I studied global ecology and anthropology, and the world was literally my classroom.
During my junior year our group of 18 students went to England, India, Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand and Colombia in 9 months. The countries and cultures were astounding. The curriculum was real-time and place-based. Our faculty became role models, and our group was a family. Like every known cliché in the book, I came home feeling awed, humbled, confident and inspired to engage my life and learning in new and bolder ways.
While I was planning to return to BU to finish my senior year, I got a call from an old friend who was moving to California to turn abandoned city blocks into organic gardens that employed the homeless. He was putting together a team of volunteers.
I had returned home from my travels with big questions about equity, sustainability and action, and this opportunity felt like my answer. So, despite my parents' hesitations, I decided to take a gap year, and bought a 1-way ticket to San Francisco.
Over the next few years I learned about organic farming, helped start a non-profit, finished my anthropology degree, dabbled in documentary filmmaking, and worked in nonprofit management. I could see my learning and contribution accelerate when it was interest-driven and hands-on, so I stuck with my explorations. I met incredible people, traveled up and down California, and although my path was less traditional than most of my peers, I was happier and more motivated than ever.
In the summer of 1994, I guided a group of high school students on a service learning trip to Belize. It was a tri-leadership with a group of 24 students. The trip was challenging, overwhelming and exhausting, and I was completely hooked. I applied to lead my next trip as soon as possible. Again, I heard the worried voices of my parents: "Can you make a career of this?" I wasn't entirely sure, but I knew that I wanted to try.
As it turns out, I could and I did, and I have been working with high school, gap year and college students in international and experiential programming ever since that fateful summer 25 years ago!
That first decade was devoted to leading programs overseas. I brought students to Africa, Asia and Central America. I honed my skills as a logistician, problem solver, nurse, cultural ambassador, general contractor, conflict mediator, co-leader, financial planner and mentor. The next decade was a time of making bigger change on an organizational level, so I hung up my backpack and moved into an office, where I expanded my skills in ethical and sustainable program development, risk management protocol, staff hiring and training, admissions procedures, and experiential education curriculum.
My current chapter transitioned me into gap year consulting, a perfect culmination of everything I have accomplished to-date. I am an accredited professional gap year counselor, and former board member, of the Gap Year Association. I have been a keynote speaker at the USA Gap Year Fairs since 2011. I promote the gap year on a national level at conferences and schools, travel the world to vet quality placements, advise new programs on best practices, and work closely with families to curate the gap year options that will best meet the needs, interests, goals and budget of each courageous gap year student.
But this is much more than a job for me. It's a personal belief and lifestyle.
I am a facilitator at heart, and feel honored to support people in life's transitions, so in addition to my role as a gap guide I am a trained birth doula and wedding officiant. I love living in a beautiful 4-season New England valley where I can ski, canoe, camp and trail run. Making art and playing ukulele bring me levity and joy. And when I travel, whether it's 1 hour or 9,000 miles away, it's with purpose, optimism and a desire to make genuine connections with a place and its people.
My husband Jason and I have worked and adventured together for 15 years, including starting a family of our own. We have been fortunate to travel the world, but our homes away from home remain Truro and Truckee. Through it all we have aspired to cultivate what we call a #gapyearstateofmind. What does that mean? For starters: knowing your why, nurturing curiosity and compassion, pushing beyond your comfort zone, striving for your best version of yourself, and doing so with integrity, authenticity and fun.