Journey Into an Adult Gap Year - Straight Outta Corporate

The ‘Adult Gap Year’ is often seen as this thing engaged in by millennials that stems from what many consider a modern age quarter-life crisis. As a fellow millennial, albeit one on the older end of the spectrum, I can say that taking an adult gap year doesn’t have to mean that you’re lost or in need of an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ pilgrimage to find true happiness or fill a void.  

Instead, deciding to take an adult gap year was a decision I made because I wanted to take the time to fully immerse myself in curiosity, self-growth, and self-development at a time when it’s possible to pause my current lifestyle and swap it out for another.

I’m not going to lie, working at Amazon for 4.5 years gave me the privilege to speed up this adult gap year thing. My corporate job and the people on my team were amazing. It was because of that job that I was finally able to become financially stable, develop a better sense of self, and prepare for my gap year with the right intentions.

When this article gets published, I’ll still be a newbie on the adult gap year scene with less than two months of travel under my belt, but what I hope to share with you are some key aspects about my personal journey: why I decided to leave corporate America, how I prepared, and my first reactions to this new lifestyle (TL:DR things are going great)!

Why I Decided to Leave

Self-growth and a career change were the primary reasons for me wanting to leave my corporate job. For me, self-growth is a desire to always be learning and evolving as a person regardless of where I am in my life. But ultimately, I was also looking to pivot my career and apply the skill sets that I’ve developed through the years towards developing a more creative path that makes my heart sing (see Ikigai Concept Ven Diagram). With a longer career life and even life expectancy for many of us, I felt that now was the time to really explore. The cost of inaction was too great for me.  

Recent research and an article I read in Bloomberg have shown that people come out of an adult gap year better than ever. Whether they change their career or not, they come back into the workforce with a fresh and positive perspective on life. And who doesn’t want a fresh and positive perspective? Taking time to travel allows you to become a better person, love yourself more, and gives you the tools to reframe your life in a way that is the best for your overall well-being.

“Well, damn. I’m in”, I told myself.  

I don’t know how things will play out over the next year, but I do know that I can only continue to grow from here - I can now play around, be curious, and dive into passion projects that I’ve left on the back burner. 

So, let’s play.

How I Prepared

I had this ‘ah-hah’ moment two years prior to actually taking the plunge and quitting my job. Yes, from the time I decided to take a gap year to the actual execution took about two freaking years! I’m glad I took the time to prepare for this adventure because had I taken it earlier, I wouldn’t have been in the right mindset and enjoyed it the way I am now. Had I taken it a year earlier, my ‘why’ or intent would’ve been a form of escapism, but by the time that the second year rolled around, I was in a peaceful and happy place and just knew that it was the right time to transition. 

My personal belief is that if you transition from a point of shit, you’ll only end up in another situation full of the same shit. So I took those two years to really examine things in my life and embrace a state of being happy with where I was.

Like I mentioned earlier, I took that time to do my own online research and also asked friends that I’ve known to do something similar as to how they prepared and whether they found taking time off helpful (fun fact: 100% of everyone I surveyed said that it was a great decision). From what I’d read and what I’d heard, one the things that I needed to do if I was going to take this whole gap year thing seriously was to start planning out my savings and budget ASAP. So that’s what I did!

I started envisioning what MY year off would look like and came up with a list of personal requirements. For me, I still wanted a home base that I could return to during my time off, so I decided to keep my apartment in Queens, New York. That meant I needed to save a year’s worth of rent to cover that cost.  

While traveling was in my plans and I accounted for those costs, I knew I didn’t want to spend 100% of my year off seeing the world, I wanted to take the time I needed to also work on my passion projects back home.

Around the same time, I hired a financial planner who not only helped me optimize my current investments, she taught me how to save towards my goal. I think anyone can definitely do it without a financial planner, but my financial planner also served as my coach who supported me through this process even when I was doubtful of what I was doing. Surprisingly, a lot of my fears of not having enough saved and becoming a ‘bag lady’ was something that my financial planner said was common with her women clientele. Interesting, right?

My other big concern: how the hell do I get healthcare with no job? So, that was another thing I had to consider as part of my savings (either that or cutting my year shorter). However, because I live in the state of New York, it meant that I could potentially qualify for Medicaid. Which I did apply for and luckily received.

Sure, money and addressing issues like healthcare are big concerns, but the biggest hurdle to tackle was FEAR. The fear of losing my money and having nowhere to live, the fear of not being able to come back to my job, the fear of not feeling fulfilled at the end of the year, the fear of something awful happening to me, etc. Half of it stemmed from me, and the other half stemmed from well-intended family and friends. I would say that overcoming this fear was where I devoted the bulk of my preparation. In fact, I talked about this in a blog post I wrote recently, but I had a lot of work to do. 

I completed a fear exercise in Excel, took a fear workshop, and even made it a point to keep my mind healthy by becoming more aware of my thoughts through therapy, meditation, and journaling.  Doing all of this work took time, the changes didn’t happen overnight, but the result of doing it put me in a good state to move forward into this adventure!

How It’s Going

Well, I can honestly say that my adult gap year is off to an AMAZING start. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to wake up every day and decide on the things I want to do. If I want to do nothing all day - ain’t nobody stopping me! If I want to leave and see friends in another state (or country for that matter), I can. YASSSS.

I am so happy to no longer  feel a constant and overwhelming sense of ‘busy for the sake of feeling busy’. I now engage in activities that make me happy and allow me to learn. In the short time since asserting my independence, I’ve gotten Reiki certified, have had time to work on my comic strip Sticky Situations, and am now traveling throughout Europe for the month of August. I’ve marked the walls of Berlin with graffiti, taken a chocolate-making class in Belgium, lived like the locals in Italy, Netherlands, Germany, and Greece, stayed in hostels for the first time (and never doing it again), all while continuing to learn more about myself and I dive deeper into the projects that give my life meaning. 

We Americans are conditioned to work, work, work, work,work, and little value is placed on play-time or down-time. My hope in sharing my journey with you is that you can come to realize if you too need to take a step back and reassess your choices.

Take time to stop and smell the roses because, really, your life, your health, your well-being, and the world truly needs it.