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Should I take a gap year? Pros and cons to consider

Unearth the gap year pros and cons in our guide. Discover how a break can spur personal growth or impact finances. Dive in now!

6min

gap year pros and cons

Exploring the gap year pros and cons is like embarking on an adventure of its own: the decision to take a break from traditional education or career paths can be thrilling, yet daunting.

Diving into the unknown, you might wonder if this pause will offer invaluable life experiences or derail your future plans.

Understanding these gap year pros and cons, however, can help illuminate whether this journey is right for you.

What is a gap year?

A 'gap year' may seem like a prolonged holiday, but it's much more than that.

A break from the everyday, whether it be school or a job, to pursue individual aspirations and interests is what this time off referred to as a 'gap year' is all about.

This concept has gained popularity among young adults who crave adventure and experience the world before settling into their careers or further education.

You're probably wondering what exactly one does during a gap year? Well, the answer isn't straightforward because everyone chooses different paths for their journey. 

Cultural experiences & personal growth

Some travelers use this opportunity to explore new cultures by backpacking across various countries while others may choose to volunteer through programs such as Worldpackers... or both combined!

It can also be the right opportunity for pursuing hobbies you never had time for previously, taking up short-term courses related to your field of interest, learn a language abroad, or even sitting back and enjoying some quality me-time.

A good plan is to have some ideas in mind of what you want to do during your gap year, but don't overstress about it as plans will change along the road, and your interests may shift because of the different experiences you'll be going through.

Now that we've gained an understanding of the concept behind a gap year, let's delve deeper. We'll take on the pros and cons of embarking on such an adventurous endeavor next.

Recommended reading: How to take a gap year and gain career experience while having the time of your life.


Girl in a gap year looking at the Eiffel Tower

Gap Year: Pros and Cons

To gap year or not to gap year? That's the question on many young adventurers' minds.

It's a personal decision, with both advantages and disadvantages worth considering. Of course, it depends on what you do during that time, but these are some of the pros and cons of taking a gap year:

The pros

  • Cultural immersion for personal growth,
  • Skill development,
  • A break from academic pressure,
  • Potential career exploration opportunities,
  • New experiences and adventures,
  • Get used to making decisions.

The cons

  • Possible financial strain,
  • Risk of falling behind academically or professionally,
  • Lack of structure that some may find challenging.

We'll dive deeper into each point below so you can make an informed choice about your potential adventure.


Western guy taking part of a religious ceremony with two nepali men 

Pros of taking a gap year

The idea of taking a break from the daily grind to explore new places and experiences is enticing, isn't it?

A gap year abroad or even a domestic break, can be an enriching experience with numerous benefits. It's not just about taking time off; as we've established, it's also about self development and learning through real-world experiences.

Cultural immersion and personal growth

Traveling allows you to immerse yourself in diverse cultures. You learn about different ways of life first-hand which broadens your perspective significantly.

You get the chance to meet people from different wlaks of life which broadens your perspective towards the wider community around us - enhancing empathy and understanding. 

Skill development

Different environments require different skills for survival. This could range from learning a new language or how to cook exotic cuisines (or even basic cooking for yourself!).

A break from academic pressure

The rigors of academic life can take a huge financial toll on students both mentally and physically. A long break like the gap year allows you to recharge before resuming studies, maintaining your academic momentum without burnout.

Recommended reading: 8 ways to travel more while in college.

Potential career exploration opportunities

Taking a gap year provides ample opportunities for career exploration. You might engage in gap year ventures such as internships or volunteer work. This exposure could hugely impress future employers by demonstrating your proactive nature and adaptability.

Learn more about this: Volunteer experience on resume: How to use it effectively and How to include (and leverage) travel on your resume.

New experiences & adventure

A gap year opens up opportunities for unique adventures that would be otherwise impossible within the confines of regular work or school schedules.

Get used to making decisions

Drawing up detailed gap year plans is an exercise in decision-making skills which will prove useful throughout life. Whether choosing good gap-year insurance or deciding between different yearly railcards for travel, every choice helps develop confidence and independence. And if you decide to travel the world during your gap year, inevitably you'll have to make decisions on a regular basis.


Mother and daughter with an african tribe

Cons of taking a gap year

However, taking a gap year may not be without potential drawbacks, and so it is important to weigh these cons before making an informed decision:

The financial burden

A gap year can be expensive. Unless you've saved up beforehand or have parents willing to foot the bill (which won't be very beneficial for your personal growth), funding an entire year of travel could put strain on your finances.

To greatly ease the spending, you can take part on work-exchange programs through Worldpackers, where you will get free accommodation and - in many cases - meals in reward for your help. 

And also consider these ways to save money for travel and tips on how to travel on a budget.

Falling behind academically or professionally

If you're in school, taking time off might mean falling behind your peers, especially if they don't see how your experiences during this period contribute to their business.

Nevertheless, as we said before, a gap year can give you life-changing experiences that you would never have in an office job or classroom.

Lack of structure

If you thrive on routine and clear goals, the lack of structure during a gap year might prove challenging.

But remember: while these cons exist, they should not deter you if you feel called towards adventure.

Each challenge presents opportunities for growth. It's about weighing them against the benefits and deciding what's right for you.


Two girls sharing a religious ritual with a buddhist monk

Volunteering during your gap year

So, you've weighed the pros and cons of a gap year, and you are decided to embark on this adventure. But your goal isn't just a year of relax and holidays, you want to make it count.

Then, why not volunteer?

Worldpackers' work exchange/volunteer programs, offer an opportunity like no other for those on their gap years with great benefits such as:

  • Fulfillment: The joy of giving back is unmatched.
  • Cultural immersion: Dive deep into local cultures by living and working with locals.
  • Skill development: Pick up new skills or hone existing ones while volunteering in various fields such as gardening/farming, hospitality, teaching, etc.

Big group of a sustainable community posing for the picture

How does Worldpackers' volunteer programs work?

Worldpackers connect eager travelers like you with enriching volunteering opportunities in more than 140 countries.

The concept is simple: You offer your skills and time in exchange for accommodation (and in many cases meals too), allowing you to save on travel costs while gaining unique experiences.

Beyond just saving on accommodation costs during your gap year program, being part of these projects allows deep cultural immersion that traditional tourism can't match up with. Living and working alongside locals provides authentic insights into their lifestyle and customs - an invaluable experience that money can't buy. And it's also an unmatched opportunity for network building.

  1. To start off, create a free profile on the Worldpackers website. Read this article about How to create a winning Worldpackers profile for essential tips.
  2. Select from thousands of hosts worldwide offering different types of voluntary jobs that suit your interests.
  3. Verify your profile in order to contact the hosts.
  4. Apply for opportunities directly through the platform. Every host has reviews left by previous volunteers, and you can contact these volunteers through the platform to know more about their experience.

Know more about how Worldpackers works: Traveling with Worldpackers: your top questions answered.

These are some examples of volunteer projects on which you can participate:


Gap year pros and cons: four volunteer girls and a guy holding dogs of a rescue center

Remember, taking a gap year doesn't mean wasting time. Rather, use this opportunity to develop yourself. It's the thrill of exploration, the joy of personal growth, and sometimes, a test of your financial planning skills.

The pros are tempting: cultural immersion, skill development, self-discovery and more. But then there are cons to consider too: potential financial strain or delay in academic progression.

But bear in mind, the outcome is all up to you!

If you like these tips, follow Worldpackers social media to keep up with the news: we are on Instagram and Tiktok.



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