Is taking a gap year becoming the norm?

I don’t have many friends who haven’t gone travelling at some point since finishing school or university.  Some have gone away for many months, others a few weeks, but it seems have become the norm for young people to get out there and travel. It’s quite the opposite from my parent’s generation, where you were lucky if you went to university and even luckier if you could afford to travel. Many people don’t need the inspiration or the encouragement to travel and are quite happy to work in a menial job for a few months so they can save up and get away.

Perhaps it’s a result of the economic situation at the moment. Common sense would suggest that going away on ‘holiday’ for weeks on end might not be the best option when you should be buckling down and trying to find a job. However, many young people are so disillusioned with the jobs market that they don’t see any reason to stay in the UK. Some people travel so that they can put off finding a job, others go abroad to try and find work. There are so many work programmes available that it can seem very attractive to jet off and find a job in a completely different country. A friend of mine recently came back from teaching English in China, while others have been involved in voluntary work. Voluntary work programmes are becoming popular as you get the opportunity to experience another country often with the accommodation included.

Some people argue that travelling does make you more attractive to employers when and if you eventually return to try and find a job. Even if you haven’t worked while you travelled, just the fact that you have the desire to get out there and experience different cultures can show that you have the spark that employers are looking for and show another dimension to your personality. Do employers really want a candidate who has simply worked in a mundane office job since leaving school or do they want someone with more worldly-knowledge and life experience?

It’s difficult to know for sure, and of course there are risks involved. You may have to leave a job or even turn down a job offer, but it’s safe to say that most travellers return home with a much more open-minded view of the world and very few regrets.

Travelling has also become a lot more accessible for young people than it was for my parents for example. There are so many cheap deals around for flights and accommodation that it makes sense to get away for a few weeks or longer if you can. Hostels and bars are especially geared up to accommodate travellers. They know that many are travelling on a budget and their prices reflect that. Of course, if you’re not too bothered about staying in luxury accommodation then it’s possible to live very cheaply, often even more so than at home.

If more people want to get out there and see the world I think it can only be a good thing. Although many of the travellers I know have been young people, that’s not to say that people in their 30s, 40s and 50s can’t take a career break and travel. In fact, it’s becoming more common for them to do so. If you have the opportunity to travel, even if it’s just for a few weeks, then it’s worth taking it.

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