Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fall into the Gap

The gap year, that is. The gap what, you say? Are you an American? That's probably the problem then. A sabbatical or gap year away from one's career is not uncommon in Australia or the UK (or elsewhere in Europe and perhaps Canada), but it's largely a completely foreign concept to the typical overworked and under-traveled American.

There's also the gap year after high school and before college that is commonplace in Europe, when kids travel to immerse themselves in another culture, explore specific interests, work, and/or volunteer. But that's not the year I'm talking about. I'm talking about walking away from one's career for a year. At least.

Though I don't like its touting of Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling piece of BS (how nice to get a $200,000 advance to go and travel the world and write about it) - "Eat Pray Love" - I do like what Meet, Plan, Go is about - helping people make their gap-year dreams a reality.

I only just learned about the group, having stumbled upon a blurb announcing an upcoming event (for which I am now on the waiting list; guess I'm not the only American hankering for a career break). At any rate, hope the spirit of the gap year catches on Stateside. We Americans could definitely use a real vacation from our workaday lives - the three-day weekend a few times a year just doesn't cut it. Neither does a two-week trip, once in a blue moon!

While I wish it would transpire sooner rather than later, I'm just beginning to gear up for my gap year - five years in advance of when I'm aiming to take it. And, in truth, I'm hoping it'll extend well beyond a single year and transition into a new full-time "career" altogether.


Meet, Plan, Go: Seeking to teach Americans about the benefits of extended travel via a gap year or career break. The group helps to motivate prospective travelers, help them build contacts and resources necessary to planning their year off, and get them on their way to making concrete steps forward toward a sabbatical.

Transitions Abroad: Portal for work abroad, study abroad, cultural travel overseas, and international living. While the site looks a tad janky, it's recommended or referenced all over the place. For instance, Yale. Ivy League approval says to me it's kosher and worth delving into without hesitation.

Interim Programs: The first - founded in 1980 - and longest-running gap-year counseling organization in the United States. The group has designed creative gap-year opportunities for thousands of people of all ages. It has an extensive database of program options.

Projects Abroad: The leading volunteer projects abroad organization, offering a diverse range of projects internationally. Promises that your experience will be far more worthwhile and genuine than that of the average tourist.


8/23/2011: Career break travel myths - Lonely Planet

10/12/2010: Tips for making that dream trip - dropping everything to roam the globe for a year - a reality. From The New York Times' Practical Traveler.

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