Taking a gap year and moving to a new country for a substantial period of time is a bold decision in itself. After I finished my high school, I was in a dilemma thinking what I should do next. Honestly, I wasn't prepared enough for another 3 long years of coursework, hence, I choose to venture out of my comfort zone and discover the world that's beyond the pages of the books.
I knew things will not be easy but it was more of a "NOW or NEVER" situation for me - and I took the leap. I've always been intrigued about the Southeast Asian countries - the beaches of Thailand, the tropical forests of Borneo, the tribes of Myanmar, the ruins of ancient temples across Cambodia and much more.
No matter how much I read about them, I had an urge to go and witness all of it with my own eyes. Like thousands of other high school graduates, my obvious choice for gap year destination was this region of mysteries.
And after 8 months of intense backpacking, hundreds of adventures and experiences - here are 5 most important things that I learned after setting out for my gap year adventure.
1. I found the confidence in me, which I never knew I had!
This is the secret that nobody tells you about moving abroad - you’ll surely be more doubtful of yourself than ever before, but you'll certainly discover a new-found confidence and it'll surprise you - the way I occasionally surprised myself! Taking a gap year and moving abroad is a bold decision in itself, and you'll take sometime to realize that. Despite the unpleasant events that I had to face, difficulties I had while adjusting to a new culture, and occasional feelings of homesickness, I realized that all those experiences gave me more confidence than I’ve ever had in my life. Things apparently seem more difficult from outside, but if you are sure about your goals, you’ll deal with any kind of situation, no matter what. Now, when it comes to facing problems, I know that I am capable enough to deal with them and find a way out.
2. Staying within the comfort zone is a complete waste!
Living a comfortable life with family, having friends who've known you since ages, meeting people who speak the same language as you do and being in a routine that you are used to is something which needs to cease at some point or the other. If you fix yourself in your comfort zone, you'll surely miss out a lot more than you can ever imagine! The world is big and it's waiting to reveal itself to you - all you need to do is to step out of the known. I was volunteering as an English Teacher in Thailand for sometime, when I met people from different parts of the world. They all had different cultural backgrounds, spoke different languages, had different food habits but we all were connected by the work we did. And soon, they became my favorite travel mates. The days at the volunteering site often seemed to be challenging, but each day had something to teach me - things that I probably could have never learned if I stayed at home!
3. It's okay to not have everything!
For many of the millennials (I'll count my friends in that as well!), having the best clothes to wear or buying the latest iPhone becomes extremely important. We usually want to possess everything we desire, and not having those often makes us sad. Drooling over material objects is a common thing for most of the urban dwellers. But during my journey, I realized that it's okay to not have everything - life still goes on! I met people in the villages around Chiang Mai, Thailand, where they had only the basics for survival yet they are happily living with their elephant companions. I met kids who don't have books and notebooks, yet they are so enthusiastic to learn. I realized that there are people who don't even have the necessities of life, yet they are happy & peaceful - while those having beyond their need are struggling to have more!
4. Go with the flow and things will eventually fall into place!
I've always been a very impatient kind of a person, trying to fix things even if they were beyond my capacity. During my backpacking journey across the Southeast Asian region, I realized that it's difficult to make things happen as per my choice. The universe has its own rules and things will happen the way it has to happen. Therefore, the smartest thing to do is to go with the flow. The unknown events ended up adding more beauty to my journey. I did break down at times, got lost and had no clue what next to do, struggled to find my way back to my accommodation but I learned how helpful people can be, and that there's always a chance of getting help when I least expected it! You are bound to face the uncertainty of the unknown as you'll traverse on the new paths - the more you'll learn to go with the flow, the happier you will be and the less stress you’ll endure.
5. Make meaningful choices that'll shape your life for better!
A gap year is a time when I got to focus on my passion for writing and photography. If I would have opted for higher studies just after wrapping up school, I would have never known what I truly liked. You'll come across hundreds of blogs telling you about why you should take a gap year and where should you travel for a gap year - but from my personal experience, I'll suggest you to make a mindful and meaningful choice.
This is your time to do something for yourself, to shape yourself as a better human being and to give something back to the society.
While traveling abroad, you can get engaged in some kind of volunteering work that'll enable you to offer help to the underprivileged people of the country. Or you may choose to intern for a project that aligns with your interests and polish your skills.
You can learn a new language, develop your cookery skills, try to learn the local art and craft and much more. Use this time to the fullest because this would be the best chapter of your life.
The world has a lot of things in store and you’ll only be offered those when you choose to set yourself free from the four walls of your comfort zone. Go discover abroad and learn more about life from your experiences.
Rest assured, you’ll never return empty-handed. If you’ve already had a gap year experience, then share your learning in the comment section below and let the others know about it as well.