The day I turned 25 was the day I decided I wanted to change. I had been feeling a subtle, but ever-present sense of stagnation for the past few years. I often use the phrase “comfortable rut” to describe how I felt about my life at that time.
I wasn’t unhappy every day, but I wasn’t all that happy either. I felt like I had settled. The lows weren’t too low, but the highs weren’t high. I needed more. I was living in my hometown and working as an assistant teacher. While there were aspects of my job that I liked, even loved, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t quite right for me. After the school year ended, I quit my teaching job. I was stuck, and irritated and impatient with myself. I was a full-grown woman with a college degree: wasn’t I supposed to have my life figured out by now?!
After months of frustrating, fruitless searching, I found Jane. I felt like she totally got me and understood how I was feeling about my life and my desire for change. She was (and still is to this day!) a wonderful mentor throughout the entire process, and her support and knowledge were what helped me successfully find my next steps.
My gap year began in Arizona and Colorado, where I worked for a conservation organization. It was hard physical work but I loved it. It was satisfying and fun learning about the environment, building trails, learning to use dynamite to split huge rocks and build retaining walls. I spent my work days outside in beautiful places with awesome people who shared the same values and passions.
I visited twelve US National Parks. I camped under the stars. I experienced a record-breaking snowfall. I camped next to hot springs. I summited my first (and second and third!) fourteener. I saw a moose for the first time. I made some incredible, lifelong friends. It was the first time in my adult life that I finally felt like my genuine self.
From there I was ready for my next step, and I flew to New Zealand. I bought a self-contained van and made it my home. I worked alongside other international backpackers on orchards and vineyards. I learned to surf. I visited four NZ National Parks. I hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I went bouldering for the first time. New Zealand far surpassed my expectations as a traveler, and growing outdoorswoman.
When I returned to the US, I knew I wanted to move out west. I loved Boulder and all it had to offer, so I started applying for jobs and ended up accepting a job on a trail crew for Boulder Climbing Community. Since moving here, I’ve formed a community of close friends. I’ve learned how to rock climb, ski and canyoneer, all of which were activities I thought I’d never be able to do. I’m really proud of myself for getting here, and I’m deeply grateful for all the support I’ve had along the way.
I look back at my gap year as the push I needed to be able to figure out how to make myself happy and productive. My gap year gave me the opportunity to learn how to be independent, how to make mistakes but persevere anyway, and how to thrive outside of my comfort zone. It wasn’t always easy, and there were plenty of times when I felt lonely or lost or homesick. It’s hard traveling by yourself, and small mishaps can feel huge. But, thanks to all the intention, support and experiences I had along the way, I am now at a place in my life where I truly feel like I am thriving, like I can do anything, which is all I could ask for!
I hope my story will inspire at least one person who is ready for change to seriously consider a gap year, and to find people like J2Guides who will understand and support you in pursuing your dreams!