An Impromptu Gap Year

Sam Beattie, Flawless by Friday

Since I was young, I had always done what was expected of me. I did well in school, trained hard at gymnastics, took part in summer internships and last summer, got into business school. At the time, I did this all happily. But towards the end of high school, I was thinking about taking a year off from it all before going to university. I wanted to experience new places and explore the great unknown. I was at a crossroads of whether to go to university, or travel and experience things you never could in a classroom. 


That’s not to say I wasn’t equally excited about the prospect of going to university. I had an amazing group of friends, the choice between some great schools and, not to mention, this was the usual path that people took at this stage in life. I decided to go to university straight out of high school and take a year to travel after graduation. Fast forward to the middle of second year. I was on track to start at business school in 6 months yet I didn’t feel accomplished or excited. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was much more out there for me than just schooling – I knew I wanted to get out. I wanted to go out and see the world, and that’s exactly what I did.


I took a year off and journeyed to Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Along the way, I encountered all kinds of different people and ways of life from around the world. I came across places where I felt I could stay forever, and others where I couldn’t get out fast enough. These highs and lows of travelling taught me more about myself than any class or conversation ever had, just as I had anticipated. 


What I learnt from my travels was this; to know that you should do what makes you happy is one thing – but to defy it all and veer off the beaten path to actually pursue that is a different thing altogether. To realize you’re capable of this, in the face of society telling 20-somethings to keep their eye on ball towards success in the ‘real world’, is a difficult but rewarding feat. As I stood watching the sun rise on the top of Roy’s Peak in New Zealand (after a 4-hour hike!), with not a single person in sight, I felt more empowered and prepared for life, than ever before. 


It is important in life to do what you want, and if you have no idea what that is (which let’s be honest, many of us do not), it’s equally important not to follow the crowd for the sake of security. This lesson can be applied to career paths, relationships and many other big life decisions. I knew going back to university last fall did not feel right for me, and as I veered away from the beaten path, I made a one of my own. I did it for me, and that’s why the year that ensued was the very best of my life.


Next up: A summer at Flawless by Friday!