Jason's Story

In early 1998 my life imploded.

A third year at UC San Diego, I was a burnt-out biological anthropology major that couldn’t see how any of his classes related to the work he wanted to do in the world. Captain of the ultimate frisbee team, I suffered a devastating shoulder injury that sidelined me for most of the year. When my grades started slipping I called my parents and packed my bags. I needed to go home. I needed a break. I needed to reassess my relationship with just about everything. I got my old high school job back, bought a camera and drove to the Grand Canyon, experienced peaks and valleys, and waited for inspiration to strike.

Jason on a safari vehicle while taking a gap year in Africa

I had always been fascinated by wildlife and when my primatology professor called that spring to ask me to join her on an expedition to Africa, I jumped. Over the next six months I: tracked wild chimpanzees through Uganda, encountered lemurs in Madagascar, summited Mt. Kilimanjaro and spent twelve weeks in a conservation & wildlife biology program in Tanzania. I was introduced to the human-side of conservation, learned conversational kiSwahili and spent a month living with one of the last known hunter-gatherer tribes, the Hadzabe, to document their tool culture.  That period of gap time completely reframed my experience of learning, bolstered my self-confidence, and clarified my professional heading.

Jason in traditional maasai dress on volcano Oldonyo Lengai while taking a gap year
Jason Sarouhan holding a stone tool while at the location plaque of the Zinjanthropus fossil site found by Mary Leakey in Africa
Jason and a friend climbing Mt Whitney

Refreshed and revitalized, I returned to college and earned my highest marks. The next summer I traveled back to Africa on paleo-archaeological digs in Kenya and South Africa and, after graduating, spent 55-days training as a wilderness & leadership instructor with Outward Bound in North Carolina.

In an effort to share these empowering experiences with others I began facilitating outdoor expedition programs in rock climbing, sea kayaking and backpacking throughout California and Baja, and cultural immersion & community service programs in Ghana, Thailand, Vietnam and Tanzania. The flame that had been lit during my gap year was now a full-fledged fire that I was tending with discipline and intention.

Jason running a student orientation for students taking a gap year
Jason presenting a workshop on how to facilitate experiential activities

Hired by the non-profit Global Routes, I spent the next several years as the Africa and Asia Program Director. I designed experiential education curriculum, coordinated program logistics, and trained hundreds of field instructors.

Later promoted to Director, I was responsible for supervising courses that sent over 300 students into small communities around the world annually.

I have now offered 20+ years of my professional career as a: trip leader, program director and gap year counselor supporting students pursuing experiential education opportunities all over the world. With the last decade dedicated specifically to gap year counseling, I have compassionately supported several hundred individuals articulate their goals and plan their gap time. Empowering others to move beyond their preconceived limitations remains my primary aspiration and, along with my wife Jane, co-founder of J2Guides, am honored to be one of only a handful of committed educators to achieve the rigorous Professional Gap Year Consultant certification through the Gap Year Association.

Jason and his family at a GIrls on the Run event

Jane and I continue to travel with our daughter and visit programs all over the world, most recently visiting: Bali, Costa Rica, England, France, Hawaii, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and New Zealand. I am a proud husband and father, yoga practitioner, skier and an avid trail runner who just completed a 175 mile race over 8 days in the Alps. I diligently serve as Co-Chair of the Gap Year Association Standards & Accreditation Committee and member of the Board of Advisers, have been a keynote speaker at the USA Gap Year Fairs since 2011, and have presented at HECA, NACAC and GYA conferences. I am most humbled to be a founding board member, coach and running buddy of Girls on the Run Western MA.

Green, circular J2 logo on opaque background

We can’t wait to help guide you through this process.

Schedule a free meeting with Jane or Jason to discuss your gap year questions.

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