What is The Gap Year?
The phrase “gap year” refers to the extended period of time off from their education and careers that people from developed countries often take between important phases of their life. The period of time is often, but not always, a year and participants generally do not engage in career oriented tasks but rather engage in activities that further their personal development or achieve goals that were previously left unfulfilled. The most common activity engaged in during a gap year is travel, especially out of the country of origin. While traveling, the participants may work in the foreign country in order to pay for the trip if they did not save enough ahead of time.
The concept of gap years most likely originated during the hippie movement of the 1960s when members of the baby boomer generation left the United Kingdom and headed off to India, among other places. The practice expanded during the 1970s, with many “independent travel” organizations popping up in most developed countries. The companies assisted students in their travels around the world during gap year transitions. Perhaps the most solidifying moment in the movement occurred in the 1980s, when many developed countries introduced student visas – allowing students to travel to foreign countries for extended periods of time for study and work.
Currently gap year participants remain predominantly European, due mostly to the unique socio-economic structure inherent in United States’ society. Modern developments, including the Internet, have opened up more channels for those interested in engaging in gap year travels and activities. Travelers are better able to plan, secure employment and living accommodations before setting out on their travels. Some countries, like Australia, even have formal “working holiday” agreements with other countries whereby young people are provided easier access to travel and work visas in order to engage in gap year travels.