Taking a gap year is one of the best decisions I ever made. I learned so much about both myself and the world. Here are 10 things I learned during my gap year.

1. Jump from waterfalls as often as you can

I jumped off a few cliffs and waterfalls during my semester with Pacific Discovery, and as long as you can assure that what you are doing is safe, I highly recommend doing it. It is such a rush and landing in the water is the most liberating, refreshing feeling.

2. The best food is outside the United States

The United States has some pretty incredible restaurants, no doubt; but in terms of food quality that also tastes good, you have to explore outside the country. Food outside the U.S. is much less processed, if it is processed at all. During my semester with Pacific Discovery, particularly when we were in remote areas, we were only eating whole, nutritious foods that came from the earth, such as fruits, rice, and beans. 

Gap Year Learnings

3. Scuba diving is worth it

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know how much I love scuba diving. It was a major fear of mine prior to going to Mexico, but it ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. 

4. The things that sound scary make the best stories

My Central America group hiked a volcano that was actively erupting. (Don’t worry, we didn’t get close enough for it to be dangerous!).

5. I hate camping

No explanation needed. But some people from my group loved it. It’s all about learning more about yourself!

6. There are some distinctly American things worth treasuring

For example, peanut butter. Not many other countries have it as widely available as we do. Also, being able to flush your toilet paper down the toilet instead of putting it in the trash. 

7. Learning a second language is essential

Although many people spoke English in Central America, there is no denying the value of learning a second language. We live in an increasingly globalized world where interactions with people from all different backgrounds are inevitable. Learning a second language allows you to make new friends from other parts of the world, market yourself well in a global economy, and travel easier. 

8. Increased use of permaculture is very necessary

Permaculture is a method of environmental sustainability, often used in architecture, that focuses on using local, abundant materials that do not produce any waste. In the age of the climate crisis, this could help save our planet. 

Gap Year Learnings

9. Living outside the U.S. is much cheaper

I was shocked at how far just a few U.S. dollars went in Central America. Food, particularly from local vendors and not touristy restaurants, is much cheaper than in the U.S. 

10. Ethical humanitarianism is the only service work worth doing

Many teen travel programs advertise service work that sounds great in theory, in practicality, only does more harm than good. Oftentimes, these service projects only exist to make the participants feel good and do not actually meet the needs of the host communities. Pacific Discovery ensures that all service projects are ethical and valuable for the host communities. 

Check out our gap year programs here.

by Abigail Hasselbrink


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