I remember eating at a Mexican restaurant in Houston during my senior year of high school with my four best friends when a group of six New Zealand students approached us. After a little bit of conversation and giggling at their accents we got onto the subject of why they were in America. These six 23-year-olds were backpacking around America on their gap year and had landed in Texas on a whim. I was immediately hooked to this idea of complete adventure and freedom.
This is not slacking off and sitting around on the couch for a year. This is an idea that allows young people to release the energy that they have built up inside them and experience something interesting and completely new, most while completely supporting themselves. A definite way to broaden horizons is to be curious, brave, and explore places that are entirely fresh and different.
Of course as college students, most of us have no money. Also, parents tend to cut the cord after graduation, which leaves many students penniless. Fortunately there are ways to still take a year off and pay for the adventure while experiencing it. Finding odd jobs along the way is always an option. There are great guidebooks targeted to young people seeking adventures that instruct you along the way. Delaying the Real World by Coleen Kinder is a popular guidebook that not only suggests places to go and things to do, but also how to pay your way through the journey.
The Peace Corps is a volunteer government organization that sends people all over the world to help develop impoverished communities. The Peace Corps also aids in paying off lingering student loans and offers a transitional stipend at the end of the two-year tour, during which volunteers live as locals do. You can’t get much further off of the beaten path than joining the Peace Corps. Many employers also see participating in missions like the Corps as a positive resume item, making it that much easier to find a salaried job when ready.