Published: Sept. 23, 2015

Over the course of six months, I was able to see; the sunrise over the Serengeti, clouds encompass Machu Picchu, the northern lights light up the Iceland night-sky, and much more. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this if it weren’t for the fact that I decided to take a gap year. What is a gap year? The gap year—which happens to be increasing in popularity in the USA—is a year off of school between high school and college. To address high school upperclassmen directly, have you thought about a year off? I’ll tell you about mine and how it affected me, and then about alternative options on a gap year.

I knew I wanted to take a gap year for a while, but when it got to my senior year in high school, the idea of it became a reality. I did all of my college applications in my senior year, and made sure I got into CU-Boulder. Then what I did was enrolled at CU-Boulder, but deferred my entry to enter with the class of 2019, instead of the class of 2018, so that my spot in the college was secure. The next six months, I proceeded to work, in order to obtain money for my end goal—traveling the world.

Come New Year, I had saved up enough money and I had planned it all out—and on January 8, 2015, my travel partner and I set out on the trip of a lifetime. I won’t bore you with the full breakdown, but the short version of our trip include traveling to six continents, 19 countries and more than 30 cities over the course of six months. One would think that with that amount of traveling, we would’ve been broke in a flash. However, what we did was use a website called, a forum of hosts all over the world who offer room and board in exchange for work, to travel economically. We ended up working various jobs around the world, including; cow farming in Iceland, teaching English in Peru and Tanzania and rehabilitating stray cats in Japan. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I believe it actually helped me prepare for college better. Coming out of the gap year, my partner and I could see that we were both more appreciative of the small things . . . like hot showers. Not to mention, a new level of maturity that we acquired through necessity while traveling.

Our gap year was a huge success, but is it for everyone? My gap year was completely planned out by us and us alone. But there’s a cornucopia of programs that offer pre-planned gap years for students—for a fee, obviously. Many students decide to use volunteer organizations such as Projects Abroad to add some structure to their gap year. I also know of many people who solely work on a gap year, and many others who continue their studies with companies such as Study at Sea. There are so many things that one could do with a gap year, it’s immeasurable.

Unfortunately, a gap year is not for everyone. I would highly suggest against a gap year, if all you would do is lay on your couch in a sea of chip crumbs, watching re-runs of Law & Order. Go out and do something with your time off school if you choose to take a gap year!

So, there we have it, a brief overview of the gap year. If you are seriously considering taking a year off, but still have questions—please don’t hesitate to contact me, I would be happy to help to the best of my ability.


Until next time.


Ben Rains
Benjamin Rains