5 Things to Know Before Taking a Gap Year
Chances are, If you’ve been thinking of traveling the world and exploring this amazing planet; in search of a sense of identity, adventure, and pure (and natural) ecstasy then you have probably already reached the point of no return.
Your mind has already been re-consumed by the natural human need for adventure, ambiguity, and dare I say it, danger.
Day in and day out your thoughts become renditions or day dreams, and you find yourself lost in the Jungles of Thailand or the Barren lands of the Atacama. The idea of not only leaving, but destroying your comfort zone not only scares the hell out of you, but exhilarates you. You remember growing up as a kid in school, and you remember all of those mandatory readings that were believe to posses the power to “enlighten us” as children; not only this but you remember how pointless they were, and then realize how true they were.
Fantastic and epic stories of young adventures following their primal instincts and senses, but most importantly their hearts. Chances are, you've been stricken with wanderlust. If by this point, you've made the brave, bold, and wise decision then are a few things that you should know pre-adventure departure. Lets call them the pre-adventure mental checks.
The first and perhaps most important rule is more of state of mind, an attitude. When traveling one must hold true to both a level head, and an open mind. This type of thinking can be translated millions of different ways; but for those who chose to translate it in such a way that it manipulates their thoughts and ideals to pursue cultural enlightenment it should be translated as such. By keeping a level head on the read (or trail) you have engaged in an unspoken agreement with your naturally human, adventurous, and nomadic state of mind that you will respect any and all walks of life that you may encounter.
By keeping a level head your are assuming the responsibilities of being a citizen of the world. Passing judgement on those who are vastly diverse from you not only culturally but socially, politically, economically, and ethnically becomes completely worthless and senseless because you come to the realization that the human experience is capitalized by diversity. The natural human condition is the trait that we all possess in which we identify with one another, whether it be in our similarities or our differences. Each and every one of us holds true to our own cultural diversity, whether it be as big as our heritage and background, or as small as our family values. By keeping a level head, we can identify and celebrate diversity.
An open mind remains equally important to the human experience. This holds true because there are always two tails to the tape. After we can identify with one another, we can then learn from each other. By valuing and celebrating an open mind we as humans can learn from each other and grow with each other. We as humans celebrate life in the truest form by living in the moment, surrounded by the billions of beautiful souls that we were meant to share this fantastic blue planet with. Opening our minds to knew ideals and perspectives is an evolutionary gift that we were blessed with.
Murphy’s Law. Simply put. As an experienced travel, you begin to come to the realization that what can go wrong, will go wrong. Now maybe I should back this up a little bit. Avoid the thought that what I'm saying is that everything always goes wrong all the time, this is not true. What I mean is that, when traveling, anything goes really. Don't ever for one second think that your day will go exactly as planned. Don't for one second believe that your flight will land in time, and your bags arrive in time to make the last train for the night.
Don't for one second believe that your bags have to show up. Because any good traveler knows, that shit happens. Sometimes, it really does. Sometimes the airlines lose your luggage, the hostel double books your reservation, and sometimes you get scammed by cabs. The best way to get around it, is deal with it, hell just laugh and celebrate it. At the end of the day when the problem has been solved or you’ve been riddled with a throbbing headache you'll realize that ultimately there isn’t much that you can do. Just Keep Calm and Travel On.
Its not the destination, but the adventure along the way that keeps your jaw dropped to the floor. For this is the reason we explore. This is why we leave home in search of something… different. Although you may share the same destination with a fellow traveler, no two adventures or journeys are a like. The Adventure can be seen as the traveler’s finger print. Every traveler posses their own unique stylistic swagger of exploration. None of us explore Barcelona and Paris in the exact same manner. The Temple of Wat Pho may not mean to me, what it means to you, and for this reason is why we all travel. This is why we share our stories to any passer by who willing to stop and listen. This is the reason our faces light up and glow to a point you would think we’ve gone crazy for chasing the rabbit of wanderlust.
Every good traveler knows and understands that you have to live in the present when traveling. Don't get to caught up with “tomorrow”, live in “today”. Take every breath as if its your last. Eat, drink, and live as if you've been given days left to live. Live with the thought that there is no guaranteed “tomorrow”. Live in such away that those who surround you become so enveloped in your infectious and enigmatic in your journey that they make you a destination within their journey. Be the person you've always wanted to be, share your sorrows, celebrate your victories, and open your heart and mind to the wondrous adventures that others have endured in pursuit of their destination. Make your destination a state of mind in which you are always present. Make your destination a home in which you are comfortable anywhere, with anyone. Only once you have realized how small of a space you occupy on this planet can you truly begin to fathom how big it really is.
Be scared. Obtain an apprehensive chip on your shoulder. Really, it’s ok to be a bit cautious and worry about where you're going to sleep tonight, or how you're getting the the coast. Its standard procedure for any beginning traveler to posses a feeling of fear. Its not easy task to ship of to a foreign country, even more so if you've gone solo. But its this fear that we learn best from. It motivates us to find out the truth about our fears, to test the waters and discovery for ourselves what we really have to fear. There’s a reason that only a select few of the general public actually have the stones to leave their comfort zone, because like I said, it can be scary!
If you've decided to travel you are one of the lucky few who has been chosen for a life long contest in which your prize is enlightenment of the soul in mind. Your prize remains to be seen by any passer by, but is glorified in anybody that takes in interest in your journey’s. Bird’s of a feather flock together, so I can guarantee that where ever you travel you wont be in short supply of someone just like you. The best about this “chip”, is that you grow out of it the more you travel, which is why it is so important. A mother will do anything to keep her child from sticking a fork in an outlet, a father will watch him/ her do it and reply with “I bet you wont do that again”. Its a paternal instinct that those stricken with wanderlust begin to develop. The more you travel, the more you learn, the more you grow, and the more you understand the world, and yourself.
The last rule for your maiden voyage, is too smile. One small smile goes along way, and if you're like me when you travel you begin to feel like a barbie doll. Your cheeks become morose and your eyes weary from a constant state of surprise and and bewilderment. I can guarantee this smile will catch any onlooker and will instant hook them in. A Smile is like a brand, an insignia that identifies an enlightened spirit. Trust me, Ive looked at my own pictures, I know what exactly was going through my mind in each photo, and I look at that photo as if it belonged to someone else, I look at the smile in my face and see true happiness.
Wanderlust is an extraordinarily powerful sickness. If you can kick it then I tip my non existent hat to you, but for myself and fellow travelers, we suffer on a daily basis. We suffer form the lack of adventure, shackled by routine and disgusted by the norm. We set out to break free from routine, we live for the butterflies in your stomach. Its the smile on a traveler’s face that will tell the best story. The widened eye’s and fascinated tones that draw us in are only produced by the smile of Wanderlust, better yet lets call it the Kiss of Wanderlust.