How to Sell Your Adult Gap Year to Everyone Else

Whether you need to shut up judge-y relatives or sell a gap year in a job interview, 5 ways travel makes you awesome!

As far as parents go, mine are pretty progressive. They supported me when I wanted to go to art school instead of law, and again when I traded that for a modeling career. They didn’t object when I left Wall Street to pursue writing. And while I know it worries them to death, they’ve never tried to stop me from traveling the world. But if you think I’ve been spared from defending my life choices, you clearly don’t have elderly Asian relatives.

Whether you need to silence judge-y people in your life, or sell a gap year in a job interview, take your pick of my five favorite reasons why long-term travel leaves you better off.

1.) Hemingway’s Best Works Weren’t Written By Staying Home.

For millennia, artists have known that certain kinds of travel can get the creative juices flowing, and research is starting to catch up to the adage. As this recent piece in The Atlantic pointed out, “going to Cancun for spring break probably won’t make a person any more creative, but going to Cancun and living with local fishermen might.”

That’s because exposing your brain to new experiences can alter the neural pathways of the brain and stimulate growth of new synapses. Translation? Travel gives you a bigger brain. Remember the song “All Stars” by Smash Mouth?

Didn’t make sense not to live for fun,
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb.
So much to do, so much to see.
So what’s wrong with taking the backstreets?
– Smash Mouth, “All Stars”

Nothing, Smash Mouth. Nothing’s wrong with taking the backstreets.

How to Sell A Gap Year

Just a few of my favorite reasons why travel makes you even more badass.

2.) It Makes You Smarter.

The “gaps” in my résumé belie a self-assured young woman who knows she can handle anything that life throws at her—because she already has! Seeing the world in person also means I have a lot more experience to draw from. Plus, all those new brain synapses makes problem-solving is a sy-nap! (Hey, nobody said traveling makes you funny.)

3.) Who Wants to Be Boring?

Would you rather interview someone who’s most adventurous story was a family trip to St. Lucia, or a resourceful candidate who’s navigated language barriers, cultural differences, and Murphy’s Law to see the world?

4.) Business is Going Global.

Nearly every company in the S&P 500 is a multinational. With many businesses now operating globally, being worldly is an asset. As an M&A analyst, traveling to other countries translated to insight on emerging market securities. Imagine how you can spin your experience as an asset for the next company you work for.

5.) There’s No Shelf-Life On Education

When family members accuse me of “wasting” my degree, I counter that what I learned in school shouldn’t expire. And graduating doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning. Reading books from different disciplines, using EdX to take free classes from Ivy League universities online, and developing new skills are all ways that I continue personal growth outside of college.

Actually learning—not just getting good grades—is a great investment, because you can generally find a job when you need one. I broke into Wall Street with an Entrepreneurship degree from a “non-target” (read: not Ivy League) university by taking the Level I CFA to prove that I knew my stuff. That’s a route that’s always open to me if I want to go back.

Have you ever had to sell a gap year or long-term travel to parents, friends, family, or an employer?

18 thoughts on “How to Sell Your Adult Gap Year to Everyone Else

  1. Steph says:

    Yes, exactly! Employers will always want smart, educated, hard-working employees and that doesn’t go away with travel!! 🙂

  2. The Thought Card says:

    Between #4 and #5, I can’t pick which is my favorite! You are so right the education you worked so hard for (and may still be paying student loans on) will still be there after your trip. It’s really what you do with that education that matters.

  3. Unpaved Travel says:

    This is a really great post, you make so many good points! I have never long-term travelled (just a wee part-time traveller!) but I imagine that a lot of people don’t get it because they’re a little bit jealous. It takes balls!! Most people don’t have that about them 🙂

    • Steph says:

      Haha, I really appreciate you saying that! That’s another thing that comes from traveling: courage! And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a part-time traveler. I bet you could go long-term if you wanted to, it’s just personal preference! 🙂

    • Steph says:

      Thanks so much! You’re so lucky that your parents encourage travel – sometimes I have to convince them to go on vacation themselves!!

  4. evan kristine says:

    “HEMINGWAY’S BEST WORKS WEREN’T WRITTEN BY STAYING HOME” This is so true! I mean, seriously true 😀 Great insights here and arguably great points!

  5. The Roaming Renegades.com says:

    Awesome post, after going travelling ourselves for 4 months this year and planning on heading out again for 18 months soon, we can definitely agree with these.

  6. lisa440440 says:

    Sounds like you have had quite a few adventures already with more to come. Travel is a great educator for sure. Best of eveything and safe travels.

  7. Carmel says:

    I love your writing and this story. Completely agree with you. I now call myself a traveler not a tourist and the older I get the easier it is to sell the gap year. Although I still get from everyone, when are you coming home and settling down…. Ah never!!!

    • Steph says:

      Thank you so much for saying that about my writing! A “traveler not a tourist” – I love it!! You keep on trucking girl and let the folks at home keep scratching their heads! Haha

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