Why we’re taking a gap year
Letting it change us...
My wife and I are quitting our jobs in October, 2023 to take a year off. It’s not quite a sabbatical since we will not work or take classes while we’re gone. We’re calling it a “gap year.” Instead of a traditional gap year, which separates secondary and primary school, ours will separate the first part of our lives from the rest.
Before discussing any details about our preparation or adventures, it behooves me to explain why we think it’s so important that we take this trip.
Maybe the primary reason why we’re taking a year off is because my wife’s parents did it when they were young. In the back of her head, it’s always been part of her life plan. So, I’m going on gap year so she won’t divorce me and marry someone who will.
Jokes aside, the real primary reason we’re taking a year off is… because it will be fucking awesome. Life is so short. All the money in the world can’t buy you more time. This is our chance to make the most of our youth. The only real way I know how to slow down time is to fill it with novel experiences. What better way is there than to travel? We’ve worked hard and had tremendous privilege to end up with the rare combination of sufficient money & energy and little responsibility. By quitting our jobs, we’ll add “plenty of time” to the mix. Every friend, relative, or colleague I know who learns our plans says some variant of “definitely do this while you can.”
Beyond this, there are three key reasons why we’re taking this trip around the world.
First, we want to foment a better sense of connection. Community is a value that my wife and I hold very dear. We already do whatever we can to be there for friends and family, especially including traveling great distances. In our year abroad, we expect to meet all kinds of people, some of which we expect will join our community. We love the idea of making new, lifelong friends. Beyond this, our time together will be a grand way for my wife and I to strengthen our sense of connection.
Moreover, I have a really big extended family. My grandfather was one of nine (!) children. When they came of age, half of his siblings immigrated to different corners of the globe. I always joke, “the sun never sets on the Bhasin empire.” Our gap year presents a rare opportunity for my wife and I to meet my aunties, uncles, and cousins where they actually live! We just got to visit with a bunch of them at my Australian cousin’s wedding in Turkey. It was concrete reinforcement that I have an awesome family and Cam & I love spending time with them.
Second, and this is more of a motivation for me: I want to deprogram myself from work. Ultimately, work is a hollow maker of meaning. The last 10 years of our lives have been a grind (Cam even switched careers! I got my dream job!). The 2010s were high times for toil glamor and I certainly got caught up in it. While we have material success – which I am grateful for – I have forgotten how to relax and enjoy things like I used to. My mind often wanders towards the details of my work when I don’t want it to, like late at night or when I’m on a hike with Cam. I find it harder to find pleasure in things that used to bring me joy, like watching movies and television or reading books. I’m under-practiced in experiencing my own non-work interests. Gap year will be an antidote to this productivity mindset. I hope that I learn to be more than a good worker.
Last, I hope that vagabonding helps us grow in ways we don’t expect. Obstacles will get in our way and we’ll have to overcome them. We’ll see whole cross sections of humanity living life totally different from us. As much as our surroundings will change, we’ll also embark on an inner journey. My cousin Meera told us something that we couldn’t quite let go of. “Let it change you.” This phrase whispers back at us in quiet moments. It adorns the top of our itinerary, not that we need the reminder. I really do feel like we’re at the pre-singularity stage of our lives – who knows what will come beyond the event horizon? We’re going on gap year to let it change us!