Sure, just as long as you link back to me! It was taken in Tampa just before my friend, Sameera (left), departed on a backpacking adventure around the world 🙂
Thanks! Will let you know when it is posted! 🙂
It’s posted now. Thanks so much, we really appreciate it! 🙂
It looks great! and thank YOU!