Psychology of a Gap Year: Is a Gap Year a Good Idea?© Unsplash
Psychology of a Gap Year: Is a Gap Year a Good Idea?

Psychology of a Gap Year: Is a Gap Year a Good Idea?

© Unsplash

Should You Take a Gap Year to Travel Abroad?

We all hit a crossroads in our lives where we have a niggling question burning in our minds: “Which path is the right one for me?” For most people when they’re young, it’s the old college vs. career or studying engineering vs. studying graphic design. Whichever road you take is going to be long and most likely expensive so you want to make sure it’s the right one. If there is even a little doubt in your mind, then taking a gap year could be the best decision to take. No, it’s not procrastination but an opportunity to help make better life decisions a year from now. Plus, a gap year may just ensure your mental health is in order before moving onto more stressful stages in life.

So, is a gap year a good idea? Find out with this guide on the psychology of a gap year.

5 Reasons Why a Gap Year is Good for Your Mental Health

  • Gives time to decompress, alleviate or even eliminate many of the stressors that are associated with academic lives, such as grades, careers, social lives, relationships
  • Allows to experience personal growth and maturity
  • Increases a sense of purpose
  • Increases resiliency and the ability to cope with stress and challenges
  • More motivation to succeed in the next stage of life, whether it be college/university or work.

Psychology of a Gap Year: Is a Gap Year a Good Idea?© Pexels

Define Your Purpose in Life

After school or other times in life, for that matter, many people find themselves not knowing what to do with their life. You might find yourself having a lack of a purpose or not having really developed passions or interests. Without a purpose, many people feel a bit “empty” and therefore unhappy.

A gap year is an opportunity to do something new, like a gap year backpacking in New Zealand, where being in a new environment will help you discover a variety of interests. You’ll have the time to discover yourself and find out what matters the most to you.

Psychology of a Gap Year: Is a Gap Year a Good Idea?© Pexels

Acquire Life Skills to Adapt to Any Challenges

Starting a new life in your home country is usually not that challenging when you have the support of family and friends to fall back on. Starting a new life overseas, however, is a whole new ball game where the skills you will learn adapting to a completely new environment will help you be able to handle pretty much anything.

While school can teach you theories in a number of subjects, it certainly doesn’t teach you life skills. With teachers and parents looking after you up until this point, you’ll have little experience of what it’s like to do everything on your own. A gap year abroad is a quick way to “whip you into shape”.

Common Skills Gained from a Gap Year

  • A gap year abroad makes you resourceful and helps you think quickly on your feet
  • You’ve bathed in a different culture and can approach things with a different mindset or angle, making you much more creative
  • Because you did not follow a conventional path of school-education-career, you can think outside of the box
  • You had the initiative to embark on a year of travelling in the first place! Then you actively searched for jobs in a foreign country, a place to live, etc.
  • Communication skills were developed when you needed to navigate a country despite language barriers.

These are all skills you can use for future college/university applications or on your resume/CV for getting a job. Learn more in How to Use a Gap Year as Valuable Experience on Your CV/Resume.

Psychology of a Gap Year: Is a Gap Year a Good Idea?© Pexels

New Perspectives on Life and the World

It can seem that your way of life, the way you have always lived it, is the only way of life. That’s simply not the case. Once you take a gap year to travel, you’ll see and meet many people living completely different with different values and world perspectives.

Experiencing different perspectives on life for yourself not only makes you smarter but, again, helps you determine what the most important things in life to you are. You’ll go home being a profound and interesting person.

Of course, getting these benefits from your gap year will only apply if you make the most of it, so follow our advice in the 10 Tips to Make the Most of Your Gap Year for ways to help you gain new perspectives on life and the world.

Psychology of a Gap Year: Is a Gap Year a Good Idea?© Pixabay

Hunger to Succeed

Finally, many parents and teachers worry that a gap year might leave their children or students less motivated to return to an educational environment like college or university. A study at the Univerisity of Sydney, however, showed that students with high motivation in college and university were correlated with having taken a gap year the year or two before. In other words, many students who were more determined and wanted to succeed had taken a gap year.

On the other hand, a gap year may make you realise that higher education is not the path for you. Gap years, however, still give people the motivation to succeed in life but through other avenues and career paths. It all links to a gap year allowing you to realise what’s the most important things are to you in life. If you’re more passionate about life, you’ll be more passionate about making the most of it.

Need more reasons to take a gap year? Take a look at 11 Ways to Convince Your Parents to Let You Take a Gap Year or if you’re a parent, 10 Ways to Convince Your Kids to Take a Gap Year.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before calling New Zealand home. He has now spent over a decade in the New Zealand tourism industry, clocking in more than 600 activities across the country. He is passionate about sharing those experiences and advice on NZ Pocket Guide and its YouTube channel. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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