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How I Took a Gap Year


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Rob was finishing up a seven-year commitment as a submarine officer in the US Navy, and we were headed to Columbus for Rob to begin medical school. He was already being “processed out” of the military and the movers were scheduled to come pack up our stuff and ship it to Columbus.

Then, we received an email from Rob’s medical school program informing us that too many applicants had accepted invitations to attend, so they were offering a few deferment opportunities. In short, if Rob waited a year to start medical school, they would waive one year of tuition. Sweeeeeeeet!!

This was a hard choice though, because we were already on our way to our new city. We both had resigned from our jobs and were ready to start the next chapter.

We thought through it logically at first, thinking we wouldn’t take the offer. Financially, it was not a smart idea. Emotionally, Rob was ready to start the next phase of his life.

However, with everything we had gone through in the seven years of military life including moving locations every 6 months – 2 years, along with the issue of trying to have a family, we felt this strong pull for a break.

We needed some time to rest, reflect, and prepare for what was next.

We had been saving up to eventually buy a house, so we had a large sum of money we could use if we wanted to. We had the travel bug from all the years in the Navy and the stars aligned for more travel.

We decided to take the medical school deferment offer and travel for a year. A gap year. It sounds so European!

This decision was one of the most thrilling and crazy decisions we have ever made.

It’s not right for everyone, but it was right for us.

So here’s the big question, if you had a full year to travel, where would you go? Would you go to as many places as possible? Would you stay put somewhere, diving into one or two cultures? Is there anything you’d want to learn about or experience that you would possibly never have the opportunity to do again?

It was incredibly exciting. Very quickly though, we realized that the large sum of money we had would not actually fund lavish travels for that length of time. We were going to have to be smart about this.

All we knew was that we were interested in doing some programs learning more yoga and meditation. We also wanted to learn more Spanish through an immersion program. We decided to crowd source our friends and ask for recommendations on where to go. To our surprise, several of our friends recommended traveling to India and Guatemala.

India? Guatemala? Really? We really didn’t know anything about these countries, other than they seemed far away and exotic, and possibly “dangerous.”

It turns out that India has one of the best meditation retreats in the world. The center is called Tushita and it’s in northern India.We decided to attend a 10-day silent meditation retreat there, and we planned our travels around that program.

India Collage

We ended up spending about 3.5 months in India. I won’t go into the travel details now, but I’ll say that the experience was amazing, mind-blowing and life-altering. My heart grew, it opened farther, and I learned how small, yet special little ol’ me is in this great big world – and universe.

We then spent the holidays, November – January, touring That States and visiting friends and family. We were able to see people we hadn’t seen in many, many years.

Next, we went to Guatemala where we spent 2 months doing a language immersion program and traveling. We LOVE Guatemala!! I would go back in a heart-beat.

Sadly, I lost most of my Spanish because I didn’t practice when we returned home. Big sad face. I now listen to Coffee Break Spanish in the mornings with Pookie to hopefully bring some of it back. 🙂

Last on our gap year, we went to Peru for 2 months, just traveling.  We saw all the things one should see like the Nazca Lines and Machu Picchu. Amaze-balls!!

Latin America Collage

Then, back to The States to settle into our new city, Columbus.

I cannot begin to tell you how incredible this whole experience was. We blew all of our savings, but I don’t regret it for an instant. I only wish we had more opportunities to do this sort of thing.

A big lesson I learned during these travels, was that I am the architect of my life.

We easily fall into the patterns of the society we live in and follow along with the “normal” way of existing. But when you travel, you see so many different ways to be in the world.

For example, we met people who always travel. They don’t live anywhere. They do it through extreme frugality and doing trades like working at a restaurant for free lodging.

Rob and I are now inspired to constantly challenge when we blindly follow a prescribed path. Is this how we want to live our lives? If not, is there another way?

Since our gap year, I think about this every summer as I plan and prepare for the new school year ahead. I am grateful that I have quite a bit of flexibility with how I schedule my work engagements.

I’m constantly asking myself, what does my ideal day, week, and month look like? Is it possible? How can I make it happen?

The answer seems to be constantly changing and evolving as I experience new things and bring new things into my life – like Pookie. I’m looking forward to my upcoming personal/biz retreat where I get to do my next life reflection, make a new plan, and start implementing. Another post for another time. 🙂

Thanks for reading, friends!

Onward, upward, and inward! xoxoxo


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Tai Kil July 14, 2015, 6:34 pm

    Wow! Inspiring….Thank you so much for sharing. What an amazing opportunity. More I’m thinking of the opportunities I can create in my own life.

    • Amy Rakowczyk July 23, 2015, 8:36 pm

      Thanks, Tai! So happy you’re following my blog! Hope you are well. 🙂

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